17 November, 2010: Jeff Sturges: OmniCorpDetroit
Detroit. It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m back at OmniCorpDetroit. Jeff’s leading a workshop for a local undergraduate class on electro-harmonics, and I’m here to observe. Though OmniCorpDetroit is new to the neighborhood and really only getting going, Jeff tells me that this is the kind of activity that will occur on a regular basis under their new (old) roof. As the art students experiment with circuits and tiny speakers, Jeff makes the rounds as lecturer and demonstrator, and with an animated educator style, directs the attention of his audience with grace. Though he holds a degree in architecture, his demeanor makes for a natural teacher. It was this skill he refined in Brooklyn, New York, where he was involved with a successful space.
After the class, Jeff shows me around. He demonstrates the DC power converters the OmniCorpDetroit team had devised a couple of weeks back for the Maker Faire, an annual event celebrating the grass roots movement of disassembly, modification, and reassembly of technology. Like the re-purposing of this old building, the capacity for people to deconstruct and reinvent is making tremendous strides in the development of technology. Even something as simple as a repurposed air compressor connection used as a bike trailer hitch is a refreshing turn that, well, inspires. When one considers the falling costs of hi-tech tools like 3D printers which can facilitate in-house prototyping, the sky’s the limit.
In what sounds to me like a paradigm shift in education, the goal of “maker spaces” and “hacker spaces” like OmniCorpDetroit is to foster technical resourcefulness and independence in communities. Downtown Detroit is a ground rich in opportunity for collaboration and development, and similar movements are spreading throughout the city. Citing the success of the community-based urban farming efforts happening just around the corner, Jeff is encouraged. “It is my goal to eventually not be involved with the community maker spaces we are planning. Once the neighborhood has taken over their space, their lab, then that is the best kind of success.”
In an effort to wrap my brain around what this new direction means for the future, I have to ask: What, then, would you call yourself in this new frontier of technological and mechanical development? Jeff laughed. “This is truly a collaboration of like-minded individuals to make something larger than the sum of its parts. I guess I’m an instigator and facilitator.”