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Make48 To Become Makers In-Residence At Operation Breakthrough

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Make48 is going to be a Maker-in-residence at Kansas City’s nonprofit, Operation Breakthrough. Later this year, the competition series will move a wide selection of tools into the brand new Ignition Lab Makerspace: Powered by 87 & Running. Make48 will utilize the space in-between filming the PBS docuseries and the nationwide city competitions, benefiting both the OB students and Make48.

Two years ago Operation Breakthrough educators and a student formed a team for the Union Station-Science City Season 4 Make48 event. The Bright Ideas team included educators Ben and Damon, plus a student DiEerin and her mother Monique. Together they competed and represented the nonprofit organization at the fourth national competition series. (Meet their team here)

Last year, Make48 worked with Jimmy DiResta and WorkbenchCon on a special build for OB. Together a group of makers from the Maker Village in Kansas City and national sponsors created a one-of-a-kind stadium chair "Fan Experience" for the students. Watch the full build at

"Fan Experience Build" at The Maker Village with Operation Breakthrough

Mary Esselman, CEO at Operation Breakthrough, opened up about the upcoming partnership. “We are really excited about the new Maker In Residence program with Make48. It embodies the intent of the Ignition Lab, to provide workforce development and entrepreneurship to urban teens through real world learning opportunities. The opportunity to work alongside one of Make48's team members will provide students with essential skills using a wide variety of tools and projects."

The Ignition Lab: Powered by 87 & Running opened up their doors earlier this year. Esselman and her team have worked tirelessly to open up several STEM spaces including their MakerCity in 2018 when their organization received a huge boost with a $17 million capital campaign. The expansion ‘bridged’ Troost and beefed up their K-8 education program with STEM disciplines.

In 2020, a second expansion was launched to promote workforce and entrepreneurship for teens. One of the leading supporters is NFL football star Travis Kelce and his foundation 87 and Running. Kelce spoke about the project last year 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]

Make48 CEO & Co-creator Tom Gray worked with Mary Esselman and her team as an advisor on the expansion of the Ignition Lab MakerSpace. Tom spoke about the new residency between Make48 and Operation Breakthrough.

M48: How will M48 utilize the makerspace?

Tom: Outside of our filmed competition events, we also film aspects for both PBS, This Old House Maker Channel (Roku) and create video content for various social media channels.

More importantly, we will get the chance to work alongside the students and give them some real life experiences as we create our own merchandise, event displays, VIP gifts and re-prototype current inventions from our events.

M48: What makes the Ignition Lab an ideal place for M48 to set up a residency?

Tom: I think both organizations share very similar missions on education, STEM and hands-on learning. When Make48 decided that we needed a makerspace, we knew we did not want a stand alone makerspace that only Make48 could benefit from.

M48: What type of tools and equipment is Make48 bringing into Operation Breakthrough?

Tom: We are very fortunate to have many mixed disciplined partnerships with equipment that all can benefit from. Brands like Stanley Black & Decker, PTC Onshape, Lincoln Electric, Ultimaker 3d printers, Shopbot CNC Tools, and TotalBoat will be front and center for the students to use and learn from.

M48: What kind of opportunities will come out of the new partnership?

Tom: I strongly believe that this will be a very unique opportunity to help feed the entrepreneurship mindset of the students within Operation Breakthrough. We want their experience to be unstructured and hopefully passion will drive their interest.

Many success stories from hundreds of past volunteers circulate the campus but one of the biggest obstacles for Operation Breakthrough is finding more volunteers with the availability to build long-term relationships with kids. To learn more about ways to get involved visit Operation's Breakthrough's website here.

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