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Make-It Springfield opens downtown 'makerspace' with do-it-yourself bike clinic

June 1, 2016 : The Republican, by Jim Kinney

SPRINGFIELD — Make-It Springfield opened Wednesday as a month-long pop-up "makerspace" at 168 Worthington St. with a drop-in bicycle repair clinic and hopes of pumping up the city's downtown along with the tires on a few well-used bikes.

"Make it Springfield started as an idea of how to revitalize vacant space," said Michael DiPasquale, an assistant professor in the University of Massachusetts  Extension and Program Director of the UMass Design Center in Springfield. "We wanted to have a presence on the street. This is the first time we've had a chance to take over a storefront on the street. We are piloting some ideas here."

In the month of June, Make-it Springfield will host a series of workshops, lectures, hands-on demonstrations, clinics and other events. Topics include a series of three bicycle drop-in clinics from 1 to 4 p.m. that continue Thursday and Friday and "Making Vietnamese Spring Rolls," scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.

Guy McLain, director of the Museum of Springfield History, will speak from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 8.

"We (UMass) will have students here who will be presenting workshops, and people from the community will host workshops here," DiPasquale said.

At one event next week, UMass students will teach Chestnut Accelerated Middle School students about radio-controlled aircraft, and they'll all build quadrocopters from kits.

"Its about making things, being creative and revitalizing space at the same time," DiPasquale said. "It's about making something. It's about being creative."

The goal is also to bring people downtown and make a storefront that would otherwise be vacant into a lively-looking space.

Make-It Springfield is a partnership between UMass and MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency. Both UMass and MassDevelopment are funding the effort with help from landlord SilverBrick Lofts, said Laura Masulis, the MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative fellow working for MassDevelopment in Springfield.

Alex Weck, of the new nonprofit bicycle repair collective Rad Springfield, taught the bicycle event.

A list of more than 25 upcoming events is available on Make-It Springfield 's Facebook page.

Workshops will be open to various age groups based on the skills and work involved. Some will be open to middle school students or to adults, while some will be open to all ages, according to a news release.Program presenters include New England Public Radio, Springfield City Library, EcoBuilding Bargains, Gardening the Community, Focus Springfield, Springfield Central Cultural District, RadSpringfield, City Mosaic and Heartfelt Gifts.

Most events are free, but there might be a cost for materials.

MassDevelopment works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth.

© Copyright 2016 The Republican.