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Makerspaces: A Growing Nebraska Trend

Makerspaces

Makerspaces are do-it-yourself shops popping up all across the U.S. Innovation Studio makerspace is where people can gather to invent, learn, and create.
by Ben Bohall, Producer/Reporter, NET News

Koosha Mooghen Dastgerdi immigrated to the United States from Iran in 2014 for two reasons. The first:

"My wife. About five years ago she was coming back to visit her family in Iran. I saw her and I fell in love with her. It’s a long story,” Dastgerdi said.

The second reason was to follow a dream.

Before coming to the U.S., Koosha worked as a furniture maker in Iran. In his small shop, he would design and craft his own works and sell them to local outlets. But he often ran into problems because of his Bahá’í faith, an unpopular religious minority in Iran. He was unable to attend college and finding a landlord who would rent space to him for his business became increasingly difficult. When he came to the U.S., he knew he would essentially have to start over, and that was scary. But that’s when he heard about something called a makerspace.

“I found this place and I can make what I was making in Iran and it gives me the opportunity to make what I love,” Dastgerdi said.

Shane Farritor is director of the Nebraska Innovation Studio, a relatively new makerspace located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. A makerspace is a do-it-yourself place where people can gather to invent, learn; and in Koosha’s case create.

“He’s already made three or four sets of furniture here," Farritor said. "He makes them totally from scratch. He brings in 2×4’s of wood and rolls of leather and does everything here. The sewing, the upholstery, all the wood-working to make the furniture.”

It’s also given Dasterdi the chance to keep pursuing a passion he has had for years.

“It’s the definition of the American dream, right? I hope he starts his own business someday, is able to move out of here and have his own business, and gets rich one day," Farritor said.

Stories like Koosha’s have been nothing new in the space’s young existence. Membership has grown rapidly from 70 members last fall to 280 this spring. There are 12 entrepreneurs like Koosha currently using the space to create their products.  And the space is only about one-third done.

For as many aspiring entrepreneurs as you’ll find at the Innovation Studio, you’ll also find another group: students. The latest example of their work: A multi-purpose robot recently designed and created by a local high school robotics club.

“It’s all laser cut," Farritor said. "A cell phone controls it. As you can see, they pick up the balls with this spinning, flailing thing, and then they have a catapult built in here that fires their balls. It’s really cool.”

Farritor said the space has worked to create a collaboration between aspiring entrepreneurs like Koosha and these high school students. That’s something Farritor said Nebraska could use.

“In the 90’s in the education systems, a lot of the vocational programs disappeared," Farritor said. "I think that left a lot of kids behind. A lot of kids think mechanically and visually and are physical builders. I think that’s coming back. I think we’ve realized there’s been a mistake and it’s coming back in a different form. It’s got a techy angle to it. It’s got a kind of innovation angle to it. I think are makerspaces are going to become more important as we move forward.”

Gregg Christensen is with the Nebraska Department of Education in Entrepreneurship and Work Based Learning. He agrees with Farritor. As he will tell you, the best way to learn is hands-on, minds-on. Then you retain it. Makerspaces fit the bill.

“I do think you’re seeing that makerspaces are filling a spot that allows young people and adults to explore and work with each other,” Christensen said.

With so much focus on core academics, Christensen said electives have sometimes taken a back seat, especially in small rural Nebraska schools. He says makerspaces like the Innovation Studio have the possibility to retain young people in those areas, and even encourage business growth.

“Entrepreneurship is absolutely vital to growing the economy, especially in rural Nebraska. As our population ages, we have got to have young people starting new businesses and also going into the succession mode where they’re taking over existing businesses," Christensen said.

This month, the Nebraska Library Commission announced it had been awarded a national grant to create temporary makerspaces in 33 rural communities’ libraries across Nebraska. Christensen says the goal is to advance economic development in those communities by working toward developing permanent makerspaces.

If that happens, they’ll largely be modeled off of the Innovation Studio here in Lincoln, with the goal of encouraging students and aspiring entrepreneurs like Koosha Mooghen Dastgerdi. Tomorrow, he’ll go to his day job as a machinist from 8-4 before returning here to begin on his next design. It’s hard work that makes for a long day, but he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Now I’m happy," Dastgerdi said. "I have this opportunity to work here and make furniture again. I have my own life. I have a beautiful life. That’s my happiness here. That’s all I need.”

 

World Herald Editorial Recognizes Entrepreneurship Education Efforts in Rural Development

The Omaha World Herald on April 2, 2014 featured an editorial entitled, Rural Youth Welcomed Back.   The importance of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, and enhancing their skills and knowledge about entrepreneurship, was a key element of the editorial.

Curriculum efforts like the highly successful EntrepreneurShip Investigation (ESI) developed by UNL 4H Extension in partnership with many collaborating partners, including the Nebraska Department of Education were mentioned. 

One person quoted in the editorial was Joe Ferguson, a retired Northeast Community College division chief and rural development consultant.  He noted that, “Developing strategies to connect young people to rural jobs is important, but so is nurturing young people’s entrepreneurial skills.”

“We need to start teaching entrepreneurship in the lower grades,” Ferguson told The World-Herald. “We need to lay that out there like we do other career options. It needs to be an obvious career option — maybe it ought to be the first consideration.”

ESI (focused on middle school and high school youth), Leap Into Careers (upper elementary), and the advanced high school digital curriculum currently under development, Blueprint for Success, are helping Nebraska , other states and nations to answer that call.  UNL 4H Extension has been a nationally recognized leader in creating these resources with the collaboration with entrepreneurial advocates and organizations across the state.  Rural Development and Entrepreneurship are alive and well in our state…but there’s much more to do!

