Vocademy: “Playing”–to Win

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"This is a movement of play," said Vocademy founder and CEO Gene Sherman. "Everyone here is playing." Gene was delivering a keynote speech at the 2016 Southern California Maker Convention. In the course of his talk, he explained the factors that had led him to create the world's first education-focused maker space. Vocademy - The Makerspace, in Riverside, is unique: it combines the best elements of trade schools, shop classes and research-and-development labs. Students of all ages, from all walks of life, get to explore different hands-on skills: 3D printing, woodworking, metalworking. And some schools and colleges now use their facilities for their hands-on training programs. Gene says his ultimate goal is to open "a thousand Vocademys", to share maker skills, nationwide. His next step towards that goal happens later this year: he'll be opening a second location in Southern California. And this September, Vocademy's scheduling a maker faire in downtown Riverside. Any makers who have created a really cool project are cordially invited to find out more about exhibiting! A maker from the start Gene's interest in the maker movement had its roots in his childhood. His dad's machine shop introduced him to hands-on skills, early on. Shop classes, during high school, would help him hone those abilities. Ultimately, Gene's aptitude led to a career as a machinist, inventor, manufacturer and 3D designer. "I came out of high school with fundamental skills that made me more valuable to the world," he said. And what he saw happening, as high schools began eliminating shop classes in the 1990s, would result in his creation of Vocademy. "All these companies I used to visit would call me up and say, 'Hey Gene, where are the people we need?'", Gene said. during his keynote presentation. Manufacturing jobs were going unfilled because job applicants lacked the necessary skills. With ten years of teaching experience, plus his three decades of machining, manufacturing and 3D design, Gene opened Vocademy - The Makerspace in October of 2013. Gene talked about his background, the process of creating Vocademy and his goals for the future. On this edition of Over Coffee® you'll hear: How Gene's growing-up years gave him a "maker" mindset; How Gene's experiences in manufacturing and as a university teacher led him to come up with the concept of Vocademy; Gene's memories of the first days of Vocademy; How Vocademy works with schools, companies and nonprofit organizations; What an average student's experience is like; Some of the "crazy projects" students are currently creating; Gene's favorite memories from attending the first-ever White House Maker Faire as an honored maker! How a local community college is setting up a "mini-makerspace" through Vocademy; More details on the Inland Empire Maker Faire, happening in late September. And, if you'd like to know more about creating a makerspace for your school or organization: Gene, and Vocademy, have some information for you, on what's involved. Here's a link to their page where they'll step you through some of the considerations.

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