Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let's Make Stuff - Part 2

This is part 2 of my impressions of the new makerspace in Lowell. The previous post focused on the New Vestures open house event. I also took a lot of photos of the space and wanted to devote a post to that as well.
The makerspace is well-equipped, spacious, and fun to look at (and touch). A room off of the main room has a big work table, a light table, and lots of shelf space.  There are racks for the clothing too. There's even a small library of craft and design books.

Chain Mail
Every tool you can think of related to making clothing or even arty robots or chain mail is here.

Fabric Samples on Cork Board with Mini-Jacket
It  feels good to be surrounded by fabric and tools and all kinds of things that just gives you the feeling you want to make stuff. There are plenty of sewing machines, including some vintage ones.

Sewing Machines in the Main Room
Vintage Sewing Machine
Stitch Samples
There are hat blocks and mannequins as well as plenty of space for materials like thread, fabric, buttons, and parts.

Hats on Hat Blocks
Bolts of Blue
Buttons and Thread

Jar Full of Parts
There's a scroll saw and machines for cutting fabric and computers for doing 3D modelling and robotics stuff and a display space too. Everything is here.

Well-documented Scroll Saw

Display Space
As a tech writer, I got a kick out of the scroll saw with a manual about how to use it sitting right on it. Online help? Embedded documentation? :-)


Computers and Robotics Books
In the immortal words of the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

Fashion Models with Vintage Sewing Machine and Glowing Purple Lights

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let's Make Stuff - Part 1

Choosing between poetry and everything else is always hard. However, last night's open house at New Vestures makerspace was totally worth leaving Untitled Open Mic at Brew'd Awakening early.  Not only did I finally get to see the cool makerspace Diana Coluntino has put together, but I got to hear some good speakers passionately making the connection between making stuff -- especially clothing -- and science/technology/engineering as well as the importance of community.

Merrimack Street
In honor of the creative economy, I decided to get a little creative with photographing the event. It almost, kinda, sorta fits in with some thoughts I've been having about abstraction lately, but that's another story or another blog entry. Speaking of "entry," the place looks wonderful and creative as soon as you get off the elevator to the basement.
I could feel the energy before I even stepped through the doorway into the room full of people from all segments of the Lowell creative economy and beyond: UMass, city government, artists, makers, entrepreneurs... The only group missing was the slam poets, who were otherwise engaged as mentioned previously.

Makers in Makerspace

More Makers in Makerspace

It was great to see a few kids there too. You never know what will fire a kid's imagination. You never know that taking a typewriter apart at age 8 leads to a career in technical writing :-) Anyway, I am coming more and more to believe that mixing age groups -- kids with teens with twenty-somethings with "grownups" with "elders"-- is going to be vital to keeping American innovation strong.

Crowd Listening to Diana
New Vestures is about making stuff. Diana summed it up "We were making stuff in Lowell a long long time ago, let's bring making back." But wait, there's more... We need to create sustainable, ethical fashion. (Hmm, didn't I promise y'all a blog post about what the fall of the Pemberton Mill has to do with the mill collapse in Bangladesh? Must write that soon.)

Makers and Movers and Shakers Listening to Diana

Last night's key takeaways from Diana and the excellent guest speakers:

  • It's not just about the space and the equipment it's about the community
  • Connection between clothing creation and math and science -- shapes, materials and engineering.
  • You can learn math and science by doing stuff, touching stuff.
  • You can make clothes out of kombucha! How cool is that?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Recap of Merrimack Valley Sandbox Pitch Contest

The theme for Thursday night's Merrimack Valley Sandbox pitch contest was High Growth/Tech. Host for the evening was Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico in Tewskbury. They provided excellent space for both the pre-event networking an the presentations.

The Crowd
It was great to see so many kids at this kind of event. It takes a little of the mystery out of the adult business world for them. It was also great to see MIN entrepreneur, Bobbie Carlton out here in the wilds of the Merrimack Valley.

The Judges
The first place winner and the fan favorite was mino by ParaWare, a device that  tracks the wear of  your running shoes. The idea grew out of the founder's experience with an injury caused by worn out shoes. Sometimes the shoe is too worn to provide proper support before the wear becomes visible. The mino fits right in your shoe, keeps track of your usage, and lets you know when it's time for new running shoes.
Phil Colangelo Presenting

My personal favorite was the Robotic Feeding Arm developed by Philip Colangelo at UMass Lowell. It's a device that enables people with disabilities to feed themselves more independently.

