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Arlington looks to develop makerspace

 

Christopher Andersson

Arlington School District Superintendent Chrys Sweeting, right, and Diane Kamionka, who works with the Northwest Innovation Resource Center, talk about how an Arlington makerspace could be integrated with local schools during a meeting on April 25.

Officials and community members met on April 25 to talk about the possibility of an Arlington makerspace where locals could get inexpensive access to manufacturing tools.

Makerspaces are places dedicated to providing supplies and tools to members who want to tinker or build projects on their own time.

They are meant to encourage innovation and provide a leg up for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The equipment provided could include expensive manufacturing tools, typically out of the price range of individuals or beginning businesses.

"At the city, we're really committed to making this vision come true," said Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert.

"The idea for a makerspace came out of the strategies that we developed after the Oso mudslide, when we took some time to develop a long-term vision for the sustainability and resiliency of the Stilly Valley," she said.

The closest makerspaces to Arlington that are currently open are in Mukilteo and Bellingham.

Diane Kamionka, who works with the Northwest Innovation Resource Center, said that the Arlington makerspace will likely be focusing on advanced manufacturing.

They are hoping to call the space the "Manufacturing Innovation Center."

Kamionka hopes that a potential center would focus on benefiting three different parts of the community.

"It's good for existing businesses, good for new businesses and entrepreneurs, but also good for educational opportunities," she said.

Leaders from existing manufacturing businesses in Arlington said a space would help them if they have a quick project but don't have the tools available on hand to complete it.

A makerspace could also help with prototyping new ideas.

Small businesses owners, like Arlington local Tina Richardson who owns a repurposing/up-cycling business, said she was excited about the idea of a makerspace in Arlington.

"What we've found is that we get ideas to make something and we'll go out and have to buy the equipment for it. As a small business start-up, the funds are limited," she said.

"To have access to some of that equipment and knowledge and resources of knowing where to go would be great," said Richardson.

Tolbert and others were excited about the potential connections for students as well.

"We all learn differently," she said. "We think the Manufacturing Innovation Center may be able to reach a segment of kids that may not be thriving right now. That's a part of the future workforce we don't want to ignore."

Will Nelson, Principal of Weston High School, said that the district is incorporating manufacturing instruction already, but a makerspace could provide more opportunity as well.

"It's important to keep inspiring them to continue wanting to go in that direction," he said. "We do need things that can engage those kids [kids not engaged by traditional schooling] and this is one of those things that could do that."

Charles Ihler, president and founder of SnoCo Makers, the Mukilteo makerspace, said that they have some programs that help engage kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) that normally would avoid it.

"We have a program building longboards and snowboards, and there's a lot of kids who are interested in that," he said.

"There's other ways to grab those children, you just give them something they want to build," he said.

An Arlington makerspace is still in the planning stages currently, said Tolbert. Right now officials are looking for community opinions on what they would want from a makerspace.

"We need your input to go to the next step," she said. They plan to send out a community survey in the future.

Kamionka said the timeline is "going to depend a lot on the cost and where we get the money."

"It can be done very grassroots. As Charles [Ihler] said, they are a non-profit and they have donated equipment, and they got members and just rented a place," she said.

Ihler said his space is run with an all-volunteer staff and members pay $40 a month.

"We have people from Issaquah to Arlington come and visit us regularly, so I think you guys can definitely pull from Bellingham to Everett without a problem," he said.

More information about the potential Arlington makerspace can be found at arlingtonwa.gov/makerspace or by e-mailing Diane Kamionka at dianek@nwirc.com.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

T3pnarcosis writes:

10 years i have been a machinist, built my own 3d printer and am currently enrolled in school to be a jernyman machinist. Doing this would be a game changer in arlington I do not have the means or the money to afford the equipment but have always been full of innovative ideas. I for one would love to see this happen.

 
 
 

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