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  • 8 Nov 2019 10:57 AM | SARAH LAROSH

    makerspace blogThe discovery of something new, different, cutting edge, or perhaps even extraordinary is rare and pushes the limits of our imagination and comprehension. Although NetWork Kansas does not add new board certified programs very often, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a wealth of great programs out there. It is our intent with board certified programs that they be replicable across the state, entrepreneurial, impactful, and sustainable.

    I had the privilege of attending the Fab Lab ICC Maker Space Boot Camp in Independence during their Fall session. To say I left with a deep understanding of the vast possibilities of maker spaces would be a lie. To say that I now have an appreciation, more understanding, and extreme passion for maker spaces would be the absolute truth!

    Erik Pedersen once started a blog with a quote and comparison to a movie. With three young children in my house, we don’t watch as much “Wedding Crashers” as we do Disney movies. Nonetheless, I feel that connecting experiences and emotions with thoughts and education can be very powerful, so I will link my experience with Maker Space Boot Camp with the famous (in my household) movie, “Ratatoullie”. In Ratatoullie, Anton Ego’s critique of Chef Gusteau’s restaurant discussed the vulnerability of discovering something new or different. He describes it as the only risk and vulnerability of critiques: when they find and stand behind something new.

    I feel the staff at Fab Lab ICC are cutting edge and “new.” I am proud of NetWork Kansas for standing behind them and embracing this program. At Fab Lab ICC, you get to design, create, and build. This has proven to be replicable regardless of geography and it’s entrepreneurial, impactful, and sustainable. I don’t consider myself a crafty individual, however, I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I designed, created, and built at Fab Lab. I can only imagine the thrill and accomplishments that true artists, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers get when they walk in the Fab Lab and start making magic happen!


    Even better, maker spaces allow entrepreneurs access to equipment they may not have been able to purchase up front and give them the ability to test the market before getting a big loan. A maker space in a rural community could allow entrepreneurs of all ages freedom to experiment with new technology and extend the reach of their financing. More active entrepreneurs in communities mean a more vibrant and sustainable economy.

    My dream, desire, and passion is that more of Kansas can experience this life changing boot camp. I would like to encourage dreamers, doers, and creators across Kansas to make the trip to Independence and participate in this truly spectacular experience. For more information or to pre-register for the upcoming class go to: https://fablabicc.wildapricot.org/Pre-Registration or contact Jim Correll, Director of Fab Lab ICC, at (620) 252-5349.

  • 23 Oct 2019 11:47 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

    Many know that I believe there should be a Fab Lab or maker space in every rural community in Kansas. My guest columnist today is Lea Ann Seiler, director of Hodgeman County Economic Development, north of Dodge City in western Kansas. She has made much progress in a year and one half to bring a maker space to her community and her traction started with area youth.

    "I first attended the Fab Lab Community Bootcamp in the winter of 2018. (I think it may have even been the very first one.) I loved it. It was great! I was so excited that I stayed up late in my hotel room making plans, so when I got back home, I would be READY. In fact, by the time I drove back to Western Kansas (in an ice storm), I was thoroughly convinced that everyone in my community would be excited in the same way…ready to jump on board and “recreate” this amazing place in Hodgeman County. Imagine my surprise when people were not quite as receptive as I was. I am not exaggerating when I say I was beyond disbelief and sad at the same time. I mean, I have a great Board. Our community is filled with creative, intelligent people. We aren’t made of money, but we are creative and can usually find a way to do something if it is important to us. I sang the praises of the Fab Lab loud and clear. Every chance I got…I pointed out all of the things that we could “do for ourselves” if we had the same equipment. I talked to teenagers and pointed out entrepreneurial opportunities. But still, I wasn’t getting the same reaction I expected….the excitement was definitely missing. I was cautioned that “the Fab Lab is at a Community College…we don’t have a Community College”. 

