A Place for Big Ideas to Grow

If there’s one thing a city can never have too many of, it’s a place for ideas to foster for the greater benefit of the community.
Enter Fab Lab, or fabrication laboratory, a product of the National Science Foundation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms.
The concept is to use “innovative engineering solutions to solve everyday problems,” and the Fab Lab brings that capability to underserved areas around the world.
Kendall Whittier Inc. aims to bring a Fab Lab to Tulsa in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood.
Kendall Whittier Inc., which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, was organized by churches in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood that sought to provide revitalization to the neighborhood and social services to its residents.
Leading the intiative to bring a Fab Lab to the neighborhood are Matt and Diama Norris. Diama Norris works for Community Action Project of Tulsa and heard about Fab Lab through a co-worker. Matt Norris, an engineer and CEO of Innovation Works, has helped initiate the effort to bring a Fab Lab to Kendall Whittier, a five-month-long process that has just now entered the fund-raising stage.
Small or medium-sized businesses could use the Fab Lab to brainstorm and develop new product ideas, Norris said.
He said the Kendall Whittier neighborhood was chosen in part because it is diverse and centrally located in Tulsa, near Admiral and Lewis. He anticipates synergy with the library in Kendall Whittier Square and the nearby Educare center and Kendall Whittier Elementary.
Kendall Whittier Inc. debuted its Fab Lab campaign at a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, which garnered 45 attendees. The next step, Norris said, is to begin a fund-raising campaign and procure a site, preferably 1,000 or 2,500 SF and in Kendall Whittier Square. Norris is eyeing the Swinney’s Hardware building but hasn’t yet negotiated with its owner.
Norris said his goal is to have Tulsa’s Fab Lab up and running in six months, or no more than a year. If the funds and a site were readily available, he said, the lab could be established in a month.
Each Fab Lab typically contains a computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts; a four-foot-by-eight-foot numerically controlled milling machine; a sign cutter to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas; a precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards; and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed embedded processors.
Access to the Fab Lab is free and open to the public.
Equipment for the lab is provided and installed by MIT and costs about $50,000.
Norris said $100,000 would get the project going. Additional funds could be raised over time to sustain it. ?



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