©2012 Springer Publishing Co. Inc. and U.S. Auto Scene ®
web edition, u.s. auto scene ® dearborn, michigan
may 14, 2012
Ford TechShop Facility Now Open For ‘Do It Yourselfers, Gearheads
By Kurt Anthony Krug
special writer
 The ribbon used at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of TechShop on Ford property in Allen Park recently, really was unlike any other.
 The ribbon was not made of cloth, but steel. Instead of a giant pair of scissors to snip it in two, the ribbon-cutters – Randy Visintanier, director of Ford Motor Company Research & Innovation, and U.S. Representative John D. Dingell – donned safety goggles and used a state-of-the-art plasma cutter.
 Dingell steadied the machine, while Visintanier sawed the ribbon with white-hot sparks cascading all over the place, making other dignitaries step back. Once finished, their efforts were met with applause from a crowd of approximately 50 visitors and dignitaries.
 “Today, you’re seeing America moving forward. You’re seeing cooperation between cities, government, and two major industries – you’re seeing TechShop and you’re seeing Ford. They’re going to make the kind of jobs to make America competitive. They’re going to help us do what (President Barack Obama) said: ‘We’re going to out-compete, out-build, out-work, and out-educate them all, and that’s gonna make America great in a difficult and competitive world,’” Dingell said after the cutting.
 Dingell was one of several politicians attending the TechShop grand opening – a new 38,000 sq. ft. facility owned by Ford Land – at 800 Republic Drive in Allen Park, very near the Detroit Lions’ practice facility.
 Also present was U.S. Representative Hansen Clark, Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. (wearing a TechShop T-shirt and membership badge), and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell.
 “I happened to visit TechShop in San Francisco in March. I’ve been working with a lot of tech entrepreneurs in Kalamazoo. I have an interest in this sort of creativity on the west side of the state in Kalamazoo, so I wanted to come here and check it out. We all know that we need the entire state – especially Detroit – to be successful if this state is going to continue to come back,” said Hopewell.
 Meanwhile, the TechShop chain was founded by Jim Newton and Ridge McGhee. Newton – who served as science adviser on the TV show “Mythbusters” and taught robotics at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo, CA – was inspired to create TechShop upon witnessing his students’ frustration when they had no equipment and tools to work on their projects.
 The first TechShop opened in October 2006 in Menlo Park, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley. Its other locations include San Francisco, San Jose, and Raleigh-Durham. Allen Park is the 5th TechShop to open.
 “When Bill Coughlin (president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies) came to us a year and a half ago and said, ‘We want a TechShop in Detroit. We think it’ll be really good for the community to give people access to the tools of innovation, so they can start businesses and develop new technology.’ We said, ‘That’s great, Bill, but Detroit’s 39th on our list; it’s gonna take a couple of years.’  “But Bill was persistent and we figured out a way to make it No. 5 instead of No. 39,” explained Newton, which elicited a round of applause from the attendees.
`After the ribbon-cutting, Newton, Coughlin, and Ed Martin of Autodesk, Inc. – a leading company in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software headquartered in San Raphael, CA – answered questions from the media.
 “Everybody has ideas. The problem is without access to the tools, the resources, and the software, and all the other things around it, you can’t do those ideas… you can’t execute them. It’s very hard to do these projects without access to the resources, so that’s the whole key behind TechShop. It’s not for inventors, it’s not for experts, it’s not for engineers – it’s for everybody. So I shouldn’t say it’s not for those people; it is for those people, but it’s not only for those people. TechShop’s designed for anyone – anyone from any walk of life, any skill level, any aptitude – to come in and we will guide them to help them get their project into real form,” explained Newton.
 Membership is as little as $99/month. Members get access to nearly $750,000 worth of state-of-the-art equipment, according to Newton. It offers classes in computers, electronics, fabrication, metals, laser-cutting, textiles, welding, woodshop, and machining. The prices for classes vary and are not included in the membership fee.
 Coughlin stated that Ford has offered free 3-month memberships for its employees submitting ideas worthy of patenting as Ford likes to encourage innovation within the company. As result, the number of ideas submitted has increased 30 percent since the start of 2012. Ford expects to aware more than 2,000 memberships this year, according to Coughlin.
 “Part of the vision of our company is to help people imagine, design, and create a better world, which could not possibly fit better with the mission of TechShop,” said Martin.
 “Practically everybody’s had an idea at some point, but are you going to do with that idea? You have to have the idea, you have to have the initiative, but then you need a way… to make it possible. We develop the software so people can develop their ideas visually so they know they’re going to work, then turn right around and put them in physical form… This is the place where you can sweat the details,” he added.
 You have the ideas, then you can make it real and do the real work of bringing it to life here. This is a way for artists, inventors – anybody – who wants to make something real, to make it real.”
Ford’s Randy Vistainer, second from right, led the metal “ribbon cutting” at the grand opening of the national TechShop chain that opened on Ford property in Allen Park last week.
A Ford Mustang was on display at the much-anticipated opening of the TechShop on Ford property in Allen Park. The national chain offers users a variety of garage and home tools to create industrial, auto or retail items, all for a small monthly user fee.
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