    "So, I did what I usually do when I hit a brick wall …I looked for a way around it. (That whole “begging for forgiveness rather than waiting for permission thing”? It’s a good thing!) I started thinking about how we could get the kids in the community excited – knowing that when they were, it would surely spread to their parents and grandparents. By the time this “lightbulb” went off….it was already summer. I quickly searched for available dates and planned a camp. The camp would be for youth 2nd through 6th grade and would be held at our Business and Culinary Incubator. Network Kansas graciously agreed to help me out with part of the costs, and I designed flyers; got it out on Face Book; and started planning. I thought it would be great to offer some of the great things I had learned about at the Fab Lab, so I ordered a few Arduino kits; and I am fascinated with 3D Printing, so I added 3D Printing to the camp rotation too. THEN, I remembered that I didn’t really have any experience beyond my 30-minute Arduino experience at the Fab Lab….and did not own a 3D printer. (Details like this tend to get in the way.)  I called my friends at the Kiowa County Media Center and talked them into helping me….Mike offered to bring his 3D Printers and teach 3D Printing, and Grant agreed to teach Podcasting. Simone and Anne, from Network Kansas, also agreed to help teach a rotation on “Thinking Entrepreneurially”. We were almost set. Fear set in. I still didn’t have anyone who could help with coding. Then, exactly 10 days before the camp…while I was still frantically contacting people from all over the state….a young lady who had just graduated from college called. She said that she had seen my Face Book posts about the camp and wondered if I could use any help with coding. “She had some time that week and would love to help.” (I later found out that her wedding was that week as well!) I was beyond excited! Up until that point, I was pretty much convinced that this was going to be a spectacular failure and that it would be long remembered. (I have a few spectacular failures like that.) Camp week came, and I lost a couple of volunteers, due to work schedules and illness, but we did it on a skeleton crew and it was a HUGE success! Actually, the things that didn’t work out the way I had intended, didn’t even get noticed by anyone else. Finally! Kids were excited, parents were calling and writing notes – wanting to make sure that their kids would be on the mailing list for the next camp. Adults were asking questions about the equipment and how we might get it here full-time. 

    "Since then, I’ve written a few small grants and have been fundraising (WeKAN) for equipment. Jim and Joanne brought out the mobile Fab Lab for demonstrations (another Network Kansas grant). This summer we held two more camps and set up a “mini-camp” at the County Fair. Soon, our Laser Engraver will be added to the 3D Printers; Arduino and robotic kits; engineering challenges; embroidery machine; and vinyl cutters that have been collected so far for the Maker Space. It’s FINALLY coming together.  I’m pretty sure that there will be a few more challenges, such as maintaining the equipment (which I’m learning) and training/keeping volunteers so we can be open on a regular basis. However, I’ll always be thankful to Jim, Tim and Joanne for planting that BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in my brain and to Network Kansas for the grant to get me there in the first place! My advice? Don’t get discouraged if your community isn’t quite ready, remember, they may not have visited the Fab Lab yet. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you’re ready….or it may never happen. Just jump in and get started….it will come together in a way that may be smaller but will still be impactful in your community."

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 16 Oct 2019 6:47 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

    In part 1, we discussed the entropy of downtown buildings and districts and about how the National Main Street purpose is to provide for the preservation of these historic buildings through revitalizing our downtown districts. The idea is that revitalization of business districts will provide enough revenue for both the sustainability of downtown businesses and the maintenance of the downtown buildings.

    Our historic buildings didn’t decay rapidly and, in most cases, reversing decades of downtown building entropy rarely happens quickly. Building conditions are on a continuum ranging from near collapse on the left end to fully restored to modern safety and building codes on the right. Most likely, eighty-five percent of the buildings in our Kansas rural communities are in conditions on the continuum somewhere from one-third to one-half from the left. Most are moving to the left with every passing year. Once the outer “envelope” has been compromised—failure of roof and exterior walls to keep out the elements—the slide to the left of the continuum accelerates.

    Most of our related public policy, i.e. local and state laws, codes, ordinances and tax policy, are not conducive the building preservation. Public policy demands that anyone trying to fix up and repurpose a historic building reverse several decades of entropy in one expensive project moving the building condition all the way from the left half of the continuum to the extreme right end in one fell swoop. This is unnatural. If you think about it, our public policy actually impedes progress on building preservation with no practical approach to encourage a natural path to building preservation over time.

    I have an example of this right now involving one of the Lab’s growth accelerator clients. She wants to buy a building and fix it up for her business. She’s now learned that our public policy, from local ordinance to state safety laws make it more cost-effective to build new instead of fixing up the old. Is that really what we want? Policy that encourages building new instead of repurposing the old?

    Occasionally someone with deep pockets, sometimes with tax-payer assistance, restores a building transcending it from dilapidated to state-of-the-art all at once, but most building owners don’t have the resources to accomplish this leap in one initial effort. They need time for the business(es) within to grow and make enough money to support continued building improvements.

