Wichitans apparently want spaces where they can create things.
In 2016, membership in the city’s original makerspace community, MakeICT, grew from 166 members to 270. Within the first five weeks of 2017, another 40 people had signed up, according to the nonprofit’s president, Logan Pajunen. MakeICT is located at 1500 E. Douglas in the Douglas Design District.
At GoCreate, Wichita’s newest open-to-the-public makerspace located at Wichita State’s Innovation Campus, nearly all eight of the small studio/meeting rooms available for rent are already committed and inventors and entrepreneurs like Blake Baysinger have already signed up for membership, even though it’s not scheduled to officially open until spring.
“People are itching to get in here,” said GoCreate director Ty Masterson.
What to make of makerspaces
For more than a decade, there’s been a grassroots movement in communities across the U.S. and internationally. People interested in creating, experimenting and innovating started gathering and meeting in what are known as makerspaces, sharing tools and knowledge.
In Wichita, MakeICT was formed in 2012 by four innovators in the fields of engineering, education, the arts and computer programming. In 2015, with major grants from the Wichita Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation, MakeICT moved into its current location.
MakeICT’s focus has been more about providing a space, equipment and information for do-it-yourselfers, serious hobbyists who don’t have the space or resources to afford expensive tools, and those who want to learn new skills and have fun creating. It’s operated by unpaid volunteers and staff, Pajunen said.
“I love bringing my daughter here,” said Tim Collins, who oversees MakeICT’s printmaking studio. He tells a visitor that his 11-year-old daughter was so enthusiastic about learning to sew at a MakeICT class that she went home and made a quilt. On another night, while he took a leather-sewing class, she tinkered with robots.
At GoCreate, which falls under the scope of WSU, the emphasis will be on helping people like budding entrepreneurs, would-be inventors and commercial artists develop prototypes or products with more commercial potential.
“The real goal of GoCreate stems from the university’s mission and vision … to be an economic driver for the state and provide opportunities for the advancement of ideas,” Masterson said. “This can be the alternative to starting a business in your garage.”
Should anyone develop a product or viable business idea, Masterson and his staff can direct them to offices at WSU that can help with patents, trademarks and opportunities to commercialize.
“The things that people will be able to make will be phenomenal,” said Baysinger, a successful businessman who is WSU’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence and an inventor of products that he now sells. “There will be Kansas-made products going all over the world.”
Baysinger, who also plans to mentor GoCreate members, said he’s been assuring folks who express an interest in GoCreate that any inventions or products created at the space will remain the innovator’s intellectual property.
GoCreate takes up 18,000 square feet — an entire wing — of WSU’s new Experiential Engineering Building and boasts $1 million worth of equipment and tools, ranging from a foam cutter than can sculpt a 7-foot WuShock mascot to a high-powered water jet that can create finely detailed metal cutouts. Much of the equipment was purchased with federal grant money for economic development.
MakeICT operates in a much smaller space — an 8,700-square-foot former jewelry supply store. Equipment has been donated by members who want to upgrade their own tools or who don’t have the space to store them, purchased by some small grants or put together by member volunteers.
“When we got here two years ago, we were worried about filling the space,” said Pajunen, who has used the wood-cutting machines to create a table and chairs from open-source plans he found on the Internet. “Now we’re bursting at the seams.” In recent months, more pieces of equipment and dedicated studio areas have been added.
Both facilities have areas dedicated to different mediums and processes, such as woodworking, plastics, foam cutting, textiles, welding, 3-D printing, electronics and metal works.
GoCreate also offers a design studio, where members can engineer plans, do 3-D scanning or print posters or advertising wraps for a car.
MakeICT also offers bike repair and jewelry-making areas and a ceramics studio with three potters wheels and a computerized kiln where “you can set it and forget it … like a Ronco,” said Pajunen, referring to the popular tag line of a sold-on-TV rotisserie.
How to be a maker
Both makerspaces require memberships.
At MakeICT, the membership is $25 a month, and members can get a key to the building for 24/7 access. For anyone who wants to try out the facility, MakeICT holds free Maker Mondays at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays of the month and project-oriented workshops that are open to nonmembers. Go to makeict.org for more information.
Membership at GoCreate will cost $125 a month, with discounts available. Those who need financial help, like laid-off workers, can apply for scholarships. Members will be able to access the building during staffed hours. Visit gocreate.com for more information.