Friday, September 27, 2013

CIW HQ Brings You Free, Expensive Toys with the GE Garage

CIW brings you GE Garages for innovation, education and free fun.

The quick movements of a 3-D printer dance quickly across the platform — and about 20 minutes later, a miniature Willis Tower is formed.

The Chicago Ideas Week Headquarters (CIW HQ) at 401 N. Michigan Ave. is in full swing with plenty of hands-on activities, thanks to CIW sponsor GE and its GE Garage, a platform with advanced manufacturing equipment and tech experts to teach curious minds how to create anything they can image.

“Having the GE Garage in the heart of Chicago will bring in more innovation and inspire more entrepreneurs,” said Michael Oporto, 24, an associate field producer at Sub Rosa, a design and innovation firm that launched the GE Garages program last year. “People can come in and literally use this technology with their own hands to make amazing projects.”

CIW HQ & the GE Garage are at 401 N. Michigan Ave.
The GE Garage is open 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 20, and it’s powered by a team of six from TechShop, a creative community that provides access to tools, software and space. The team will host workshops ranging from building a weather clock to a lesson in 3-D printing.

Plus students, scientists and innovators from any major or background can bring in their projects on STL files with a flash drive or choose from hundreds of open-sourced designs to create—all for free.

"What brought me in here was the fact that I could build my own 3-D image of pretty much anything I want,” said 47-year-old Helaine Lockett, a financial administrator at the Illinois Housing Development Authority. “I always love to learn what’s on the cutting edge of technology - and I’d like my own 3-D printer!"

Lockett was one of about 260 visitors who stopped by week one, and she walked away with a model of the Chicago Water Tower and a laser-cut photo of her son.

A tech goes to work with an injection molder.
There are a total of 10 machines in the garage—a CNC Mill, a Desktop CNC, an Injection Molder, a Drill Press, a CO2 Laser Cutter and five 3-D Printers. Terry Sandin, the manager of San Francisco’s TechShop, said these machines may seem big, but they’re really just a fraction of the size that GE uses.

For instance, the CNC Mill at the garage costs about $12,000, with an additional $10,000 tacked on for interchangeable tools.
At GE, the CNC Mills are about the size of the GE Garage itself, cost tens of millions of dollars and are used to create jet and space shuttle parts.

The scaled-down machines at CIW HQ can be used to make small appliances, like the base of a toaster, said Sandin, was carving out a small Grand Canyon on one of the machines.

A fan favorite so far? The 3-D printer.

Michael Podemski and daughter Kayla.
Michael Podemski, 41, a manager at Ernst & Young (EY), brought his 6-year-old daughter Kayla to experience a new way to create arts and crafts. Together they created a  mustache and monocle with the 3-D printer - and with the laser cutter they made a sparkling placard with an engraved ‘Kayla’ and a custom copper EY business card.

“This is the future,” said Podemski, who is from Jefferson Park. “I think because more people are doing DIY-type stuff, having some space that shows people what’s out there and what machines can help them is very beneficial.”

Alexis Caldero, 23, who is part of the TechShop staff in Pittsburgh, led a demonstration on the CO2 Laser Cutter, which produced an exact blue and red replica of the Cubs logo.

To make it, first a vector file was created on a computer - and then as simple as clicking ‘print’ on your standard printer, the file was sent to the laser cutter and it worked its magic.

A mix of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and helium were used to cut a 1/8 inch-diameter out of plastic. A handful of minutes later, the Cubs logo was finished.

Caldero said the laser cutter costs about $20,000 and only cuts through plastic and wood—not metal like GE’s enormous laser cutters, which run a price of a fewmillion dollars and are used to make jet parts and create signage for the sides of ships and aircrafts. Other laser cutters in the professional world are used by architects to speed up model making and fashion designers use it to cut patterns on clothes.

Great events will be going on at CIW HQ through Oct. 20.
At the GE Garage, visitors can also make wooden glass cases, logos, jewelry and hundreds of other items within the Garage’s open-sourced database.

“People are really excited to do things themselves,” Caldero said. “It’s pretty empowering. Chicago was and is a city full of manufacturing, so it only makes sense that the GE Garage is here right now.”

Another workshop that took place was Electronics 101, where David White from the Tech Shop in Pittsburgh taught three guests how to use solder and a soldering iron and build an LED project.

Tiny wires of all colors, switchboards and batteries cluttered the table as the group worked on converting energy to power their light bulb.

Vera Douma, a 37-year-old self-employed architect who volunteers at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Fab Lab, also came to the garage to flex her innovative muscles and expand her knowledge base.

“I came here for both professional and passion reasons,” Douma said. “It’s an opportunity to see how the public is accessing this kind of technology and how information is shared - and seeing how their eyes light up when they get hands-on experience.”

The Garage will also be a host to HQ events - all of which are free and first come, first serve - such as the CIW Kickoff Breakfast on Oct. 14. During the breakfast you’ll also be able to figure out your brain type with Marbles' short neuroscientist-developed quiz. And don’t forget Design Cloud: Networking Symphony on Oct. 20, where you’ll blur the lines between art, social media and technology with other guests.

You’ll also have an opportunity to get advice from speakers from the Work: Fueling Performance Talk during Office Hours Oct. 15 and 17. People like actor Gary Sinise will grab a seat with you one-on-one and provide feedback on everything from innovation and leadership to productivity and communication.

“CIW Headquarters will truly be a hub for new ideas and innovation for the city,” Malkin said. “With free access to some of the most insightful entrepreneurs, data scientists and software and industrial engineers at GE Garages, Chicagoland locals and CIW attendees alike have a unique chance to experience the advanced manufacturing revolution first-hand and take part in Ideas Week.”

For a full schedule of GE Garage events, click here. To see what other great HQ events will take place, check this out. 
Written by: Sophia Coleman
Photography by: Sophia Coleman & GE


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