MT. VERNON — What happens if someone has an idea, but doesn't know how to build it? Or, someone knows how to build something but doesn't know the technology necessary to make it work?
618Make can come to the rescue. The non-profit makerspace has started in Jefferson County.The organization, which is now applying for its non-profit status, includes the brains of Wade Bolin as president, Bob Tomlin as the group secretary and Robert Lupa as treasurer plus a full board. The group is sponsored by the Jefferson County Development Corporation."This is our effort to encourage entrepreneurship in the area based on technology and science and to tap into the technological resources we have in Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County," said JCDC Executive Director Mary Ellen Bechtel. "It's a group of educators, industry professionals and students fascinated with the creative application of science and technology. It's a place where people can come who may not have all the resources to complete a project or business idea and work with people who can help them bring it about."Makerspaces are growing throughout the country, with the closest located in St. Louis, and another in Chicago. So what is a Makerspace? According to Makerspace.com, a Makerspace serves as a gathering point for tools, projects, mentors and expertise. "A collection of tools does not define a Makerspace," information states. "Rather, we define it by what it enables: Making.""A Makerspace is a learning environment rich with possibilities," information continues. "As new hardware and software tools for making, digital design and fabrication are emerging, we're working together with teachers and community leaders to place those tools into the hands of a wider audience. We're building the infrastructure for more kids and adults to connect to a future in which they can personally change, modify or 'hack' the physical world, creating things that were nearly impossible to do on their own just a few years ago. Making is about getting hands-on, using these new technologies and basic tools, to do real and personally meaningful work."Bechtel said 618Make is exciting for the area."It provides a place for innovators and technologists who are interested in exploring the boundaries of technology, science and arts," Bechtel said. "Members can work on projects, collaborate, develop and learn. The objective is to act as a society actively engaged in citizen science, educational outreach and startup incubation in order to increase technical knowledge and support innovation within the communities of Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County. We're excited about the possibilities that can come of this."The group will be located at 613 Fairfield Road. "We've been working on this for about six months," Bechtel said. "We've worked to find the core group that is interested in starting a Maker group. They have a location now, and are ready to recruit new members and grow to see what projects come from this group."According to information from JCDC, the goal of 618Make is to provide an environment for incubating startups to succeed without external venture capital, including mentoring on business development, planning and seminars on accounting and business management for engineers; run outreach educational project-based weekends suitable for high school students interested in engineering and science, with an emphasis on providing role models and assistance with student projects.""This also goes hand-in-hand with the Project Lead the Way classes at the high school," Bechtel said. "We're hoping a lot of the students in those classes also participate and get involved."For information about 618Make, contact the JCDC office at 244-5334.