Since starting at MIT in 2005, “maker spaces” have been popping up nationwide. Founder and Director of the new BiG Fab Lab Mark Bowlus said up until 2 months ago, the closest maker spaces to Toledo were in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Columbus.
That has since changed with BiG Fab Lab, which opened in the Bowling Green Woodland Mall last month, making the creative playground now available to all.
Operating like a gym, The Lab is a 24/7 open-access workshop, offering memberships to creatively-minded makers. A membership allows creatives access to expensive equipment, new technology and tools to exercise their imagination in ways they are unable to do at home. Tools in The Lab include a laser engraver, a 3D printer, a CNC router, along with a photography studio and other creative shop stations.
It isn’t just the equipment that makes The Lab special, it is also the focus on collaboration and community. The Lab facilitates the interactive, participatory element with collaboration spaces, studio office spaces, storage spaces, a conference room, a kitchen and a lounge area. Members can bounce ideas off of one another, provide help with new equipment, and even work together on projects. Different makers do not have to work together – but the energetic atmosphere will likely aid even a solo pursuit.
Working it out
Bowlus said BiG Fab Lab has three main sectors – industry, education and community.
Innovate, educate and collaborate
Local businesses have helped sponsor The Lab and donated equipment and tools. Sponsors included Laborie Enterprises, InTech IT Solutions and Willman Technologies. Volunteers have also come to Bowlus to help The Lab run smoothly.
Local schools are encouraged to bring students to The Lab to “stimulate creativity and innovation among students,” Bowlus said.
He said the idea originated when he saw a need for this stimulation in his children’s education. After researching other maker spaces, he said he “caught the bug and pursued it.”
Member and local business owner Kim Eckert, (owner of K and K Crafts in BG’s Woodland Mall) said she saves time by using the laser engraver to cut her craft signs. In addition to the laser engraver, Eckert also plans on taking a class on the pottery wheel.
“People came to us; there is so much enthusiasm around this idea,” Bowlus said. “I am so excited [that] the community has embraced the idea. We really think it will inject new life into the Woodland Mall.”
The standard membership fee is $39 a month. Students 14-21, seniors 65+ and military have a reduced membership fee of $29 a month. Once a person signs up to become a member, they must complete a safety and basic use class on specific tools. Members have 24/7 access to The Lab after completing two courses.
Noon-9 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. BiG Fab Lab, 1234 N. Main St. Woodland Mall,
Bowling Green. 419-971-4244,