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
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.
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.