2015 Leadership NKy Class to receive inaugural ‘Innovation Award’ for role in NKY Makerspace

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Students working collaboratively in Makerspace (Photos provided)

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune Contributor
Gigi Watson and Skylar Dolan knew immediately what their favorite parts were after touring the NKY Makerspace campus in Burlington.
It was the music and recording room.
“I loved making music,” 9-year-old Gigi said. “It was so cool.”
“Putting everything together to create a noise I thought was fun,” 9-year-old Skylar agreed.
They’re not alone. In fact, the NKY Makerspace has been, by all accounts, a massive hit. After all, the space is reserved for the innovators, for the ones who will decide just how our future will look. There are rooms of computer screens, and 3D printers. There are rooms with hammers and nails and lumber. You may see a room with a robot, or some crazy wiring or the beginnings of what may be the next great technological idea.
And of course, there is imagination. And creativity. And ingenuity. And drive.
It is all celebrated in the popular NKY Makerspace – the first of its kind of space in the state of Kentucky.
Located at 3300 Barneys Road at the Boone County Fairgrounds, it is a place where schoolchildren from across the region can come to experiment, learn and play, to try out ideas and work with others with similar skills.
“The Leadership Northern Kentucky Class of 2015 wanted to choose a class project that involved the entire community and had a lasting impact on the next generation of innovators and dreamers,” says project chairman Larry Luebbers of Central Bank. “Local Robotics team students from the Boone County district made a presentation and wrote a letter to our class, and what really did it was they didn’t want our help for themselves, they wanted it for others who could take advantage as well.‬ So we decided to partner with the district and help NKY Makerspace, giving the students an opportunity to learn and be creative.‬”

An innovative student project

Boone County Schools donated the classroom and a staffer, while businesses from across Northern Kentucky provided start-up capital and donations to provide technology and other materials. Children can come to participate in field trips, after-school events, “Super Saturdays,” and summer camps.
At today’s “Celebration of Innovation in Education” luncheon on at Receptions Banquet and Conference Center in Erlanger the Boone County Education Foundation Innovation Award will be presented to the Norhtern Kentucky Leadership Class of 2015 for its efforts to create the NKY Makerspace.
It is a new award this year.
“We’re very proud,” Luebbers says. “This has become so much more successful than we ever would have thought.”
Students in NKY Makerspace focus on STEAM education, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
Gigi and Skylar visited NKY Makerspace with their third-grade teacher, Akrivi Watson, and the rest of their class from North Pointe Elementary. At the time, they were learning about magnetism and electricity.
“The experience was remarkable for the students,” Watson says. “I loved it as much as the kids. The STEAM Lab provided everything we needed to enrich our students with what we were teaching.”
And the class also had nothing but kind words for coordinator Ryan Kellinghaus, who echoed the sentiments of others when he said the Makerspace not only helps children – it helps the region.
“Our mission is to create an environment for the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to think, create and build,” Kellinghaus says. “We offer field trips, workshops and student internships. We are a regional program, so we serve students K-12 in Northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati.
“Our interns are driven by service learning and problem/passion/project based learning … addressing local and global problems through projects. We collaborate with companies, teachers and non-profits to apply student skills and talents through service.”
In July 2015, the Hamilton County Development Co. published a survey of county businesses which revealed, among other facts, that “Business is booming,” the NKY Makerspace website reports.
More than half of the companies surveyed reported they were planning to hire employees, but 37 percent said they were struggling to find skilled workers, and the first “high need” skill mentioned was in advanced manufacturing.

A project in progress

“Walk into any manufacturing company in (the) tri-state, look around and you’ll be standing in a makerspace,” the website says. “Area companies need employees who can utilize today’s technology to solve problems in unique ways. They need makers.”
Those companies were quick to donate their time and funding, which helped the project thrive, Luebbers says.
“We didn’t even know the need for this type of project existed,” he says. “We wanted this to be a blueprint for how these things can go. Now, these kids are really just getting started.
“I’m curious and excited to see how things will look in three or four years.”
Find NKY Makerspace at http://nkymakerspace.weebly.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/nkymakerspace

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