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Makerspace program will help provide resources and opportunities to people with disabilities, and the community

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 5:04 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (PRESS RELEASE) - A network of five brand new or renovated makerspaces are slated to open later this spring throughout Wyoming, offering exciting opportunities for anyone around Casper, Cheyenne, Evanston, Pinedale, and Rock Springs to gain access to best-in-class tech tools that can take their creative projects to the next level.

Defined simply, a makerspace is a collaborative workspace for hands-on making, learning and exploring. These spaces are often creative community centers where people of all experience levels can learn how to tap into emergent technologies that they might not have at home, such as 3D printing, laser cutter, CAD and 3D modeling, CNC routing and woodworking, electronics testing equipment, as well as sewing, fabrication, and crafting. With an array of advanced technological hardware and software, these makerspaces are free community resources where Wyomingites of all ages and ability levels can get together to work on projects and share ideas.

Support for the five new makerspaces was made possible through a new partnership with the University of Wyoming’s largest makerspace, the Innovation Wyrkshop, and with financial support from the

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS).

Together, these makerspaces form a larger network of six “Innovation Wyrkshops” across Wyoming intended to forge strong cross-institutional collaborative bonds and equip Wyomingites with critical tech and STEAM skills. Through a growing library of workshops and programs shared across the network, makers effectively gain access to all six spaces for free. “The idea behind our network is that a maker can learn how to use equipment in one makerspace, and earn the certification necessary to operate that same equipment across the entire network,” Tyler Kerr, Makerspace Coordinator for UW’s Innovation Wyrkshop, and principle facilitator of DVR’s makerspace partnership. “No more retraining, no additional barriers to access, no membership fees. At the heart of it, the name of the game is accessibility and inclusivity.”

These six makerspaces are especially important as a means to provide youth who face barriers to employment with exciting ways to train for high-paying, in-demand jobs. Funding for new equipment and personnel was provided by DVR as a means to provide young adults with disabilities access to best-in-class science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) tools and machinery, and to give those students opportunities to work alongside and network with their fellow makers.

“We know that unemployment and underemployment disproportionately affect individuals with disabilities, and we saw a real opportunity via the makerspace program to provide training and work experiences for youth with barriers in high-growth fields,” says Nicky Harper, DVR’s vocational rehabilitation administrator. “Partnering with UW and enhancing the already phenomenal makerspace program to include education and training opportunities for persons with disabilities just made sense. We are thrilled to launch this program across Wyoming.”

Harper says the program will allow students to work alongside experienced makers, while gaining industry credentials and work experience through the robust shared training program. All six makerspaces across the state will provide unique employment opportunities for young adults with disabilities through the Pre-ETS training program, as well as providing creative space to communities throughout the Front Range.

“Everyone deserves the same opportunities to build and create and innovate freely,” adds Kerr. “We want these makerspaces to empower makers of all ages and, importantly, all abilities. These are spaces for everyone from students, community members, hobbyists, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use.”

The five new Innovation Wyrkshop locations slated to join the establish Innovation Wyrkshop in Laramie to form the larger makerspace network include:

The “Creation Station,” a newly-renovated makerspace located in the Natrona County Library in Casper, which is managed by Conrrado Saldivar.

The “Golden Eagle Wyrkshop,” located in Laramie County Community College’s Ludden Library in Cheyenne, and run by Linda Herget and Morgan Koenig.

The “Evanston Innovation Wyrkshop,” located in the Uinta BOCES #1 building in Evanston, and coordinated by Jared Lundholm.

The “Pinedale Wyrkshop,” located in the Sublette BOCES building in Pinedale, and run by Micah Parrish and Richard Ramsey.

The “Western Wyrkshop,” located at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs. To read more about Wyoming’s Wyrkshop makerspace network, visit www.wyrkshop.org. PreETS students between the ages of 14-21 who are interested in makerspace employment or volunteer opportunities at any of these six makerspaces can reach out to Tyler Kerr at tkerr1@uwyo.edu.

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