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A Sandbox for Science and Technology

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Local News.
May 30, 2012

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The following was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler.

Innovation may be the key ingredient in entrepreneurship, but there can also be room for community, culture, and collaboration…

“There’s a little industrial sized Roomba that a guy’s been making, doesn’t look like much right now, anyways its got three orbital sanders and it’ll kind of move around automatically and bump into stuff like a roomba but it’s industrial sized. Just kind of funny,” said one of the founders of OHM Space, Dylan Mackey.

The soon to be robot sits quietly in a dim wide-open space packed with equipment and tools. The floor is concrete covered in thin layers of dust, there are no doors just empty frames, and the walls are lined with workspaces, equipment, and machines I’ve never seen before. Last year, Mackey along with Jason Stone, started the non-profit.

“OHM is the symbol of resistance in electronics, so there’s OHM’s Law and OHM’s Law is the basic formula for all electronics.”

Dylan says it’s the first of its kind in Oklahoma City. They’re like a club for computer scientists, engineers, mechanics, carpenters, and the list goes on. They work in a common space and frequently pool their knowledge and resources to make…..well anything.

“You know if you have an idea for a product you can’t go to a machine shop and prototype that they’re going to charge you like thousands of dollars. That’s kind of the goal of this is to give people access to tools they can be able to make things. I think that’s huge. I feel like we’re in the information age and everybody should have access to the ability to manufacture things.”

 Dylan told me to think of OHM as a genetics lab for business, a place where people are free to develop ideas and turn their designs into realities.

“I’d love for everybody to be able to make an additional $50,000 to $100,000 a year because they came here and played around with equipment and then they came up with an idea and they were around people that were helping them solve problems.”

Once The Space goes public, they want it to be a kind of community center open to everyone from Apple software engineers to school kids.

“Think of us as like a boys and girls club with really cool technology. I also say it’s like a gym membership for engineers so instead of playing basketball they’re learning how to build robots or their building their own robot,” said Drew Hendricks, another OHM leader.

Robots are cliché for science clubs and engineering festivals but the first machine OHM’s members unveiled, didn’t beep or sport any bright flashing lights. Enter the 3D printer and its handler, Jason Stone.

“Basically the way this works is it draws in melted plastic a little picture and then it moves up a very small amount and will draw another picture on top of the picture that it had just previously drawn and so if it continuously does that hundreds of times when you’re done you have a solid object.”

The Space is littered with expensive and powerful machines, like the computer-controlled mills and pottery kilns kept in the basement.

Like the one above, this room gives the impression of a construction site, there’s nowhere to sit, workbenches are the closest thing to furniture, those and the huge metal workers OHM’s members will use to make their machine parts. Some of the members, the gear heads of The Space, are working on one of the mills.

“Those are like over a $100,000 you can make an engine block on that, here’s another mill that we’ve got, now see that one it changes the tips automatically, this is the same kind of machine that you make Mac Book Pros on.”

An IT professional named Mike is not a member of OHM but still sees The Space as a huge advantage.

“I come in on Tuesday nights I read books, ask questions, I have a lab at the house that I get to play with and practice with. So it’s neat to come up and talk with experienced users who have had experience working in the field and answering calls that saved a lot of data.”

When The Space goes public, Dylan would like to see more Mikes at OHM picking the brains of industry professionals. He has OHM on a fast track.

“I’d like to see maybe twenty of these in five years at least. I’d like for the business model and the finances to be sound enough that we could start to just duplicate The Space and with our assets be able to replicate our machines and then we could start putting these spaces in cities across the state, say in Ardmore and Shawnee.”

He wants to make the services of OHM widely available especially in places that have nothing like it.

“Individuals get a lot out of this, they could stand to make money better their quality of life, but the city overall is also going to benefit from it. From just increased education, awareness, social responsibility, encouraging people to be more involved with the process of making things, they’re not detached.

“It’s not just something you buy at Wal-Mart anymore you kind of understand it you could build it yourself.”

OHM has just applied with the IRS for status as a non-profit educational charity. If approved, OHM is guaranteed some grants that may make Dylan and Jason’s vision for The Space come true.

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