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Library partners with TekVenture

– Young entrepreneurs and inventors will get a chance to hone their skills and knowledge thanks to a collaboration between the Allen County Public Library and a local technology company.

The library has offered the Maker Station mobile laboratory a home on the library’s lot at Washington and Webster streets. The Maker Station – a 60-foot by 20-foot trailer – is owned and operated by TekVenture, a non-profit Fort Wayne company.

TekVenture’s Maker Station provides laboratories and workshops at which tech-savvy mentors guide those who have ideas for inventions but who may lack the equipment or knowledge to bring the idea to fruition.

The Maker Station is geared toward helping young adults create, design or invent “almost anything,” library director Jeffrey Krull said. “This is geared toward teens and young adults and takes us in a new direction. It also fits within the educational objectives of the library.”

TekVenture’s mobile unit will be moved to the library lot sometime this summer, said its president, Greg Jacobs.

As part of the agreement, library staff and patrons will have an allotted number of access hours for workshops and demonstrations in the Maker Station at no cost. TekVenture plans to seek grants to help pay for some of the programs designed for library patrons, according to Krull.

Participants will have a chance to design a computer model of their particular invention or vision and then print the plan in 3-D form or as a working model, Krull said.

The library will be responsible for parking and utility hookups for the Maker Station, and it also will collaborate with TekVenture on the development of programs, according to the agreement.

Krull estimated the cost of installing the power line for the mobile unit to be between $6,000 and $8,000, while the monthly utility bill will be minimal, he said.

The contract does not stipulate an expiration date, although if it does not draw the number of people expected, either party can void the contract with 60 days’ notice, Krull said.

“We are simply the host for the Maker Station the first year,” he said. The library will review the contract after that.

TekVenture will move the mobile unit from Sept. 26 to Oct. 6 for the Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire but will return it to the library afterward, the contract states.

TekVenture has a seven-person board of directors and about 20 people on various committees. Jacobs is an independent exhibition designer who has worked with Science Central and Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

For the past four years, TekVenture has hosted the annual Chain Reaction Challenge at the main library, where participants construct complex machines in the Rube Goldberg vein.

“Through the (Chain Reaction Challenge), we have had a great relationship with the library,” Jacobs said. “With this move, we are hoping to build on that if we can.”