Fab lab to help inventors get start


If local educators and industry leaders have their way, there may be a new makerspace in Bowling Green.

A group of more than 40 people representing area school districts, colleges, industry and economic
development met for an hour Thursday in the former Steve & Barry’s site at Woodland Mall.
That space, with the help of a grant being applied for by Bowling Green Schools, would be turned into a
Makerspaces are community centers with tools, combining manufacturing equipment, community, and education
for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that
wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.
The STEM grant, through the Ohio Department of Education and due next week, is reportedly for between $4
million and $6 million to develop the space.
The makerspace would be called The BiG Fab Lab and will offer opportunities to engage community,
education and industry under one roof.
Mark Bowlus, owner of Bowlus Engineered Solutions & Technologies LLC of Bowling Green,
collaborated with school district Superintendent Ann McVey to give Thursday’s presentation.
Bowlus called a makerspace "a shop class on steroids."
"For the price of a gym membership, anyone with an idea, project or inspiration will have a place to
make their dream a reality," Bowlus said. "All the tools, classes, expertise and encouragement
you need will be right here in one place."
Among the resources that will be available to members will be welding equipment, laser engravers,
woodworking tools, CNC routers, metalworking tools, pneumatic tools, CNC milling machines, injection
molders, computers equipped with design software, 3D printers, and tools for arts and crafts such as
sewing machines and pottery wheels.
Bowlus said emphasis will be placed on members being able to share ideas, expertise and encouragement.

"We believe the space will have wide appeal, from professional engineers to students to ‘weekend
It also would provide space for research and development for budding entrepreneurs, plus possibly office
space, a conference room, classrooms, storage space, studio space and a Lego room.
For use of much of the space, membership will be required.
A retail space also will be included so members can test market and sell their creations.
As for the Woodland Mall, Bowlus said he is a "sucker" for revitalizing old buildings, and the
fact the space is well-lit and safe for all ages, has a loading dock and has a wide-open floor plan
makes it ideal.
He hopes to open the facility early next year.
He and McVey also are looking to fill two more board seats, one to represent industry and the other
McVey will represent education on the board.
"So we can serve every sector in this community," Bowlus said about the board setup.
McVey pointed out there is a critical need for qualified people to enter the workforce, something she
learned after attending a Manufacturing Day in October at Penta Career Center and touring First Solar
and Walgreens Distribution Center.
At that event, school counselors and administrators were told that by the year 2030, 77 percent of
skilled baby boomers will have left the workforce. (Source: Manufacturing Extension Partnership)
That, she said, put her on a mission to determine "what we can do as educators to introduce students
to what’s going on in the local industry."
She wants students to have access to a place that will open their minds and be a creative outlet and yet
provide real-world learning.
It would have an open-access workshop where public and parochial students and well as those homeschooled
could get their hands on technology to help determine if they want to go into a vocational career,
Bowlus said.
"This is the most enthusiastic I’ve been for an educational initiative in 20 years," McVey
The grant would provide seed money for the project and provide for material and professional development.

"We are determined to make this happen even without the grant," McVey said.
"We already have great vocational programs in Northwest Ohio," she said, "but the BiG Fab
Lab provides a critical next step. It will not only provide training on the most up-to-date tools, it
will do so in an environment where students can observe people creating real product prototypes. It adds
an entirely new dimension to their learning."
She said she already had Bowling Green State University, Penta Career Center, Otsego and Eastwood school
districts on board, and asked for support from audience members.
Revenue from the venture would come from memberships, classes, rental of storage and studio space, tool
rental, and corporate sponsorship.
Cal Smith, owner of Radel, Smith & Associates, was the first to voice his support.
Angelo Brown, a former teacher, also expressed his interest, as did Dave Siravo, director of sales in
Workforce and Community Services at Owens Community College.
"I am pretty interested in the concept," Siravo said.
Robert Midden, with the COSMOS program in BGSU’s department of math (Center of Excellence in Science and
Mathematics Education: Opportunities for Success) said he would like to take advantage of a makerspace.

Makerspaces are gaining traction throughout the United States, yet none exists in Northwest Ohio. The
closest such facilities are located in Cleveland and Columbus, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich.

No posts to display