Sponsor spotlight: Edmonds College Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship opens doors to makers of all ages and skill levels

A wide array of projects come to life at the Edmonds College Facility Makerspace, including the construction of this electric guitar. (Photo by Arutyun Sargsyan/Edmonds College)

If you have ever dreamed of starting your own business, developing a new product or improving an existing one, Edmonds College offers the means to help you get started. At the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Edmonds offers workshops and information sessions that can help you launch your business and the facility where you can bring your ideas to life.

The college opened its doors to an 11,000-square-foot makerspace in 2017. This facility offers the general public access to the same state-of-the-art facility Edmonds students, faculty, and staff use to create, learn, and innovate. Edmonds equipped the shop to provide access to a wide variety of fabrication tools for people who do not have the space or budget to purchase their own.

“Our vision for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to provide resources necessary to start a business and the facility to help our community members put their ideas into action,” said Edmonds President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “There are so many intricacies to starting a business. The process can be daunting. We are here to help lower the barriers and provide the launching pad for those ready to take the first step.”

The goal is to make entrepreneurial opportunities available to everybody. The makerspace offers a wide range of tools and equipment, including 3D printers, laser cutters, a waterjet cutter, welding rigs, CNC machines, woodshop tools, power tools, and hand tools. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers teach the skills and provide the support that makerspace users need to move forward with their conceptions. Newcomers learn basic skills and safe operating practices on equipment in two-hour classes offered at $50 a session. These affordable sessions make the facility the perfect place for innovators to actualize their ideas, no matter what their skill level or background may be.

Makerspace Program Director David Voetmann likes to say that the facility is in perpetual startup mode as the program pursues continuous improvement of technology and operations. He believes the biggest barrier for those with a new idea is just getting started.

“Physics tells us that an object in motion tends to stay in motion,” said Voetmann. “So, if we can help you get from 0 to 1, your chances of getting to 100 increase exponentially.”

The types of projects brought to life in the facility vary as widely as the personalities that make them. On any given day, users develop products, including autonomous boats, aerial drones, car parts, housewares, musical instruments, jewelry, architectural models, signage  and much more in the facility. Some, like Geof Miller, are problem solvers who use the facility to create gadgets to make life more manageable for those with medical conditions.

Miller, who has Parkinson’s disease, needed a better way to manage and dispense the 45 to 50 prescription pills, vitamins and supplements he took each day.

“I needed a way to sort pills for myself,” he said, “And I figured, ‘Well, if that’s true, there are probably other people that have the same problem.’”

A filmmaker and producer by trade, Miller spent six months conceptualizing and designing his “Pilda” pill organizer at home before bringing his plans to the makerspace at Edmonds College. There, he put his designs to the test and found a welcoming and supportive environment.

“I looked online and found Edmonds College,” recalled Miller. “The people were friendly and helpful. I met the staff, they were great. They showed me how to use the machine, were always there for advice and really wanted me to succeed. Ever since then, they have been huge supporters.”

Miller has since started his own company, Pilda LLC, and hopes to be able to one day distribute the Pilda to others like him.

For those like Miller who are launching a business and want to become well-rounded business owners, the program offers on-site mentorship with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Workshops and networking events are also available to help entrepreneurs start, launch and scale their businesses. From financial fluency to sales and marketing, the program provides a comprehensive overview of the issues new business owners must pay attention to.

Participants gain a deeper understanding of the crucial steps required to get their businesses off the ground and learn about the many local resources available based on a successful toolkit designed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. So, whether you’re an entrepreneur developing a new product, service, or business or a hobbyist looking to learn new skills, Edmonds is the perfect place for you. It’s a place where innovation takes flight.

Voetmann believes that prospective entrepreneurs get caught up trying to get things perfect the first time. The makerspace is the ideal place for users to go through trial and error.

“As an innovation center, we’re always going to be trying new things,” Voetmann said. “We affirm that we achieve success after many failures, and that is okay. Our job is to de-risk experimentation by making it as cheap and easy as possible because that is the best way to learn.”

“It is really hard to drive if you’re only looking in the rearview mirror,” he continued. “We must stop depending so much on past research and expert opinion. All of that is great, but the best way we get knowledge about today is by running a test and trying something new, which is what the makerspace is about.”

If you’re ready to dream big, start small and learn fast, the Edmonds College Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a great place to start. Makerspace facility hours for the general public are 3-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The space is also open on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit edmonds.edu/makerspace.

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