Saturday, August 08, 2015

It's time to pass the torch at TinkerMill...

I founded TinkerMill a little over two years ago with a room of 5-6 people one Tuesday evening in one of our local public school meeting rooms.

Over the last two years, it's grown from an idea that we needed one of these in Longmont, to the largest makerspace in this 10 state region, with hundreds of paying members, over 1,000 online members, 10,000+ square feet of space, an incredible array of tools and capabilities and, most importantly, an incredible community of creative people, all experts at something.

I've been the president for these first two years; I said when I started that I'd lead it for a year, two tops.  Here we are, two years later and it's time for me to pass the torch; I told everyone that if nominated for president again, I wouldn't accept.

Soooo... Although I'm still on the board, mostly to provide a smooth transition, as of yesterday, I'm no longer the president.  We elected a new board and the board elected new officers (President, Vice President and Secretary).  Here's the lineup:

Clint Bickmore (New President)



Greg Collins (New Vice President)



Matt Stallard (New Secretary)



Fara Shimbo (Director)



Scott Converse (Director)




Ron Thomas remains our executive director.
Chris Yoder remains our Sgt. at Arms.
Steven Alexander is our new Treasurer.

I'd also like to say: A truly deep and sincere thank you to our departing board members: Karl Niemann, Lee Sutherland and Dixon Dick, all Founders of TinkerMill and all incredible contributors over our last two years of existence.  I'd also like to thank Jeff Cragg, also a TinkerMill Founder, who served for over two years as our treasurer as we grew to become what we are today.  Thank you to all of you.  It's been a great ride so far, and I think we still have a long way to go.

There are many adventures ahead with Makerspaces and TinkerMill around creating new kinds of education, innovation, economic development engines and furthering the creative collision of art, science, technology and entrepreneurship.  I'm not going away, I'll be there, trying to figure out how all this fits into the future, in Colorado, and many other places, and I hope many of you will be right there, with us.


Monday, May 11, 2015

I have a stormchasing hobby.

Here's my current stormchasing setup.  A phone and 2 tablets on 3 networks (Verizon, ATT, Sprint)  and the linux based in dash system that comes with the car providing GPS and maps.  Each device runs different multiple/software apps for tracking (radar, reports, ground crew real time report tracking, etc.).




BUT... this time around... tons of storms but nothing to actually see.  The storms were so big that they tended to hover low to the ground (with so much precipitation they looked like they went right down to the ground after only a few hundred yards.


This is unusual.  Tornado's generally require the ground to be warm first, which means you need a sunny morning to warm up the ground and then you have these majestic thunderstorms forming that you can see from many many miles away.  


You also, usually, have mornings to track and find good potential storm cells to view and, hopefully, take video and pictures of of.


Not this time.


This  'solid to the ground' cloud wall went on for hundreds of miles.  If a funnel cloud dropped down  more than  a hundred or so yards in front of me, I wouldn't have been able to see it.


There were also some pretty freaky artifacts of the storms like baseball sized hail (some locals claimed grapefruit sized).





So, with the prospect of smashed windows, funnel clouds dropping down on top of me due to crappy viability for hundreds of miles and the general bummer feel of this set of storms, I'm done chasing these things; at least for now.  


I'm still taking off the time though.  I need some time to evaluate stuff and consider what's next in this adventure called life.  We'll see.  :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Longmont has the worlds fastest internet (almost).

Heh....  Longmont now has the fastest internet in the US and the 2nd fastest in the world.

http://lmont.co/NextLight



Damned impressive.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Makerspaces and Local Economies


Excellent article in The Atlantic about how makerspaces jump-start innovation and new business creation at a local level.  We've seen this, in spades, at our own makerspace: TinkerMill.  

The picture above is of the first test unit production of a new patent pending product that was conceived, prototyped, internally crowdfunded by TinkerMIll members and is now going into first run production.


It's an essential oil extraction appliance- effectively a vacuum chamber that allows you to create essential oils from almost any biological source, by boiling it down in ethanol at very safe (low) temperatures.  It's called "The Source" from a company formed at TinkerMill called ExtractCraft (I'm a co-founder).  The number of markets it addresses is pretty astounding.


Without our makerspace, this product would never have been created.  The people with the right mix of skills would never have met.  The tools to prototype the ideas wouldn't have been available.  The funding would have been much more difficult to find (if it was findable at all- our own local professional investors who are more software only focused passed on the idea).  In short, there wouldn't be a product, or a company, without the makerspace.


The article (link below) about how these makerspaces work and effect local communities is insightful and very much worth the read:


http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/04/makerspaces-are-remaking-local-economies/39080

Monday, February 02, 2015

Small entities and Big entities- working together (or, at times, not working together)

Brad Feld had a great blog post on small companies working with big companies a few days ago that really struck a cord with me.

As some of you know, I founded and am president of TinkerMill, a 501(c)3 makerspace that focuses on education - particularly STEAM related education- a hot button area right now, and new business incubation- the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Longmont where we're based.  We grew from an idea to the largest makerspace in Colorado (and, it seems, this 8-9 state region) pretty quickly, so we attracted the attention of quite a few organizations out there.

As a result, over the last year and half or our existence, we've tried to work with the various entities (NPO's) that are involved in most of our day to day lives.  Municipal and state government; the local public school system and their private counterparts, the charter schools, as well as the local community college and some of our local economic development folks.

Overall, I've found the experience to be mixed.  We've had good interactions with the economic development folks, like the Longmont Area Economic Council (LAEC), as well as the City of Longmont itself- their senior staff totally get's what TinkerMill is about.  Both have been very supportive (in action and in financial support).  As always there have been a hiccup or two here and there, but all minor so far.



Our experience with the schools, particularly the big ones (SVVSD, our local Public School district) and Front Range Community College (FRCC), hasn't been so good.  Not bad, exactly, but not consistently good.

It's effectively mirrored the exprience Brad talks about in his dealing with 'big companies'.  He sums it up perfectly with this comment:

"we’ve had many interactions at many levels over the years – some good, some bad, some complex, and some perplexing"

That's a near perfect reflection of our experience with some large non profit/educational institutions we've known the last year.  I won't go into details here, but after banging our heads against the 'rules' the schools operate by (which seem anathema to operating in the 21st century, and within a local community on terms they don't completely control), we've pretty much given up trying.  Or more accurately:  Trying as hard.  Our doors are always open to discussion, but only if it's followed by action and actual implementation.  Talk is.. well.. just talk.

Sadly, it's not the fault of the change agent's trying to make things happen inside these educational institutions, it's almost always the bureaucratic back room that kills off being innovative.  I suspect it's mostly a risk aversion thing.

The sad truth is, however, places like TinkerMill, over time, can augment these institutions significantly.  By not working with us, these existing 20th century institutions are taking the very real risk of being "Uberized" by 501(c)3 non profit educational entities like TinkerMill.

It's not unlike little companies disrupting (and often dismantling) much larger companies, only, here it's the school system and, in some cases, the public libraries (many have gotten stuck in the 'we're about books' mode vs. what they're real mission is:  Knowledge Distribution).

It's interesting to see patterns repeat, and boy do they.  From Brad's experience with small and large companies interactions to our recent almost mirror like experience between small new innovative non profits and large stuck in their way(s) NPO's.

Indeed, the patterns just keep repeating.










Sunday, February 01, 2015

Boulder County Mini Maker Faire party at TinkerMill video

video

A quick recap video our our pre-party for the Boulder County Mini Maker Faire held at TinkerMill in Longmont.