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Technology Tailgate Connects Manufacturing Technology, Public And Employers

ASHEBORO, NC ( Makesboro USA) – Do you like working with your hands? Would you like to make your own drone and learn to fly it? Perhaps you would enjoy seeing a drone drop a taco to you. Or, maybe you would like to see how you can make $18-$25 starting out with a new job.

A multi-day event to reinvigorate our local economy will be held from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 14 through Thursday, March 17. On Saturday, March 20, the party will be held from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. in conjunction with Downtown Asheboro’s Streatery that will feature restaurants expanding their dining into the streets. Shops will be open and bands will be playing from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Job seekers and persons wanting to learn more about equipment used in manufacturing and how to make money are invited to participate.

A launch for the Technology Tailgate Party will be held on Friday, March 12 from 1-3 p.m. Public officials, employers, community leaders and job seekers are invited to attend.

The name of the event is the Technology Tailgate Party. Organizer Joel Leonard, a makerspace consultant, from Asheboro, said, “We’re going to have some silly games for kids and adults, but each activity has an application used in manufacturing jobs here.”

The purpose of the Technology Tailgate Parties will be to introduce the public to Makesboro USA, a 15-foot trailer packed with equipment where you can learn how to use a CNC (computer numerical control) mill, router, laser cutter and 3-D printer. A number of fun activities will be held, including learning how to make your own drone and fly it. An FAA-certified drone pilot and instructor will be show how to do that. You can participate in a scavenger hunt with blueprints. If you find the right spot, a drone will drop a taco on you, courtesy Taco Loco restaurant. Other activities will be learning how to use a 3-D printer by making edible pancakes on a pancakebot and using a CNC machine to make a laptop desk for a student’s computer.

Many of the unfilled jobs in the Piedmont Triad use the equipment that will be on the Bicentennial Park stage and in the 15-foot Makesboro USA trailer. Area employers will be on hand to share information about current vacant positions and future employment needs. They will be able to talk with potential employees in an informal, relaxed environment.

Instructors will be holding classes at the Makesboro USA trailer to help people upgrade their skills and income – and help teens who are dropping out of school.

Leonard is seeking sponsors and donations to purchase supplies and pay instructors. Leonard will be taking the Makesboro USA trailer and instructors to area schools, events and towns to introduce rural and underserved populations to this type of equipment and lucrative jobs. When the trailer is at Bicentennial Park, and at other events, persons may donate money through a colorful spaceship.

The mobile makerspace is the result of collaboration between Forest Scientific Corp., a company based in Arizona and Pennsylvania; Maker Depot, a 501c3 non-profit makerspace from New Jersey and Leonard.  Matterhackers, a manufacturer of 3-D printers in California, has provided the 3-D printers in the trailer. The City of Asheboro has provided use of the park.

In the makerspace world, Leonard is recognized worldwide. He has taken his message and help to makerspaces everywhere. During the Covid-19 shutdown, he held two to three Zoom calls weekly between March and December 2020. He was instrumental in the development of The Forge, in Greensboro. It is the largest makerspace in the state.

In 2019, before Covid-19 hit, Leonard drove more than 120,000 miles through 35 states visiting more than 100 makerspaces. He shared best practices, consulted with their boards and staff on ways to become financially sustainable, connected them with their local economic development team, media and manufacturing companies and helped with the distribution of PPE (personal protection equipment) to the medical industry and the public. When the New York City hospitals needed PPE equipment, he worked with Maker Depot, Bossong Hosiery, in Asheboro, and Nufabrx, in Conover, to provide thousands of masks to the 23 hospitals in the NYC system and to provide masks to Randolph Health. Nufabrx is donating 200 elastic masks for the Asheboro Technology Tailgate parties. Everyone attending the events will be required to wear masks properly, covering the nose and mouth. Hand sanitizer will be available.

There has never been a program like this in North Carolina. Forest Scientific, Maker Depot and Leonard hope to expand the program to other states.

“Our hope is that students will see manufacturing as a viable and lucrative career path, particularly for those who do not want to go to college,” Leonard said. “They can learn the basics through the classes we will hold and then they can go to their local community college to get additional training and certification for a job.”

“One of the common complaints employers have is that kids coming out of school now do not know how to read a map, much less a blueprint. So we will have a scavenger hunt. Each participant will receive a blueprint showing how to find a surprise at Bicentennial Park,” he said.

As a bonus event added on Sunday, March 20, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., another Makerspace USA Technology Tailgate Party event will be held in conjunction with the Downtown Streatery. A portion of downtown streets will be closed so restaurants can expand their dining outside. That event will run from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and will have a number of bands performing.

For more information about the Technology Tailgate parties, call or text Joel Leonard at 336-338-1011.

Story / Photos Contributed – Makesboro USA Press Release