But when we left Uganda, we realized that the X-Carve wouldn’t fare too well in Uganda without us around, and there wasn’t anyone to train local Ugandans while we were away so we disassembled it, packed it and shipped it back with us to Northwest Arkansas. It was frankly a bit depressing looking at the X-Carve in bits and pieces, especially after the effort we had put into building it.
My thought was that I could find some way to continue to use the X-Carve to teach 3D design and CNC fabrication here in Northwest Arkansas. As we settled in, I started searching around for local maker spaces, hackerspaces and fab labs and I was shocked to discover that there weren’t any. This was especially shocking because “Fortune 1” is here in Northwest Arkansas and there is a thriving tech sector here. After lots of Googling and calling around I found a lot of dead ends until I stumbled on the “NWA Fab Lab“, which overwhelmed a Google search for “makerspaces in Northwest Arkansas” and appeared to be the only space that had any traction.
My friend Tim (my bud from Uganda who talked us into NWA) and I met with Tiffany, who was in charge of the space and we took a tour. The space was backed by the local Chamber of Commerce and although it was small and obviously in the very early stages, it looked promising. One of their struggles was that they were having a hard time with some of their core equipment, specifically their 3D printers (Which were down more than they were printing) and with their CNC, which was small and underpowered.
With an X-Carve sitting in storage, I knew right away that I had found a temporary home for this terrific machine, and I didn’t hesitate to loan it to them under the condition that they wouldn’t hurt our baby.
Within a few days, I had the X-Carve over to them and provided guidance to their volunteers as they reassembled it. I honestly held my breath because I though the X-Carve’s international travels would have mucked something up, but it survived surprisingly well. This is really a testament to the durability and simplicity of this machine.
We are in the early stages of working with the NWA Fab Lab, but I’m pretty excited because they share our passion for teaching other about tech and they have a real heart for reaching out to underprivileged students. Tiffany and I have the same dream of having camps for underprivileged kids and doing road shows and mobile training to bring tech to folks who can’t get into Fayetteville.
For now though, the goal is to “train the trainers” but I’m already so encouraged because we were really starving for collaboration in Uganda and although the X-Carve opened a lot of eyes in Uganda and thrilled many people about the possibilities of tech, collaboration is what makes tech like this really work. Now, we’ve got lots of eyes and hands working together towards a common goal.
Thanks again to Jason and John who really went above and beyond to get the X-Carve into our hands, to Tim who’s been beside me this whole way and to everyone that’s supported us to make this possible!