On October 7th, Make48 will head to North Little Rock for the first 48-hour invention competition at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub was Arkansas’ first makerspace to open its doors to the community. The Hub provides tools and training to Little Rock’s entrepreneurs, students, and creators, preparing them to join and grow Arkansas’ economic ecosystem. Arkansans are generating and inspiring innovation in cutting-edge technology, business, and creative fields. These creative thinkers expand the range of educational and economic opportunities for themselves, for their communities, in the state, and throughout the world.
Errin Stanger became the Director of Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in December of 2021, and has been part of the Hub since the beginning. She’s been integral in bringing Make48 to North Little Rock, and has worked closely with Make48’s CEO and North Little Rock’s educational institutions, local businesses, and community leaders. We recently spoke to Errin about the upcoming event, the importance of makerspaces and the aspect of creative thinking during the innovation process.
M48: What makes the Hub an ideal place to host Make48?
Errin: The Hub is an ideal place to host Make48 because we are Arkansas’ flagship makerspace. We have support from our city, North Little Rock, that enables us to reach all areas of the state for collaboration, sponsorship, teams, and volunteers. We have built a strong reputation for inspiring innovation and expanding opportunity.
M48: How will the Hub’s team play a role in the event?
Errin: I think the question might be, is Make48 ready for the Hub’s team involvement? We are a very hands-on, collaborative, friendly team full of maker enthusiasts and creative genii. We are geared toward making sure that everyone who walks through our doors, especially during a Make48 event, feels welcome, excited, inspired, and valued. We will be involved in all the nooks and crannies- wherever Make48 allows! (ha!)
M48: What sets the Innovation Hub apart from other makerspaces?
Errin: The Innovation Hub, from the very beginning, has focused on creating an inclusive collaborative STEAM approach that is found throughout our education, membership, workforce development, event, and production initiatives.
We strive to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels valued, welcome, and heard- no matter the age. We focus on collaboration, not competition. We have a statewide initiative to have our STEAM focus reach as many places as possible. Our tools are what you might find in a large makerspace, and our people are top-notch. There is a high level of engagement, organization, teamwork, and effort put forth daily that sets us apart from other makerspaces.
M48: Why are makerspaces a key to innovation?
Errin: I believe there is something very unique about makerspaces when it comes to innovation. It is one of the safest places to fail and learn from the failure. It is also one of the safest places to own your creative identity, be surrounded by teams of individuals cheering you on in your creative moments, and lift you up when you need help. It is a very safe place to ask for help, have your voice heard and be inquisitive. Organized, well-staffed makerspaces also create incredible mentorship opportunities. Often, friendships formed inside makerspaces last a lifetime.
M48: How are makerspaces changing the way communities, companies, and educational institutions think and facilitate innovation?
Errin: Makerspaces invite you to think outside the lines. People often visit makerspaces to work with their hands and try something new. Because we are not a school, museum, or library, we can sit outside the lines, and we attract a WIDE variety of individuals that are contagiously curious. Communities see economic development in new ways, companies realize their teams must have outlets for creativity outside of the normal work environment, and educational institutions look to makerspaces for creative teaching and learning environments for students to explore the new and unknown. Where else can you go to have access to 21st-century tools, friendly staff, welcoming members, and access to studios and learning spaces all to help YOU become better in whatever way you choose? Makerspaces are buildings where the “a-ha moments” come to life- Every. Single. Day.
M48: To some, making comes naturally. For others, not so much. Makerspaces spark creativity. Are makerspaces the missing link (infrastructure) we need to allow more people to be creative?
Errin: I think makerspaces are phenomenal physical structures that allow for creativity in a fantastic welcoming environment- and every school and community needs one in my opinion. I think the environment you are raised in has an incredible influence on your creativity.
Parents have a beautiful gift of allowing their children to have time to explore, go outside the lines, provide time for creativity, and create time to nurture creativity. I believe we are all makers. What we make and how we make it can differ, but we are all given gifts. I think the missing link is time. We need to take the time to let our minds wander and believe in our creative gifts. Makerspaces can help every individual process those gifts and talents.
M48: You’ve done a phenomenal job in reaching out to the community to bring Make48 to NLR. How can makerspace directors expose their facility to a greater audience?
Errin: Build relationships from day one. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Be humble, be kind, and do not be afraid to ask for support and help. Get to know the team behind successful makerspaces. Ask the questions. Be open to receiving advice and help. Reach out to your city, your chamber, business owners, nonprofits, and friends. Also, do not be afraid of no. It most often means, not right now. Be exceptional at following up, writing handwritten notes, sending thank-you emails, and staying excited. Your passion and enthusiasm can be contagious.
Now open to teams nationwide, competitors from North Little Rock and beyond will be able to participate in the unique maker competition, which helps participants discover what is possible in just 48 hours.
The winning team will win $2k and advance to compete at the national competition, slated for March 2023, where one team can win $10k.
To apply for a team, sponsor, or volunteer at the North Little Rock event visit https://www.make48.com/northlittlerock