(C. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, Aug. 27, 2012)
“In all the articles they talk about the mind-controlled flame thrower,” said i3 Board President Matt Oehrlein. And while it is pretty awesome to have invented a game that requires two people to match their level of concentration and sustain it long enough to ignite a 15 foot flame, there is so much more to i3 Detroit than just their most recent famous invention.
“Mind Flame,” a popular invention at the recent Maker Faire Detroit event was created by Oehrlein and Ed Platt, just two of the over 70 inventors, hackers, designers and other creative spirits that call the magical workshop home.
Tucked inside Ferndale’s southeast side industrial district, the workshop houses shared space and tools that members can be part of for just $39 a month. Those that want voting rights can be board members for $89 a month. The group might vote to pool money for large shared equipment, and on procedures for things like sharing tools, storage of projects, and fees.
Members have access to a variety of shared tools, including drills, saws, lasers, welding equipment, generators, electronics, and even craft tools like a silk screen machine.. There is 24 hour access and plenty of spaces just to get cozy and work. One room is built with white board so members can doodle or scrawl out ideas. Above that is the tree house, an elevated platform with book cases of reference material and even more places to sit. In front is an electronics shop that would put Radio Shack to shame. And next to that a craft room is well-stocked with paint, yarn, fabric, and other autocollants.
“There is no way that any of us could have this stuff in our garages as home,” Oehrlein said. Some of the machines cost several thousand dollars and could only be purchased collectively or through donations.
Though i3 Detroit has been around about three years, they have finally gotten their 501c3 status so that donations to the center can be written off as a charitable gift for tax purposes. Dake, a local tool manufacturer, has already donated equipment, including a $1,400 hydraulic band saw.
“We put something on Facebook about needing tools, and they contacted us and were like “is there any tools we can help with,” and this is what they sent,” Oehrlein said. “It’s amazing how supportive other people are when they see what we’re doing here.”
Most of the members are there to “tinker,” but some have found incredible success with their projects. i3 Detroit members have stacks of medals won at invention competitions, including many from PPPRS Racing, where children’s toy vehicles are tricked out with larger motors and adult-size seating for a race that can go as fast as 35 miles an hour.
In addition to tools and supplies, i3 Detroit gives members access to a large network of creators and inventors who have multiple talents and a collaborative spirit. Members enjoy helping each other and working together on projects. Some are students who use the machinery to supplement their classroom studies, and others are people who just want to learn new skills without the pressure of tests, grading and tuition fees. People from all levels of skill are welcome, all that is needed is a positive attitude and a willingness to share.
Find out more in our video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbvjuV7u73s&feature=share&list=UUKfRC-ROZQYiNRAZodaCERg.
Check out i3 Detroit’s website at www.i3detroit.com.