Sheboygan, Wis – The non-profit Étude Group of Sheboygan, Wisconsin will conduct a six-month study to determine the viability of a Makerspace in Sheboygan’s FreshTech Innovation District. In coordination with the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) and the City of Sheboygan, who are funding the study. Étude will introduce the concept of a makerspace and collect data through a series of focus groups, interviews, and experiential making events hosted throughout the county.

A makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests and diverse skills can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

Joseph Sheehan, Executive Director of the SCEDC, likes the comparison of a Makerspace to a gym membership, relating that the membership offers access to instructional classes, recreational use of the facility and tools, and layers of social structures that are accessible to people of all ages and skill sets. Instead of physical fitness, a makerspace membership would be an investment in creative or technical fitness.

In cities like Milwaukee and Madison, and others across the country, people are joining makerspaces for access to tools and classes, and they are maintaining their membership because of the community. Working near others, instead of at home in a basement or garage, means that members can quickly get feedback, learn a new skill, problem-solve, and connect. A 2016 study by Popular Science found that the overall number of makerspaces in the US grew by 140% in ten years.

The initial proposal for the FreshTech Makerspace study will be based off of NextFab – Wilmington, a makerspace in downtown Wilmington Delaware, a city of 70,000 people with a rich manufacturing history. NextFab Wilmington is one example of the growing maker movement building engaging and creative spaces in urban centers.

There is increasing interest in making in the Sheboygan area as well. With its long history of manufacturing, arts, and entrepreneurship, this is no surprise.

Existing spaces that fall into what has become known as the “maker movement” include Mead Public Library’s makerspace, the Imaginarium, which offers equipment for library visitors to 3D print, sew, digitize and edit media, create jewelry. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s ARTery offer maker kits that can be checked out. There are also makerspaces embedded in schools’ technical education departments, classrooms, libraries, and extra-curricular programming.

In 2014, Étude launched Maker Break programs for children and young adults during breaks in the school year. Without a physical makerspace and with generous grants from the Black Springs Foundation, the program brings the ethos and experience of making to events like JMKAC Levitt Amp, SCIO Farmers Market, and the Boys and Girls Club. Through this endeavor and the development of arts-infused schools a decade earlier, Étude has participated in initiatives by the following organizations: Maker Ed, Maker Faire Milwaukee, Play. Make. Learn. at UW-Madison, Innovative Schools Network, and Sheboygan’s first Mini Maker Faire, held in 2018.

Étude will conduct the FreshTech Makerspace study in coordination with ongoing efforts to create Sheboygan County’s Innovation District, FreshTech. The study will build off the FreshTech Summit held in September with leaders in the private and public sector in Sheboygan county. The FreshTech Summit found that Sheboygan is ripe for both multigenerational social opportunities as well as increased technical and creative skill development. With an aging workforce in Sheboygan County, the study will explore how the expertise and energy of retiring individuals might intersect with young professionals’ desire for more flexible professional development and increased opportunities for social bonding in an urban setting.

The FreshTech Makerspace Study will help determine the kinds of classes, tools, and member participation is right for Sheboygan ‘makers.’

For those interested in being a part of the study please contact the Etude Group at sheboyganmakerspace@gmail.com.

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