Do-It-Yourself Auto Workshop For Detroit Reworks An Old Idea

August 3, 2010


The depressed economy has spurred all sorts of innovative, DIY solutions—like renewed interest in community garages and tool libraries—for keeping vehicles repaired as frugally as possible and still on the road, as well as some innovative ways of helping laid-off, skilled workers hold out until better times.

The new chain of facilities—a collaboration between Menlo Park, California-based TechShop and Ford [NYSE:F]—will open an automotive-focused facility in Detroit, aiming to harness the abilities of out-of-work engineers, technicians, and anyone who has specialized skills.

In exchange for a monthly fee, members will have access to about $500,000 worth of gear and specialized tools, such as lathes and mills, that they wouldn't have access to in a home workshop.

It was a match made in Silicon Valley; Ford and TechShop first met last year at this year's Maker Faire in May and soon set the project in motion. Ford sees it as a way of extending its community of potential inventors and innovators, who might help bring solutions like its SYNC connectivity solutions to market.

Founders are hoping that the facility, which won't bear the Ford name, will help nurture some sort of Silicon Valley-like center of innovation, allowing those without big-time loans and investment to follow their development inclinations.

Many might argue that we've seen such a facility before, and it's called the community college. Admittedly, most community colleges have especially well-funded workshop facilities, and enrollment in a few credit-hours is all it takes to obtain access. TechShop sounds less about trade skills and more about invention and experimentation, but a request TechShop to outline the differences between their facilities and other such public facilities remained unanswered by publish time.

TechShop is still looking for funding assistance for the Detroit facility; the organization also has locations in North Carolina and California (for a total of 800 members) and is planning to open a workshop in San Francisco later this summer.

[New York Times]

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