Economy
3:52 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Stateside: From 'Mythbusters' to 'TechShop,' a place to innovate in Detroit

If you want to get fit but don’t have equipment, you get a gym membership.

But what if you want to create something but don’t have a workshop or the tools to make it happen?

Well, there’s a place in Detroit called TechShop, and it functions a lot like a gym for carpenters, welders, designers, engineers and the like.

TechShop is a new facility that recently opened up in Allen Park near Detroit.

Members pay about $100  a month to access hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools and equipment. They can also take any of the 100 or so classes offered every month to teach members how to use the tools.

TechShop is a space to allow people to create without needing to do a lot of upfront investment.

And that's what drew Luciano Golia to the place.

Golia had been making instruments in Italy for 25 years. Then he fell in love with a woman from Michigan and they had a daughter.

He moved to the U.S., but for the first few months after he moved here, he didn’t have a place to work on his craft. He wasn’t sure if his new family would stay in the Detroit area so he didn’t want to invest in building a workshop, and he still didn’t have all the tools he needed to build his wooden instruments.

"TechShop is an easy solution to a big problem," Golia said. "This was the greatest solution to save a lot of money for my family."

TechShop got started in California by a guy who was the science advisor to the show Mythbusters. He did tests to see if myths were valid-- myths like, if you shoot a bullet strait up in the air, can you get killed by it coming down?

TeshShop CEO Mark Hatch says, Mythbusters inspired the idea behind TeshShop.

"After he left Mythbusters he didn’t have access to all of the tools and he needed the access in order to work on his projects so out of that need came Techshop," Hatch said.

There are TechShops already in California, North Carolina and Texas.

It was Ford Motor company that got TechShop to come to Michigan.

Bill Coughlin is president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies. He’s the one who gave TechShop a call.

"What I wanted to do was encourage innovation at Ford, find a way to help commercialize technology, not just from Ford but for the industry and would include Techshop members, and if we could create new businesses in this area that would be wonderful," Coughlin said.

As an incentive for TechShop to come to Michigan and as an incentive to spur more innovation at Ford, Ford gives away 500 TechShop memberships to employees on a rotating basis every three months.

And Mark Hatch, the CEO of TechShop, hopes that the variety of projects happening at TechShop will make a difference in the area.

"I want to see Detroiters change the world," Hatch said. "And I think they can. It’s remarkable to see different kinds of projects come out of each of the shops. I have no idea how they are going to do it. The obvious answer is that they are going to do something in automotive, but people are way more creative than that so I have no idea what they are going to do."

So whether it’s making car parts or musical instruments, whether it is preserving or creating businesses, the so called “maker” community is getting a chance to bring ideas to life, all under one roof.