Top 10 Ways Fab Lab Benefits the Community
Jim Correll, Director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas
We recently hosted what we call "Maker Space Boot Camp; How to Build a Fab Lab from Ground Zero." Eleven people from around Kansas came to Fab Lab ICC for two and one-half days to learn from our journey in building our lab starting with verbal and written goals back in 2012. Their goal was to go home and work to initiate a Fab Lab or maker space in their communities. Steve came from Rooks County in Northwest Kansas; that's about as far away as you can get and still be in Kansas. In this camp, all were involved in local E-Community initiatives. E-Community is part of Network Kansas with a goal of helping the local economy grow by offering gap financing, entrepreneurship education and other programs to help businesses start and grow. I think it was Wednesday afternoon, the second day, that we realized the powerful combination of Fab Lab capabilities with the E-Community offerings.
Fab Lab ICC is available to community members, entrepreneurs and small business owners for an annual membership fee of just $125. Fab Lab ICC is a creative place where things can be made for fun, learning or business purposes. Here, we explore some of the ways the Fab Lab ICC experience impacts our broader community and surrounding area. Fab Lab ICC is a regional resource available with no geographic restrictions.
We work toward a continuous flow of new business start-ups while existing entrepreneurs and small business owners learn that they can use the Lab to develop new products and services. This adds jobs as some grow to need help. Every entrepreneur that becomes a start-up business counts as either a part-time or full time job.
Entrepreneurs can use our tools to create promotional items such as banners, flyers, brochures, photographic and video imaging as well as gifts and awards. All at a reasonable cost. There are entrepreneurs and freelancers to help with much of this.
We inspire an Entrepreneurial Mindset through everything we do, including the Mindset class and the initiation of the Youth Entrepreneur curriculum in area high schools. As this culture of Entrepreneurial Mindset develops, our communities become better at solving the problems facing rural communities in Southeast Kansas.
Even in our youth Boot and STEM Camps, we talk about solving problems and that the best problem solvers and critical thinkers will have the best lives. The best way to have a happy, fulfilling life is to help others.
We can help challenged individuals improve their quality of life. We discovered this by accident. Some will become entrepreneurs, experiencing for the first time in their lives, the joy of providing a product or service in exchange for money. Government and foundation agencies around the U.S. are looking for quality of life solutions for these populations. We are working with two local agencies to develop solutions through the Fab Lab experience.
Through our Growth Accelerator program small business owners receive coaching and facilitation of E-Community gap financing and other services.
We’re creating the work force training (we like to call it “Fab-Force”) that is required to thrive in the coming age of customized manufacturing made possible by automation, robotics and advanced electronics. We believe the training for the employees and contractors of the future should consist of an approach where participants receive an introduction to a variety of disciplines rather than the singular disciplinary approaches of the past.
We strive to function as a type of advance manufacturing Lab where existing businesses can learn about new techniques in customization and automation.
Fab Lab ICC does a share of the heavy lifting in making Independence Community College strong. A strong community college helps build a strong community.
The Fab Lab culture has a positive effect on attracting youth to the area. That kind of Entrepreneurial-Fab Lab culture, based on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship never gets old or goes out of style. Young people like that kind of environment and will be attracted to return to the area as the quality of “city life” continues to deteriorate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @jimcorrellks.