Seeking a ‘place to go build stuff’ 

Belmont resident Jim Newton has a dream, and it is filled with power tools.

This summer, he plans to open up a workshop filled with the kinds of machines that help people make things, available constantly to his fellow Peninsula tinkerers, machinists, robot-makers and do-it-yourselfers.

"This is an open-source kind of thing for makers to be able to have a place to go build stuff," Newton said.

The new facility, called TechShop, would be a nonprofit organization somewhere between San Carlos and Mountain View that offers classes and studio time. Newton and his partner, Ridge McGhee of Atherton, polled visitors at the wildly popular Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Expo Center on Sunday to see what they would like in a workshop.

The fair, put on by Make Magazine, was a festival of homemade robotics, machinery and crafts projects that drew more than 13,000 people in its first day alone, festival staff said. The turnout demonstrated the increased popularity of manufacturing as a hobby, and a lot of people are short on space and expensive equipment for those hobbies, Newton said. He formerly taught a robotics class at the college of San Mateo, and said many students took the class just to get access to the shop and its machines.

"It’s very frustrating for people. They don’t want to take a six-week class … and then not be able to get access to the equipment," said Newton, who has also been a science adviser for the television show MythBusters.

Mountain View resident Stig Hackvan said the idea is interesting because it is collaborative and offers more space than a garage.

TechShop will need several hundred thousand dollars in startup funds to buy equipment and rent the space. Newton and McGhee are hoping to receive corporate donations and charge user fees and class tuition to fund TechShop’s day-to-day operations.

The idea is not a new one. In Oakland, The Crucible operates an industrial arts center with studios and classes. The challenge for these facilities is finding diverse, consistent funding sources, building a skilled staff with limited money, and creating a fair way to determine who gets access to high-demand machinery, founder Michael Stutrz said.

More information is available at www.techshop.ws.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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