A series of Ultimaker 3-D printers inside of a classroom at the University of Illinois College of Business MakerLab. | University of Illinois || Below, Bridgette Chatman-Lewis, Vena Nelson, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon, Tumia Rumero and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis inside of Nelson’s Global Business Center in Maywood earlier this month.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 5:35 p.m.
“A 3-D printer can make a prototype of a Porsche in a matter of days or hours,” said business consultant Bridgette Chatman-Lewis earlier this month while hosting roughly 40 people inside of the Global Business Center, 840 S. 17th Ave., in Maywood.
The Center, which offers temporary office space and wraparound services to burgeoning businesses, is considered the hub of a technology district that Chatman-Lewis envisions for Maywood.
The Center has, for the last few weeks, also been a site for training young people in the magic of 3-D printing, a manufacturing process that creates three-dimensional objects like cars or even houses from digital files (click here for more info on the technology).
Chatman-Lewis, a native of Maywood, heads up the Oak Brook-based Chatman Lewis Consulting, which specializes in bringing economic development to hard-pressed communities.
After years of trying to gain a foothold into Maywood and at the urging Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Chatman-Lewis said her firm is now establishing a presence in the community where she was raised.
Earlier this year, Chatman-Lewis announced that Maywood would be among the communities her firm is seeking to “adopt,” in order to lure economic opportunities to town — a process the strategist said she’ll execute under an arm of her firm called the Economic Growth Initiative.
Chatman-Lewis has said EGI will execute its five-point plan in three phases. Those points include creating jobs, decreasing crime, increasing per capita income, providing youth and senior programming, and improving the community’s aesthetic landscape.
The Global Business Center, which is owned and operated by Maywood entrepreneurs Andre and Vena Nelson, was the site of the Oct. 14 kickoff for the technology aspect of EGI’s mandate to bring more youth programming into the village.
Saturday, Oct. 15 marked the start of the first session of instructional courses in 3-D printing at the Center. The eight-week training program, which takes place on the weekends, will offer young people, ages 16 to 24, the opportunity to earn a certification in 3-D printing technology, which they can then leverage into employment opportunities.
“The starting pay for 3-D printing jobs is between $45,000 and $75,000,” Chatman-Lewis said. “There’s a big demand for it in everything from soup to nuts. It’s huge.”
The course is offered through collaboration among EGI, Microsoft, the University of Illinois MakerLab and the Global Business Center — the latter of which has offered up some of its employees to serve as trained 3-D instructors. Maywood native and technology guru Sy Bounds, a frequent collaborator with the Nelsons, will facilitate the program.
The 15-person maximum enrollment level for the program’s first training cohort has already been reached, Chatman-Lewis said; however, interested young people can still apply for open spots in other 15-student cohorts. The maximum total number of students the program will accept is 100, she noted.
Although the training is free, participants will need to each fund-raise at least $100 to offset the cost it takes to administer the program.
“It’s a circle of accountability we’re going to build,” Chatman-Lewis said.
The first session will take place from October to December, with the next session taking place between February and April 2017. Although the program targets young people, 16 to 24, older applicants won’t necessarily be turned away, Chatman-Lewis said. Their names will be put in a lottery for open slots.
But the technological buzz at the Center won’t be limited to just those training courses, EGI officials said. Chatman-Lewis deemed the Center Maywood’s technology district. Bounds, she said, will serve as its czar.
The concept is to give area young people the expertise to take advantage of 21st Century economic opportunities while also maintaining a sense of place that will commit them to serving their communities even after they’ve seized those opportunities and secured those high-paying jobs.
“My research has shown that we have an incredible amount of brilliant young people,” Bounds said during the Oct. 14 kick-off event. “The problem is that we have to make sure they don’t take that information and head to Corporate America.”
In addition to 3-D printing and technology training, Chatman-Lewis said EGI will also host training courses in areas such as entrepreneurship, web development and product licensing, among others.
She said EGI is also looking for volunteers to man other community events, such as the Walk/Run it held in June and for which planning has already started for next year, a social/emotional learning program, an annual Global Initiative Network Event (GINE) and a Bulls/Sox lock-in for 3-D printing participants who successfully raise $100.
Tumia Rumero, an aide to Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th), who was in attendance at the Oct. 14 event, connected the training young people in Maywood are receiving to the wave of technology companies that are planting roots in the Chicago area.
“We have Google in our congressional district, Amazon has a headquarters here, Pandora just opened up a headquarters, Microsoft is at the Aon Center, Motorola just re-headquartered here,” Rumero said.
“With all those resources,” she said, “how do we begin to match what they’re doing with the people in the communities and so that’s where our technology advisory committee is going?”
Rumero touted a series of technology events the Congressman has been hosting over the last year, including a forum at Google’s Chicago headquarters, as an example of connecting area young people to opportunities in the technology field.
A group of students and administrators from Proviso Township District 209 High Schools attended the Google event, along with Chatman-Lewis and Bounds, who is on Davis’s technology advisory committee.
One challenge some attendees at the Oct. 14 event pointed out was how young people would be persuaded to take advantage of the tech training.
“How do you get them interested?” one attendee asked. “If you know that there are youth out here who have the brainpower and you know they can do it, how do you get them away from sports?”
Shanee Edwards, a 3-D printing course instructor and the marketing and sales specialist for Vena Nelson’s Go Big Accounting — the Business Center’s principal tenant and an associated company — said the trick to grabbing a young person’s attention is to make the learning fun.
“I would probably be inclusive. If it was my son, I’d explore the possibility that you can even design a new form of cleats,” Edwards said.
“Involve the interests they already have versus just trying to take them completely away from something they already love,” she added. “But if you find a way to incorporate [technology training inclusively], they’ll be able to make connections on their own.” VFP
For more info on the courses, email firstname.lastname@example.org.