 

Nebraska Loves Our Public Schools

The newest video on the Nebraska Loves Our Public Schools is a truly inspiring story of how Cody-Kilgore harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit of community members, educators, and students to address a community need.

Cody-Kilgore: Cowboy GRIT Inspires a Community

A lot of adults underestimate our youth today. I’m beyond being surprised. With our youth today, I expect the conquering of the impossible because I’ve seen it. And if you empower those youth, they will rise to the occasion.” – John Johnson, retired teacher and chairman of the Cody Village Board

At first blush, it seems like your average small ranching town. Just like many you’d see while driving down Hwy 20 though the Nebraska Sandhills. But Cody is special. With a population of just over 150 residents, its school draws kids from all over North Central Nebraska. In fact, even though Cody is in one of the most sparsely populated areas of the state, its unified school district covers one of the largest geographic areas: 553 square miles, to be exact. That includes two time zones and three area codes.

So how does this small town sustain such a powerful school? Because its residents think big. This big thinking led to a unique project to address a major community need in a way that encourages real-life learning, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit in its students.
To watch the video and to read more about Cody-Kilgore’s journey, go to: http://nelovesps.org/story/cody-kilgore-cowboy-grit-inspires-a-community.

Want to learn more about Nebraska Loves Our Public Schools and the mission of the Sherwood Foundation to instill pride in Nebraska public schools? Click here.

Have a great story idea for a future video highlighting great things happening in our Nebraska public schools? Email denise@nelovesps.org, find them on Twitter @NElovesPS, or visit their Facebook page at Facebook/NElovesPS.

 

News Archives 2013

High School Students Showcase their Businesses at
Summer Honors Entrepreneurship Expo

Summer Honors Entrep Expo

Students who participated in the action-packed Summer Honors Entrepreneurship Class of 2013 showcased their individual businesses on Thursday, June 20th in the Holdrege Middle School gym.  The individual businesses ranged from artisan crafts to unique foods to woodworking to graphic arts, Classified Ads sites online, and more.  

During the honors program class, the participants conquered many projects in just a few short days. They branded their two competing concession stands, developed their individual businesses, debuted them at Swedish Days and hosted the Expo. Dynamic special speakers, effective field trips, strategic marketing plans for the Eship Expo and team-building creative activities filled their adventure-filled weeks during the Honors Program. They also donated 10% of their profits to a social entrepreneurship project. 

In addition to all of that, during the class they also adopted a business space in downtown Holdrege and crafted a vision plan for that particular business. And while doing all of these entrepreneurial activities they created Braden’s Arcade as part of the Global Cardboard Challenge (www.cainesarcade.com).  The arcade was named in honor of Braden Badertscher, a former Entrepreneurship student who is was not able to attend this year’s Summer Honors Program because of his cancer treatments.


Jim Krieger Receives Nebraska Entrepreneurship Outstanding Service Award

Jim Krieger Award

Photo: Monica Braun – Director, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Women’s Business Center (left); Jim Krieger, Gallup CFO (center); Rose Jaspersen, Executive Director of the Nebraska Enterprise Fund Director (right).

Jim Krieger, founder of the Krieger Family Foundation and Chief Financial Officer for the Gallup Organization, was honored with the 2013 Nebraska Entrepreneurship Outstanding Service Award at the 7th Annual MarketPlace Nebraska Conference.  The award is co-sponsored by the Nebraska Enterprise Fund and the Nebraska Entrepreneurship Task Force.

Individuals or organizations that have demonstrated sustained and outstanding state and/or national leadership and advocacy for entrepreneurship education and/or business development services are eligible to receive the award.  Nominees must have made contributions that are noteworthy in advancing the mission to educate, engage, and empower entrepreneurs of all ages throughout Nebraska.

Krieger believes that "Nebraska needs to create a business climate that supports individual entrepreneurs and gives them the tools to succeed.  There’s no silver bullet about what you can and can’t do.  You have to get back to what each individual does and what we can do to support that effort."

The nomination for Mr. Krieger highlighted a few of the multiple initiatives and programs that owe their existence in whole or in part to Jim Krieger and the Krieger Family Foundation including:

  • "Entrepreneurship in Nebraska” the groundbreaking book that started significant dialogue and support for entrepreneurship education & advocacy efforts in Nebraska
  • Lincoln Public Schools Entrepreneurship Focus Program
  • UNL 4-H Extension Entrepreneurship Curriculum & Programs, including EntrepreneurShip Investigation (ESI), LEAP into Careers, Community Connections
  • Annual support provided for the Nebraska Summit on Entrepreneurship

The Nebraska Enterprise Fund (www.nebbiz.org/) is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury, CDFI Fund. NEF provides direct loans to start-up and existing micro/small businesses across Nebraska. NEF works collaboratively with lending organizations and banks to assist in filling financial gaps for businesses.

The Nebraska Entrepreneurship Task Force-NETForce (www.nebraskaentrepreneurship.com/net-force/) is an actively engaged group of collaborating partners focused on the high income, high skill, and high demand entrepreneurial career opportunities available to Nebraska’s youth and adults.  Collaborating partners include the Nebraska Community College System, Nebraska Department of Education, nonprofit service providers and economic development organizations, private colleges and universities, and the University of Nebraska system. 

An article with video comments by Mr. Krieger posted on the Nebraskaentrepreneur.com website on January 28, 2011 can be found at www.nebraskaentrepreneurship.com/news/gallup-cfo-support-for-individual-entrepreneurs-crucial-to-nebraska%e2%80%99s-economic-health/.