2015 was an amazing year for us here at Eureka! Factory, a year of self-realization and creative exploration, the year we learned we could make a living doing what we love, together, in the service of the common good.
From the 2014 ashes of disappointment following the experiences of bad collaborations and commensurate corporate losses, we learned that playing the long game, and staying true to your personal mission and goals is also a solid and enduring business plan. The Eureka! Factory has been an epiphany befitting its name – a year long celebration of the inventive spirit for us, our collaborative partners, our clients and our communities.
We love walking the Maker talk, and are grateful that we live in a place as forward looking, supportive and small business-friendly as Hillsborough County, with community partners who make all our programs and events a joy to produce.
So here, in the first days of 2016, we hope you’ll enjoy this look back at some of our favorite moments in 2015, and a look ahead to some of the exciting things we’ve got on tap for the new year!
We partnered with Hillsborough County Economic Development to kick off the monthly Homebrew Hillsborough Local Area Networking (LAN) meet ups. The brainchild of Hillsborough Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan, and co-organized by Eureka! Factory, Homebrew Hillsborough has been a joy, providing a personal and powerful way to meet and stay connected with tech and small business owners from around the county. Each month, Homebrew Hillsborough meets at a different coffee shop or cafe and features a special guest speaker, and a nice casual social opportunity to get to know our small business neighbors.
We celebrated Women’s History Month with the first ever Hillsborough Women in Tech event, again partnering with Hillsborough County to produce this fantastic, free event at the Seminole Heights Library. Well over 100 women of all ages attended, and enjoyed speed networking, workshops on coding, and business development and a Pecha Kucha session, with our youngest presenter just 9 years old. We’re already looking forward to this year’s Women in Tech event, being planned at the new University of Tampa Entrepreneurship Center.
Our 4th annual Gulf Coast MakerCon event was our biggest and most successful yet, with over 80 exhibitors, the Southeast Combot Championship fighting robots competition, Electrathon car race , Young Makers activities and Makerspace Showcase, bringing together over 300 technologists, artists, crafters, mechanical and electrical wizards, costumers and prop makers, roboticists, musical artists, inventors, gamers, coders, and more.
We were excited to debut our Scan-0-tron build at MakerCon, designed for Boca Bearing Company to highlight innovative uses of bearings in a full custom built 3D body scanner with its own roadie case! Over 600 guests visited throughout the day, enjoying exhibits, meeting and networking with makers and each other, and learning about all the great makerspaces, creative groups and programs on the Gulf Coast.
We were also honored when the Board of County Commissioners declared April 18, 2015, Maker Day in Hillsborough County, in addition to providing generous funding for the event through the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).
Gulf Coast MakerCon 2016 is set for April 9th at the Florida State Fairgrounds again, this time with 40,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space!
The Eureka! Factory helped host the 3rd annual Code for Hillsborough National Day of Civic Hacking event, in collaboration with Code for Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County. Held at Microsoft Tampa, Code for Hillsborough brought together over 100 area programmers to work on everything from a State of Florida vendor data challenge, to building out websites for the International Trade Council and Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, as well as a youth challenge to develop a 911 app for children, which was designed by the local Coder Dojo group.
This year, we’re working with the Tampa Innovation Alliance to produce an even bigger National Day of Civic Hacking event to improve lives and services in Tampa.
In June, we also participated in the first ever Library MakerFest, an idea we suggested to the Tampa Bay Library Consortium when they first started exploring the idea of library makerspaces in 2014. The event was enormous fun, and gave us an opportunity to showcase our the staff development training and consultation services, and to see the great work area libraries are doing to develop creative spaces and programming.
We spent much of the summer wrapping up focus group sessions for Land O’Lakes Library and New Port Richey Library, and putting together final reports for both libraries. We enjoyed working with various groups of stakeholders at each library, and exploring best practices for them with respect to space considerations and staff capabilities to expand creative programming at these two integral centers of community in their respective areas.
July also marked the height of our Instructables Summer Makerspace Contest, as our little group of creatives went on a frenzy of making, competing with over 40 maker groups around the globe for the most featured and published Instructables. We built, photographed, designed, repurposed, wired, hammered and nailed and cooked everything that came to mind, publishing over 120 ‘ibles over all, and having a ball in the process!
Makerspaces in Libraries (Rowman & Littlefield) was published! Co-authored by Eureka! Factory’s Terri Willingham and Jeroen de Boer, of Frysklab in the Netherlands, Makerspaces in Libraries is part of the Library Technology Essentials series and provides the culmination of our work to date on library makerspace best practices, from foundational documentation to case studies and step-by-step activities. It was a challenging book to pull together in under six months, but the result is a concise bible for makerspace and creative program development in libraries of all sizes.
We also partnered to help host TEDxTampaRiverwalk in August, with a great slate of presenters with some great ideas worth spreading.
The Instructables Summer contest wound up in August, and while we didn’t win, we came in a very respectable 4th place and can’t wait for the 2016 summer contest to go all maker creative again!
We enjoyed hosting an interactive exhibit at Maker Faire Orlando, showing hundreds of youth and adults the joys of making with simple circuits, and recycled instruments, keeping the conversation going on the power of creative living and learning.
Our 3rd annual ROBOTICON Tampa Bay event, showcasing FIRST K-12 learning through a post-season competitive event that provides opportunities for pre-season skill building, networking, and college and career readiness experiences. The event also provided a fun and unique way for the general public to enjoy this “Sport for the Mind” and see and enjoy the hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics that FIRST offers.
Nearly 2000 people participated in or visited ROBOTICON Tampa Bay October 10 & 11, and enjoyed workshops, exhibits, pit tours and exciting robotics competition matches! This year, thanks to support from another Hillsborough County EDI2 grant, we were also able publish a companion Newspaper in Education issue that went out to middle and high schools throughout a five county region, provided additional STEM education content to thousands of Tampa Bay area youth. October was also recognized as ROBOTICON Month in Hillsborough County, and we’re already planning for ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2016
In October, we also kicked off a series of staff development makerspace training sessions, under contract with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System to provide maker orientation and hands on maker experiences to every librarian in the Hillsborough County system. This is an exciting project on many levels, with a county library system that already set the bar high with the HIVE. We’re honored that THPL selected Eureka! Factory to provide the countywide training, and can’t wait to see the exciting changes ahead in our county libraries!
November found us at the first ever Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire, at the Carrollwood store, showcasing robotics, interactive electronics, handmade instruments and promoting Gulf Coast MakerCon. Bringing the Mini Maker Faire concept to Barnes & Noble stores nationwide was a brilliant idea, introducing mainstream America to the concept of Making and the empowerment it makes possible.
And we ended the year enjoying the Grand Opening of the Foundry , the new makerspace at Land O’Lakes Branch Public Library, bringing to fruition the second library makerspace for which we provided consultation and design services.
What an amazing year it’s been! We’re proud of all our great accomplishments in 2015, but fully realize that from start to finish, none of the programs and events we produced would have been possible without the support and help of our county, our library community and great partners like Plughitz, Mity Mo Creative, Studio 7, Sonic Print, Boca Bearing Company and many others.
And we’re looking forward to our next library project, working with Leesburg Public Library to explore makerspace and creative programming in their library system.
It takes a village to make a village. Here’s to a New Year rich in creativity, innovation, open mindedness, compassion, and kindness, and to an empowered future for all!
Happy New Year from Eureka!Factory.