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The thing you notice immediately about the Innovation Hub is that the place is buzzing – literally and figuratively. When I arrived, there were kids in the parking lot finishing up a project, adults at tables huddled together over laptops, and down the hall, a couple of guys working a circular saw in the shop. There are 3D printers, laser cutters, spools of wire, and power tools. People are figuring things out, working together, because the Hub is a maker space. The only one in Arkansas, actually, and it’s located in the Argenta district of North Little Rock.
What is a maker space? Well, it’s a space that helps people make things, along every possible part of the continuum. It begins with the space itself: room to work and equipment to use. Next comes education: teaching people about everything from electricity to computer coding to how to use all that equipment. For kids, that includes field trips and after school workshops. Adults can join classes and community activities. Anyone can buy a membership that gives them time to work, learn, and collaborate at the Hub.
Once you’ve learned and are making new things, the Hub will help you get them out into the world. Say you invent something new: if your project fits with their mission, they’ll build you a prototype, and connect you with Arkansas manufacturers to help with production. Soon, entrepreneurs will even be able to co-work and pitch new ideas at the Silver Mine, getting assistance with everything from funding to marketing for new businesses.
Also part of the Hub? Art. The Art Connection has, until now, been a program that hires high school students to create art and then helps them sell it. It’s a wonderful way to develop their artistic skills, while teaching them about the realities of making money as an artist. Currently that space is undergoing construction, and when it reopens, the opportunities will expand to include both younger kids and adults with classes and programs.
This is thrilling for anyone who loves to learn and to make things, myself included. It’s also great that innovation is happening right here in Arkansas; that new ideas and possibilities are being nurtured. Seeing science, technology, engineering, math, art, and entrepreneurship come together in a cohesive space is so encouraging. You can start with the bare bones of an idea, and end up with a completed project or fledgling business. That’s the kind of place I want to live, that I want my children to grow up in: where people collaborate and challenges are tackled because the possibilities are so many and so bright.
For more information, go to their website.
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