A social networking theme emerged with three of the presenters:

  • Joanna de Pena presented Top Notch Network, a targeted social network that brings together students, social groups, and  businesses to create scholarship opportunities for students in need.
  • Margot Rutledge presented Career Rings, a  web-based platform that brings together college students and recent college graduates in small online workshops with coaches, to develop career building skills for today's job market.
  • Nick Zeckets  presented QuadWrangle, an  app to connect alumni and their colleges more directly to  build fundraising and to facilitate career networking.
In addition to the scheduled presenters, two wildcards were drawn from a hat: Pet Chance, which helps pet owners raise money for veterinary care through crowdfunding, and, a network that brings together musicians and venues as well as music fans. Pet Chance has a  great idea and gave a great presentation. came prepared with slides even though they weren't on the program. Both added a lot to the night.

While the judges jotted down notes after each presentation, attendees had the chance to make short pitches of their own. That gave people a chance to identify folks to be sure to seek out for networking after the awarding of the prize checks. All this made for a rich experience of both formal and informal networking.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

50 events, 500 products, awesome connections #min500

The Mass Innovation Nights awesomeness continues. Billed as a celebration of first 500 products launched at MIN, the 50th MIN event last night was part class reunion, part celebration, part product showcase, and all fun.  The Boston Globe hosted us again and also gave us some good press. Thanks, Boston Globe!

Providence - Old Stone Bank Dome Viewed from Governor Stephen Hopkins House
I started the day in Providence taking photos for new listings we're adding to At-Hand Guides.  That's a MIN story in its own right. Mass Innovation Nights events are all about connection. My association with At-Hand Guides is all about connections. Back in the distant mists of 2010, I ran into my old friend and colleague Jim Burrows at MIN20. At the time he mentioned that he and his son were working on some kind of mobile apps thing. I filed that somewhere in the lower left hand corner of my brain, where it stayed filed until a dark and stormy night in April of 2011 and MIN25. There I met Robert  Gray of At-Hand Apps (we've changed the name since then), which turned out to be the very mobile app thing Jim had been talking about. The rest is history. By the way, if you haven't bought New England At-Hand or one of our other guides for your iPhone, you're missing out. So that's how it came to pass that I'm leading off this story with a photo of Providence :-)

The Hive at Boston Globe Has Some Nifty Spaces
 So the Hive was full of MIN alumni and tons of people following up with each of them. The crowd built steadily from 6:00PM on until the place was just packed.  I made no attempt to photograph each table, instead concentrating on the crowd.

The Crowd Just Starting To Build -- Is That Trish From Vsnap Down There?
I even claimed I wasn't going to do any portraits this time so I could concentrate on crowds, since "social" is what MIN events are all about.

Above the Crowd -- Is That MoH Down There? And Izze Soda? Old Friends All!

Tim Stansky Taking Crowd Pix
Now That's A Crowd!
MIN is all about using social media to get the word out about cool products so there was a whole lot of tweeting going on.
Social Media Action Shot: Men of MIN with their Phones
It was great to see so many familiar faces and products. I love that I got to follow up with Julie from Chococoa Baking about how the whoopie pies went over at my cousin's birthday party.

BobbieC and Her Megaphone Summoning Folks to the Panel Discussion Upstairs
It was hard to stop catching up with all the alumni, and head upstairs to the panel discussion, but I loved hearing Noteflight, Chococoa Baking, GaggleAmp, and Project Repat talk about their experiences. Everybody gets useful lessons from MIN.

MIN By The Numbers

Tim's MIN By The Numbers slide show really showed the  power of connection. The tweet reach of MIN events is amazing.

From On High -- The View from the Third Floor
There were still tons of people milling about the tables downstairs while the slide show and panel were going on upstairs.  It was nonstop action wherever I looked. I had so many great conversations about everything from Third Wave coffee to the fall of the Pemberton Mill, that I can't recap them all here. Maybe those are topics for further blog entries.

One of many things I've learned at MIN events is the importance of branding. RaceMenu has so identified their brand with the color orange, that I think of them whenever I see orange. They had their orange banners and shirts going on at MIN500 and I hereby award them Best Costume of MIN500!

Best Costume