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Innovation & Job News

Cleveland's growing 'maker movement' the focus of TV host's visit

Adam Savage of Mythbusters (right) with Ian Charnas, manager of think[box]

In recent years, Cleveland has demonstrated itself as an early adopter of the "maker movement," an umbrella term for the convergence of independent inventors and designers who relish the creation of new high-tech devices as well as tinkering with existing ones.
 
An April 27 visit by movement advocate and former Mythbusters host Adam Savage put a national spotlight on the North Coast's growing DIY fervor, with Savage meeting area stakeholders and community leaders to help foster support for the next generation of innovators. The day-long event was designed as a lead-up to the 2016 National Week of Making (June 17-23), announced earlier this year by the White House.
 
“This visit was intended to highlight the growing ecosystem of making and fabricating in Cleveland," says Lisa Camp, associate dean for strategic initiatives at the Case Western Reserve University school of engineering, who prepared the day's activates along with Sonya Pryor-Jones, chief implementation officer for the MIT Fab Foundation. "There's lots of excitement from people who want to work together because of the potential of these spaces."
 
Savage's first stop was Case's think[box], tabbed by the school as an open-access center for innovation and entrepreneurship. The 50,000-square-foot space in the Richey Mixon Building invites would-be creators to realize their ideas through digital prototyping or traditional fabricating. A $35 million renovation of the seven-story building began in 2014. The upper three floors are scheduled for completion this fall.
 
Each floor represents the order of the product design process, with new entrepreneurs receiving the necessary technology and guidance as they work their way up.
 
"The concept is to begin with a product idea, then come out with a company," says Camp.

Other stops on Savage's Cleveland makers tour included Design Lab High School, Cleveland Public Library's TechCentral maker space, the MC2 STEM high school at Great Lakes Science Center, and several fabrication locals in Cleveland's Slavic Village and Central neighborhoods.
 
"It was a robust visit," says Pryor-Jones. "From our perspective, the best opportunities for education, entrepreneurship and  development exist when we figure out how to engage all communities."
 
During an outing to the City Club of Cleveland, regional higher-education students showcased potential products they fabricated themselves with 3D printers and laser cutters. This kind of collaborative ingenuity will be needed to drive Cleveland's economic engine, spinning out companies that build everything from heart-rate monitors to fuel-cell powered bicycles.
 
"Keeping up that collaboration is the challenge," says Camp. "Cleveland is a manufacturing city and working together can bring innovation to that space." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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