MakerspaceCT officially opened its doors on April 13, 2019. Founder Devra Sisitsky began the project in 2014 after attending a Maker Faire and Conference in California and reading an article about makerspaces in Make Magazine.
Devra is passionate about building and contributing to the growing innovation hub in Hartford. She recently shared some insight with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about the economic impact MakerspaceCT has on our community.
DEVRA SISITSKY: One of the most important legacies we can leave in Hartford is the opportunity to expose alternative financial pathways to sustainability for people in the area. Makerspaces enable people to bring their ideas to fruition and create businesses that contribute to the city’s financial health.
NAN: MakerspaceCT also creates economic impact by providing job opportunities.
DEVRA: Yes. We currently have seven full-time employees and about 15 part-time teachers and techs. We’re bringing in more teachers and we’re always looking for talent.
Also, like many other states, Connecticut is facing a manufacturing skills gap. MakerspaceCT can expose people to many manufacturing processes and help them acquire skills needed for those jobs. We have equipment and programs to introduce manufacturing skills, which can help put people into the pipeline for workforce development.
It’s a great way to jumpstart someone’s trajectory into the manufacturing field without a long-term commitment. They can learn how to work with mills, lathes, plastic injection equipment, 3D printers, and much more and then decide if they want to pursue careers in these areas. We’re that bridge between someone wanting to change their life by learning additional skills and someone who is actually moving forward.
NAN: In what ways does MakerspaceCT contribute to Hartford’s innovation hub?
DEVRA: We are creating an innovation/maker ecosystem in the Hartford area with many new innovation and tech startups. Our goal is to support entrepreneurs and people with innovative ideas so this becomes a much easier process.
Hartford is already known as the fourth best tech city and we want to make that even better. We want to support people. We want to solidify those relationships, networks, and pathways from one resource to the next so people have a much clearer path to success with the new products they’re creating and the new businesses they’re launching.
NAN: Why locate MakerspaceCT in the center of downtown Hartford?
DEVRA: I am a native of Hartford and I’ve always been a cheerleader for Hartford. I’m excited to be one of the spokes in the hub that ties together the schools and universities with organizations like the Infosys Hartford Tech & Innovation Hub, Manufactory 4.0 – Stanley Black and Decker, the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator, Upward Hartford, reSET—all these great resources and people who are here as individuals and mentors to help with this movement.
NAN: There was a lot of anticipation in and around the city in the lead up to MakerspaceCT opening. How have you been gaining traction?
DEVRA: We’ve rolled out a lot of classes from 3D printing and scanning to welding and woodworking. We’re also offing summer youth programming for kids ages 12–17 in Raspberry Pi, robotics, and 3D printing. There are also some really exciting things coming up in the fall, including the New England Maker Summit, where people can learn about the impact of making on the financial stability of a city.
I obviously want to see the Makerspace gain traction through memberships. We want to bring more projects to Hartford to help make it a better city and get people more involved. We’re always looking for community support. We would love more corporate support too—having corporations offer scholarships for people in the city or for students for summer programs. And having corporations involve their employees. It’s a great way to enhance creativity.
NAN: What’s in it for you? Why did you take on creating this community resource?
DEVRA: All my life I’ve been surrounded by makers—people who repurpose things and people who are often hands-on problem solvers. It’s the same thing I do in the abstract medium when I create businesses. This is my 33rd startup. I adore putting the puzzle pieces together and making it work—it’s the same thing makers do when they’re solving a problem.
What’s in it for me is the commonsense reality that we’re getting back to innovation and creation. It’s switching the mindset from one of conspicuous consumption to one of innovation and creation.
It’s empowering people, children, women to understand that they can make something—that it’s not outside of their reach. The idea they’ve had kicking around in their head can come to fruition. It can be a good idea.
It’s supporting people in their dreams. It’s leaving a legacy in this city of encouraging people to reach for their dreams and make businesses come to fruition. That’s what’s in it for me.