Visiting The Geek Group
submitted by Bruce Willey, VP of Conferences

Our most recent conferences have included a visit to local makerspaces. Makerspaces are generally a lot like model shops with similar equipment and skill sets of the people who use them, so often APMM members can get ideas and inspiration from them. The Grand Rapids, MI conference included an evening visit to the Geek Group National Science Institute https://thegeekgroup.org/ and some workshop participation by one of their staff. 

Visiting The Geek Group
submitted by Bruce Willey, V.P. of Conferences

Taylor Wieck is a staff member at the Geek Group, where he does educational activities and fundraising. He was part of a Conference workshop on crowdsourcing and then he gave his own presentation on developing and funding a project. On Saturday evening, a number of us carpooled over to the Geek Group’s facility, a converted YMCA, and got a guided tour from Taylor.

The space was a real labyrinth of computer labs, studios, shops for different processes and classrooms. Besides being a makerspace, the Geek Group is an education provider including on-site and remote learning. They also refurbish computers and sell them at very low cost, largely to disadvantaged families. They have those computers and lots of science-related items in their on-site and online gift shop, including steampunk lamps!

steampunk lamp

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most interesting part of the tour had to be their High Voltage Lab. It is one of only a few in the country, and the only one that is open for touring by the public. After Taylor had figured out that we were “their kind of folks”, he called Chris Boden to come in and give us a show in the Lab. Chris is the founder of the Geek Group and quite the showman. He amazed us with huge electrical arcs and flashes, as well as incredibly loud sizzles and bangs.

 

After the show, Chris gave us a short talk on the importance of science education and exposing kids to maker activities that was very inspiring. He extolled the virtues of the producer mindset verses the consumer one. He mentioned that one way to increase the producer mindset is to fund, support, or even start a local facility where these things can happen. A model shop would be in a very good position to help a makerspace with at least scrap material or used-tool donations, and volunteering of expertise. The Geek Group is a nation-wide network, so you can check to see if there’s an active branch in your area.

(all images were taken from the Geek Group’s website)

 

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