Maker Week Showcases Lansing’s Build-it Spirit at Second Annual Event

“His innovation was a large powered roller that propelled the mower at the same time as it rolled the turf,” is how the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing describes the invention. He undoubtedly knew that just a few miles east of his factories, researchers at Michigan Agricultural College were pioneering turf research and development, a new and growing field. Then as now there was innovation in the community and on the campus.

This build-it spirit will be displayed in many forms during the second annual Maker Week, a cavalcade of invention and enterprise that will run from Oct. 5 through Oct.12 at locations throughout the Lansing area. It is part of a national movement that celebrates and encourages innovation.

“Making goes from low tech to high tech; it’s indiscriminate. It’s the effort and knowledge base of producing your own goods, advanced or simple,” said Tony Willis, director of New Economy for Lansing Economic Area Partnership and event coordinator. He expects the 21 different programs to draw about 2,000 people.

Throughout its eight day run, hundreds of makers — high tech and low tech — as well as aspirants, will find programs scattered throughout the Lansing area on topics as varied as 3D printer usage, computer programming and food and beverages. Sites include Impression 5 Science Center, Lansing’s Allen Market Place, Meridian Mall, The Michigan State University Library and the Knapp’s Centre in downtown Lansing. All of the events are open to the public at no charge.

While much of the programming provides a survey of maker options and initiatives, the Startup Weekend offers an opportunity for serious entrepreneurs to shape a concept into a more fully formed business plan. Organizers bill the event as, “Launch your product startup in 54 hours.” It is based at Lansing Community College’s (LCC) West Campus starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9 and ending Monday, Oct. 12 at 12:30 p.m. or later, Willis said. The ideas presented and refined must be new, not works in progress. The entries will be winnowed down to the 10 or 12 with the most promise.

“Judging will happen on Sunday, Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m., but participants will be able to stay and work on their projects until classes start the next morning,”
Willis said.

Grading this year’s projects will be Scott Reschke, CEO of Strength in Numbers Studios and Paresh Malde, chief operating officer at Software Different. Acting as mentors and advisers are Tom Donaldson, regional director at the Michigan Small Business Development Center at LCC and Sean Huberty, the lead faculty for alternative energy engineering technology and an adjunct faculty member in Computer Information Technologies at LCC.

Last year, the Startup Weekend attracted about 60 participants whose interests Willis said generally fall into four categories: fabricator (manufacturers, technicians or engineers), designers (coders, developers and graphic tech), non-technical (business, finance, marketing and public relations), and hobbyists (students and those interested in the maker culture).

The weekend program stresses action, innovation and education. The registration fee is $75. It begins Friday evening with participants discussing their projects with local entrepreneurs and others participating in the program. To refine their ideas, they are given help brainstorming the opportunities and challenges to shape their startup.

LCC is opening its campus facilities to participants. They will have access to electronic labs, computer assisted design (CAD) systems, 3D printers and metal working areas. They also get six meals.

One of the lasting benefits of this weekend-long immersion project, said organizers, is the ability to collaborate with “like-minded individuals outside of their daily network.” This supports the larger goal of the maker movement.

“Our big focus is to form a community of makers, people who come together and work on things,” said Brian Adams, president of the Lansing Maker Network. Its members meet regularly at the Temple Building on Grand River Avenue in Old Town where the group has a woodworking shop, electronic equipment, 3D printers and a sophisticated computer controlled laser cutter.

“It’s a fascinating machine. You put in plywood or plastic, load up a design from the computer and the laser cuts it out. It’s a beautiful thing to see,” Network Board Member and Treasurer Carl Reynolds said.

The network will be leaving Old Town for a new “Makerspace” to be located in the former Leaseway Motorcar Transport Co. building on St. Joseph Street.

“We’ve got 25 to 30 active members. We’d like that to grow to between 50 and 100,” he said. Maker Week will be an opportunity to recruit more members.

Complete information about Maker Week events is posted on the LEAP website (

Program Highlights

MONDAY (Oct. 5) Impression 5 Science Center: Panel with entrepreneurs discussing the maker culture and a key component of the “new economy.”

TUESDAY (Oct. 6) MSU Library: Using 3D printers, book printing using the Espresso system and other technical programs.

WEDNESDAY (Oct. 7) Allen Market Place: Displays of food preparation and brewing.

THURSDAY (Oct. 8) The Runway in the Knapp’s Centre: Different ways to find a niche in the fashion industry.

FRIDAY (Oct. 9) LCC West Campus: Startup Weekend begins.

SATURDAY (Oct. 10) LCC Downtown Campus: Hands-on interactive STEM activities
for children.

SUNDAY (Oct 11) Meridian Mall: Mega Toy Hack — make a new toy.

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