Career Center’s maker space leaps ahead

MIDDLEBURY — An effort to crowdfund $6,000 to be eligible for a $100,000 grant to create a community-wide “makers space” at the Patricia Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury faces a deadline this Friday, May 11, with the goal in sight.
“We’re well on our way to reaching the $6,000 match,” said career center Superintendent Dana Peterson, though added that with or without the grant, the career center’s maker space is well on its way to becoming a reality.
The $100,000 Gannett Foundation grant, if won, would fast forward the career center’s ability to launch what officials have dubbed “The Makery,” which they envision as a “community center for the 21st Century.”
The makers space would provide a place and equipment for “people to imagine, experiment, network, collaborate and create for personal and professional growth,” according to career officials. Its mission, said career center Community Outreach Coordinator Kate La Riviere, is to “engage the greater community in pursuits related to occupations, hobbies or crafts that grow the technical and creative economy” of Vermont and Addison County.
The initial effort to organize the maker space idea was an unqualified success, Peterson said. A Feb. 15 Maker Faire — which officials touted as the first of its kind in the state — drew about 400 interested community members to tour the career center and discuss ways to use the facility. That enthusiasm encouraged Hannaford Career Center officials to move up their timeline for launching an active maker space by 18 months, hoping to get some projects launched as early as this summer and into the next school year.
Those officials have already secured a $30,000 grant from Middlebury College’s Fund for Innovation, which will support interns to staff The Makery and serve as mentors for students and community members using the space.
The idea is being spearheaded by Peterson and by Middlebury-based product designer/engineer David Cole. They are part of a group that includes some business leaders and career center faculty, including Jake Burnham, Architecture & Engineering Systems instructor, and Len Schmidt, assistant director of Adult Technical Education.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for growth, development and an opportunity to combine learning on the education side,” Peterson said in a previous interview, adding a makers space could also give students firsthand exposure to entrepreneurship and economic development at a grassroots level.
Peterson said the makers space would also be a great way to get more aspiring businesspeople into the “talent pipeline.” He added that, once in that pipeline, the state is trying to direct these folks to three particularly promising growth areas: building trades, medical professions and industrial design.
Tools and machinery already available at Hannaford Career Center include 3-D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons, sewing machines, performance spaces, design labs, kitchens and more. Career fields that could be fostered include electronics, 3-D printing, 3-D modeling, coding, robotics, welding, metalworking, woodworking, graphic design, medical fields, architecture and engineering and whatever specific fields community members may seek to add to the program.
The ideal scenario is to engage the community in professional and recreational interests and skills that not only create a vibrant and creative working space for students and adults alike, but also lead them to launch businesses and small manufacturing enterprises, said La Riviere. When the program is up and running, she said, “I’d love to see the parking lot full of cars every weekday from 2:30 or 3 p.m. (after school hours) to later in the evening and all weekend, with classrooms and workshops filled with area residents working on their personal projects.”
In the meantime, Peterson and La Riviere are encouraging community members, businesses and area industries to consider helping the career center reach its initial $6,000 goal on CrowdRise by its May 11 deadline. Those interested in more information or to donate should head online to crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/careercentervt.

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