Southern Company employee pursues passion for innovation at local 'Makerspace'

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July 24, 2015

Southern Company employee pursues passion for innovation at local 'Makerspace'

John Rhymes is on a mission. The Southern Company Services system auditor is doing everything he can to transport the passion for innovation and collaboration shown by employees in the recent idea-driven competitions, like the SO Prize competition, to his community.

Rhymes is a member of the "Red Mountain Makers," a makerspace in Birmingham. Makerspaces are places where innovation, learning and collaboration intersect - where an idea can be converted to a concept and then to a prototype and ultimately to a product in one location, similar to the concept behind Southern Company's recently announced Energy Innovation Center.

"What I have found in these spaces is an incredibly diverse group of smart people bouncing ideas off of each other and teaching each other."

John Ryhmes

Makerspaces are commonly stocked with the latest technology and trinkets - from 3D printers to wood- and metal-working equipment, for example. "What I have found in these spaces is an incredibly diverse group of smart people bouncing ideas off of each other and teaching each other," Rhymes said.

A key aspect to makerspaces is that experts are present to provide hands-on assistance. Many makerspaces also understand the important connection that must be made between having a passion for innovation and incorporating it into the mainstream.

Recently, Rhymes pioneered a teacher-grant program at Red Mountain Makers. Through this program, 14 teachers will receive free membership to the makerspace for one year. The goal is to build a community among educators and to provide inspiration for starting makerspaces at schools and libraries.

By using the makerspace hands-on approach with students, Rhymes believes that educators can get more children excited about science, technology, engineering and math.

"I am convinced that we as individuals can make a difference in our communities," Rhymes said. "The right ideas combined with the right people can accomplish great things. I'm doing my small part to help with something I believe in and support what a handful of people started."

Makerspaces can be found in most major cities across the country. To find a makerspace in your area, visit The Maker Map.