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Lizzy Cook Joins Operation Breakthrough as Make48 Maker-In-Residence

This year marks an inspiring collaboration between Make48 and Operation Breakthrough, as they join forces to bring a talented Maker to the Ignition Lab Makerspace: Powered by 87 & Running. Lizzy Cook, the talented mind behind The House of Timber, has accepted a part-time role as the first Maker-In-Residence.

Make48 will utilize the Ignition Lab space in between filming the documentary series and nationwide city competitions, benefiting both the Operation Breakthrough students and Make48. Tom Gray, Make48 CEO, envisions growing together with the nonprofit. “Operation Breakthrough and Make48 both had assets we wanted to maximize. Operation Breakthrough has a fully-developed makerspace, and Make48 has an event, documentary, and Makers who can make unique projects. We have access to the space to build, so why not teach the Operation Breakthrough students at the same time.”

Ignition Lab: Powered by 87 & Running opened its doors in 2021. The Ignition Lab is a workforce development program where 100 students, ages 14 to 18, spend time each week

getting real-world experience in fields ranging from culinary arts to automotive and engineering. Mary Esselman, CEO and director of Operation Breakthrough, and her team have worked tirelessly to open the space since 2018 when their organization received a huge boost with a $17 million capital campaign. The expansion ‘bridged’ Troost and beefed up their education program with STEM disciplines. 

The $17 million expansion was a giant leap for Operation Breakthrough. One of the leading supporters is NFL football star Travis Kelce and his foundation 87 and Running. Kelce spoke about the project to Fox Sports. “The Ignition Lab itself is an extension of Operation is going to be something for high school kids to really explore the STEM Lab programs that are at Operation Breakthrough...I'm just trying to give these kids confidence and the ability to grab something that they wouldn't have otherwise and really run with it." [Click here to read full story]

Operation Breakthrough will be a tailored fit for Make48’s residency, fostering a collaborative and innovative atmosphere. Tom Gray, “The environment at the Ignition Lab is laid out very well and has enormous energy. The flexibility allows us to work with Lizzy and the students two days a week, on different projects. It also gives Lizzy time to run her own successful business and take care of her family.” 

Lizzy is excited to be given the opportunity. “I feel like this collaboration with Make48 is going to be the best yet. I think it will provide such a hands-on experience in the community right here where Make48 calls home.”

“I am most excited to be working with the youth right here in Kansas City,” Lizzy continued. “I think teaching children anything, especially a skill, equips someone so well to tackle anything in the future. Whether it’s daily life or a hardship. It’s more than a woodworking skill, it’s knowing you can create and problem-solve. That’s one of the greatest things you can impart on someone, the realization of their own ability.” 

Lizzy will begin working at Operation Breakthrough in January of 2024. In anticipation of the partnership, Make48 has reached out to its sponsors and asked for support with tools and materials for the Ignition Lab. Tom Gray said, “From the beginning, Make48 has had generous support from Lincoln Electric, The Restorer, Kreg Tools, and Super Clear Epoxy (so far). And this is just the beginning.” 

Several projects will be tackled by the students. Lizzy will mentor the students on a variety of fabrications and has some ideas to bring to the Ignition Lab. “I think first off we have to make the space official with a sign of course! So much goes into making a sign, from joinery to details, and hanging a sign in a space is such a seal of approval and something the classes can continually look at with a sense of pride.”

In November, Nationals will be hosted by Operation Breakthrough for Season 8. The Make48-Operation Breakthrough collaboration is set to empower the youth of Kansas City, providing them with valuable skills and experiences through the Ignition Lab Makerspace. For further inquiries about the Make48-Operation Breakthrough partnership, please contact Cassandra Munoz at

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