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Tech trailer, brainchild of John Bartholomew, to be fashioned with contest funds.



COURTESY OF TUALATIN ABC - An illustration shows how students could work with laptops and creative design equipment inside a Tualatin Makerspace. The space will be small, however, likely occupying a small trailer.There has been one word on the lips of many of Tualatin's movers and shakers this past month: “Makerspace.”

It’s become a sort of buzzword in the community, especially since Tualatin was one of just eight cities from around the country to be named finalists in the America's Best Communities competition.

The Tualatin ABC team will be receiving a $100,000 grant as an award for reaching the finals late last month. That grant's intended use is to begin putting the “community revitalization plan” devised by the ABC team into action.

It all starts with a mobile Makerspace, said John Bartholomew, a software engineer and board member of Mask & Mirror Community Theatre, one of the partners in the Tualatin ABC team.

The Makerspace envisioned by Bartholomew and his team is similar in concept to the Bowmen Mobile Fab Lab, a converted RV that Sherwood High School teacher John Niebergall uses to teach kids across the greater Portland area about engineering technology. The lab is filled with gadgets and gizmos like laser cutters, laptops and a 3D printer.

Tualatin's Makerspace will function similarly, only it will serve the local community, Bartholomew said.

“Our goal is to stimulate interest in science, engineering, math, creativity among younger kids, to keep them interested in it through high school, or through middle school,” Bartholomew said.

No larger than a single-wide trailer, the Makerspace won't be able to hold a lot of students or contain all of the equipment the ABC team wants to fill it with, Bartholomew said. Instead, the van will be customizable for different visits to Tualatin schools or community events like the annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta, with some of the equipment having a permanent home at the Tualatin Public Library.

PMG FILE PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Sherwood High School teacher John Niebergall (right), who is advising the Tualatin America's Best Communities team on their Makerspace plans, has a mobile lab of his own that he takes from school to school (pictured: St. Helens High School).

“We're trying to make it as available as possible, especially to the teen community that frequents the library,” Bartholomew explained. “We want to make as much as possible as available as possible.”

The team's goal is to have the Makerspace ready by the start of the fall semester.

Next spring, the America's Best Communities contest judges will evaluate the progress that Tualatin and the seven other finalists have made in working toward their community revitalization plan. Three will then be selected for grants of between $1 million and $3 million each.

“We're all relying on you to carry us through to the finish line, and we'll all be right behind you,” Mayor Lou Ogden told Bartholomew at a Tualatin City Council meeting on Monday evening. Ogden predicted that Tualatin will end up as one of the three big winners.

Both the city of Tualatin and the Tigard-Tualatin School District are involved with the ABC team, but it is not a city project, although Bartholomew noted that library employees will be trained to staff the Makerspace.

Linda Moholt, chief executive officer of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, said her organization — another community partner in the team — will be taking receipt of the $100,000 grant, which will be placed in a special fund for the Makerspace, curriculum and training.

Moholt expressed amazement at the amount of involvement and support from the community for Tualatin's bid in the America's Best Communities competition.

“It's the craziest darn thing,” she said. “I mean, I've worked in a lot of community things over the years, and I've never seen such total support from the get-go.”

The ultimate goal of the Tualatin ABC team's plan is to connect local students, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with jobs in the high-tech and manufacturing sectors in Tualatin and neighboring communities.

If Tualatin receives one of the top prizes, Ogden has said, its plan is to build a permanent career center to promote the scientific, technological, engineering, artistic and mathematical (STEAM) fields of work, study and creative expression.

The $100,000 grant comes courtesy of the America's Best Communities competition's sponsors: Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel.

COURTESY OF AMERICA'S BEST COMMUNITIES - Members of the America's Best Communities team for Tualatin accept a giant $100,000 check after being announced as a finalist in Durham, N.C., on April 27.


By Mark Miller
Reporter
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