    As with the continuum of general building conditions, the fire risk associated with a building can also be thought of as being on a continuum; extreme fire risk at the left end and fully compliant with state-of-the-art fire safety features, as required for NEW buildings, on the right. Every rural downtown business district in Kansas and America includes buildings with fire risk near the left end of the continuum. While we may choose to debate whether or not it’s reasonable to subject a 100 year old building to the same fire safety specifications as required for new construction, surely there is somewhere in the middle or slightly right of center on the fire-risk continuum where we could all agree the building is safe enough to continue to use while other rehabilitation occurs over time.

    Maybe it’s time for us as a community and society to decide whether or not we’re really interested in preserving our historic buildings, especially in our downtown districts. If we are, we need to require that our policy makers; from state legislators, to local governing bodies, take a look at current policies that require an unnatural and prohibitively expensive one-fell-swoop approach to an approach that would require minimum building and safety standards in the beginning of the rehab process with gradual continuous improvement over time. 

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 9 Oct 2019 6:44 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    • Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

      I’ve always thought of entropy as the natural deterioration of things when left alone.  Following a technical physics definition, I found a secondary definition; 2. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. Entropy occurs in the natural order of things so much that we don’t notice. Plants and animals die and, one way or another, are returned, slowly, to natural elements. If you are spiritual and/or religious, you recognize entropy as an ingenious element of a universe designed by the Master. Entropy is essential to life as we know it. Imagine a world where dead vegetation and dead animals just continue to pile up, never returning to natural elements.

      Things we build are subject to entropy too. Homes, buildings, roads and all manner of things are subject to a natural return to the elements unless we maintain and repair them. Most of our downtown buildings were built in a different economic era when the businesses within them made enough money to reward the business owner while keeping the buildings in good repair. Entropy of our downtown buildings started with the urban, and maybe even rural, sprawl of the 1950’s when there was movement away from living near downtown areas in favor or the suburbs (i.e. the burbs.) Entropy of downtown buildings continues today with box stores and Internet sales constantly working to take away market share of downtown businesses thus leaving little money to keep buildings maintained.

      Many communities across America have huge efforts going on to revitalize downtown areas and reverse the entropy that has affected the downtown buildings for decades. The National Main Street program is one of the most visible and successful organizations providing guidance and structure to facilitate this rebirth.

      In 2007, I became involved in the effort for Coffeyville to become part of the Kansas Main Street program. I believe Independence was among the first five or six communities in Kansas to join the state’s new Main Street program in the 1980’s. Independence Main Street remains strong today. Sidebar: The Kansas Main Street program was foolishly discontinued during former Governor Sam Brownback’s administration. Starting next year, Governor Laura Kelly’s administration will be reinstating the program.

      In a competitive process to become a Kansas Main Street member, the organizing committee had to learn a lot about what the Main Street program was and that the main purpose of the program was to preserve historic buildings in the downtown areas around the state. The model is patterned after the four-point approach of the time-tested model of the National Main Street Trust program “Main Street America.”

    • ·      Economic Vitality
    • ·      Design
    • ·      Promotion
    • ·      Organization

    I’m going to self-interpret the four-point approach here, but you can see the “real” interpretations at www.mainstreet.org. The local main street organizations are supposed to perform work in all four areas. Promotion tends to be the most visible but work in the other three areas is essential for the viability of the local organizations.

    Economic Vitality – This point has to do with helping businesses become and remain viable to provide not only the money needed to survive and thrive but also to keep their buildings in good shape. Whether the business owns or rents the building, there has to be enough funds for upkeep whether directly or in the form of sufficient rent payments so the landlord can do the upkeep.

    Design – This point has to do with the overall design of the downtown main street areas and also includes guidelines and suggestions for the “look” of the buildings. For instance, where possible, real windows on the upper floors are preferable to the “boarded up” look.

    Promotion – The most visible aspect in communities with a main street organization. On-going Main Street promotions, around central themes, strive to get people to come to the downtown area with fun and interesting events and activities.

    Organization – This point has to do with legal structure and how the organization operates. Most Main Street groups have a paid Director and most of the other work is done by dedicated volunteers on the board of directors and work committees.

    The key to revitalizing and restoring our downtown buildings, indeed, our downtown districts is to make the districts viable business centers, making enough money to provide not only for the business owners but also to keep the buildings maintained.

    In part 2, we’ll take a look at how our laws, policies and ordinances are hindering and even preventing the revitalization and preservation of our historic downtown buildings and what changes we might consider to recognize that neither building entropy nor the reversal of entropy are quick propositions, but rather take place over time.

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

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