Budding innovators and entrepreneurs in Southeast Kansas now have a place to help turn their “back-of-the-napkin” ideas into workable business realities with the completion of the Pitsco Idea Shop. A grand opening ceremony will begin with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, in the Foundry at Block 22 in downtown Pittsburg. Mayor Dawn McNay, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, and Secretary of Commerce David Toland are expected to attend the highly anticipated event.
“I’m really excited to be able to be doing this event at all right now even though it’s not going to be with the number of people that we might have otherwise wanted to have physically there,” said Shawn Naccarato, chief strategy officer for PSU. “But we will be live streaming the event so that folks can feel a part of this historic moment of the last piece of Block 22 to get launched, as well as what we think is going to be, and hope and envision is going to be, a really important tool in helping students to have access to the tools for innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re really excited about it.”
A product of the long-held partnership between Pittsburg State University and Pitsco Education, the Idea Shop has been in the making for five years.
“We’re excited to finally get this off the ground and we’re doing it in a way that really highlights and showcases the partnership between Pittsburg State University and Pitsco Education, specifically by doing a dragster race with local sixth through college age students,” Naccarato said. “…One of the highlights of the partnership with Pitsco is that integration and real emphasis they have on the K-12-grade students…”
The Idea Shop has two types of innovator environments.
“This (event) is really focusing primarily on the Idea Shop garage,” Naccarato said. “We also have a digital studio which is just adjacent, and that has the things that are a little bit higher tech… (like) the 3D printing, laser engraving, large format printing, robotic station… and some things that deal more with electronics. The garage, which is what this competition is highlighting, is… some of the louder, dirtier equipment… (like) saws and the drill presses and those sorts of things.”
Kansas Manufacturing Solutions (KMS) is a not-for-profit corporation supported by a public and private partnership of the Kansas Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). With support from KMS, the Pitsco Idea Shop was able to invite local students to get hands-on experience in the Idea Shop by building their own dragster cars to race at the grand opening event.
“KMS is a great partner of ours,” Naccarato said. “They are helping to sponsor this particular event, which provided for up to 90 local area students to be able to participate, and get a car, T shirt, etc. At this point, we have just shy of 30 that have signed up. Since the first weeks of October, students have been coming in and working on building their dragsters. It’s a great product. This CO2 dragster kit is actually the product that, almost 50 years ago, helped to launch Pitsco.”
Fifty years ago, Pitsco launched a campaign to create dragster car kits and distribute them to local students with the hopes to inspire creativity and innovation in the younger generations. Acording to Naccarato, highlighting the Pitsco dragster car kits not only inspires the students to create and build, but it offers an opportunity to show them the power of an idea.
“Obviously one of the highlights of the partnership with Pitsco is that integration and real emphasis they place on K-12 graders,” Naccarato said. “The students are getting a wooden blank, which they then get to design. (Then,) they can use the scroll saw and drill press and different kinds of tools to make it. They design it from the sketch… then actually are doing it with the help of our idea shop staff. They can paint it and design it however they like, and then they’ll get a chance to race it.”
The featured dragster car races on Friday will begin shortly after 2 p.m., with a face-off between Pittsburg State University President Steven Scott and Founder and CEO of Pitsco Harvey Dean. Student races are expected to start at 4:00 p.m. and will end with the prize ceremony.
“We will have the kids coming in staggered a little bit just so we can manage the space,” Naccarato said. (We will) do time trials from 4-5 p.m. The time trials will produce a 16-car bracket, which will be the finals. Then we’ll run the finals. We’ll have a grand prize trophy winner. Winners could also receive some gift certificates as well for some local businesses. We don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, but the grand prize winner will get access to membership (in the Idea Shop) for the spring.”
Anyone wanting more information about the grand opening event or the Idea Shop can contact staff at 620-235-6092 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.