Saturday, October 20, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Melissa Duff-Brown during an Oct. 18 networking event at the Carver Innovation Center in Forest Park. | Shanel Romain
Othello Van Calbert, a Chicago area data analyst, stood rapt as Melissa Duff-Brown, the dean of the Small Business Development program at the Joseph Business School in Forest Park showed him a slew of products created by the school’s 3-D printer.
Those creations included a customized banner and notebook that featured the logo of the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce, which hosted a networking event on Oct. 18 in the Joseph Business School’s new Carver Innovation Center, a co-working and business development maker space located in Forest Park Plaza, 7600 W. Roosevelt Rd.
The center, which opened in May, is designed for entrepreneurs like Calbert, Duff-Brown said during the reception, which drew a crowd of at least 40 people.
“Sometimes you just want to be in a space with like-minded people to solve a challenge and this space is for that,” she said. “Here, you can have that dialogue and you can be open and honest about the problems you’re facing, and we can say, ‘Hey, let’s help you solve that as a community.'”
Duff-Brown explains the 3D printing process as a prototype is printed. | VFP
According to a brochure, the Carver Innovation Center is equipped with a universal laser cutter that utilizes a laser beam to “cut, engrave, mark and produce photo images in one step”; a 3D printer that produces “highly accurate and reliable prototypes for concept verification, design validation, and functional performance”; and a vinyl cutter for large-scale print and cut jobs.
Duff-Brown said that the new center has already been paying dividends for some entrepreneurs.
“One client had come up with a new idea, had investors interested in a sketch — even Walmart was interested in the product,” Duff-Brown said. “We were able to 3D print his prototype in this machine for $56.”
She said that another client had been trying to prototype an idea “for six years,” but that multiple places “were quoting outrageous” prices.
“We were able to 3D print 25 pieces for $300,” Duff-Brown said. “When you make the first iteration, it’s not necessarily the final product. You may have to make four or five. This space allows you to fail quickly and easily with cardboard, so when you invest in higher-quality materials, you’ll know what the final product will be.”
Back when it opened in May, Bill Winston — the pastor of Living Word Christian Center, the parent entity of the business school and the owner of Forest Park Plaza — said that he envisioned the center as a place of opportunity.
“We’re going to take this center and drive things to this center that will create employment opportunities that can lift the burden off some of these poor communities,” he said at the time, according to a report by Forest Park Review.
Plastic creations printed in the Carver Innovation Center’s 3D printer. | VFP
During Thursday’s reception, Duff-Brown said that the center was named after George Washington Carver, the African American inventor, for a reason.
“Carver developed 300 products from the peanut and 118 from the sweet potato, but he was born into slavery,” she said. “He was one of 12 children. He never let where he lived shape where he would go. His position had nothing to do with how he was created to live his life. No matter your race or age, it’s never too late to have an idea and this is the place where you can do that.” VFP
For more info on the Carver Innovation Center, click here.
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