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David Cole ’92 and Kate La Riviere toured the Hannaford Career Center’s construction trades lab, which will serve as part of the new maker space in September.

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College Joins Partnership to Create a Maker Space for Residents of Addison County

June 20, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – There is a Maker Movement afoot in Addison County, and the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center together with Middlebury College and a handful of local residents are leading the way toward the creation of a public maker space in Middlebury. 

The “Maker Movement” refers to the increasing number of people who employ do-it-yourself (DIY) and do-it-with-others (DIWO) techniques and processes to develop products or devices needed for specific purposes. Adweek says today’s makers “tap into an American admiration for self-reliance combined with open-source learning, contemporary design, and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers.”

As envisioned, the Addison County Maker Space will comprise more than 20,000 square feet at the Hannaford Career Center, including the existing industrial design and fabrication lab, engineering and architectural design lab, construction trades lab, computer lab, visual communications lab, costume shop, and commercial kitchen—all found inside the career center located on Charles Avenue in Middlebury.

Partnering with the Hannaford Career Center in the development of the maker space are the following:

- Middlebury College’s Fund for Innovation, which allocated $30,000 to create an internship program for undergraduates seeking to teach, mentor, or collaborate with others at the maker space.

- The Addison County Economic Development Corporation, which donated $1,000 toward the creation of the Addison County Maker Space in existing classrooms and workshops at the Career Center.

- A crowdfunding campaign that has raised nearly $6,000 to date to “provide workspace, job skills training, a place to be creative and explore interests, and an incubator for people of all ages to dream big and bring their ideas to life.” 

- The Town of Middlebury donated $1,000 from the Middlebury Business Development Fund.

- Local residents and businesspeople, many of whom who participated in the Maker Faire open house at the Career Center in February of this year.

The mission of the Addison County maker space will be “to engage the community in pursuits related to occupations, hobbies, or crafts that will grow the technical and creative economy of Vermont.” It is envisioned to be “a place for people to imagine, experiment, network, collaborate, and create for personal and professional growth.”

Taking it one step further, David Cole ’92, the founder of Mechanical Advantage LLC, a high-tech Middlebury machine shop, sees the Maker Movement in Vermont as an engine for economic development:

“I am hoping that the maker space will lead to the creation of more technical jobs that pay well right here in Addison County,” Cole explained, “but the community building and networking at the maker space will have to happen first. We have to tap into the expertise we have in this community by attracting more adults with skills to volunteer at the maker space.”

Cole, whose machine shop specializes in the fabrication of biomedical devices, is enthusiastic about partnering with the career center. “When you start a maker space, you typically need to pay for the building and fill it with expensive equipment. You also need to cover the insurance, the heat, the lights, the parking, everything. By creating our maker space in the career center, we just have to open the doors and everything you need is there, it’s paid for, and it’s not being used after 2:30 in the afternoon!”

Kate La Riviere, the career center’s community outreach coordinator, says the Hannaford Career Center administration is 100 percent behind the idea of turning the building into a community maker space under the aegis of the Adult Education Program. “We want to raise awareness about what resources we have here and who can use them. We want residents of Addison County to bring their ideas to life inside our four walls because we have the infrastructure already in place.

“We can start small, but with the right supervision and volunteers there’s no reason our whole building can’t be the maker space. We want to create and sustain a community of makers right here!”

Starting in September, Middlebury College students will get involved by serving as paid interns or mentors at the maker space. The Fund for Innovation grant from the College was awarded to Noah Graham, professor of physics, who said, “We are always looking for opportunities for our students to work hands-on in an applied context, and the maker space should go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. It will complement what they are doing with their liberal arts education.”

The internship program at the maker space (located about one mile from campus) will be administered by the College’s Center for Careers and Internships, and will be open to all Middlebury College undergraduates.

Dave Cole, who attended public school in Middlebury, graduated from the College, and later studied auto mechanics before deciding to earn a master’s degree in engineering at Purdue, says the maker space will roll out slowly at first. “We have a lot of logistics to figure out, but eventually the maker space will be open longer, with more rooms and more resources available to all. We are so close now to achieving our dream of creating a space where the whole community can interact amid the hum and buzz of activity.”

 

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