Closing The Digital And Economic Divides In Rural America

Today, Staunton sits at the crossroads of two interstates, 81 and 64, which carry traffic north and south through the center of the valley and east across the Piedmont to Virginia’s state capitol, Richmond. With a 2017 population of nearly 25,000, Staunton is the first stop on my 10-city tour to investigate the effects of being digitally invisible in a highly connected, global society. This photo essay confirms that rural areas like Staunton are in critical need of high-speed broadband networks for economic and talent development, especially as access to technology has become the lever to avert the expected outcomes of poverty and social isolation, at least for vulnerable populations.

Full Brookings Article HERE.  The article points out the obvious, rural America does not have broadband because of it’s not a viable business model which can overcome the ORI hurdles. The high 5G investment hurdle is going to make the problem even worse.  The major providers are counting on the edge computing to fatten the 5G ROI, where are the edge industries in rural America to pay the piper? Right?



Makers are Rural Economic Developers and Educators

What is a maker you ask? Dale Dougherty writing in Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is Changing Our Schools, Our Jobs, and Our Mind

Makers are people who regard technology as an invitation to explore and experiment, with the most inclusive possible definition of technology, meaning any skill or technique that we learn and employ. What we once called hobbyists, tinkerers, artists, inventors, engineers, crafters— all of them are makers. The power of “maker” as a new term lies in its broad application, its sense of inclusiveness, and its lack of close alignment with a particular field or interest area, so people are free to claim the identity for themselves.
[. . .]
If we characterize the Maker Movement as driven by amateurs, it’s because makers will attempt to do things just to challenge themselves and take experiments about as far they can go, without asking anyone’s permission or expecting a professional’s compensation for their efforts. A kind of freedom that many professionals never experience for themselves, when authority and funding are often a prerequisite for action.

Nevada County has two maker organizations, The Curious Forge in Nevada City and The Round House in Truckee. Ellen and I visited the Curious Forge this week for a tour, and assessment of their ability to stimulate Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.  The tour was conducted by Cory a volunteer and advocate for the organization.

Each area of the Forge is segmented by activity, woodworking, metalworking, welding, jewelry making, pottery, electronics, 3D printing, laser cutting, sewing, multi-media and soon co-working spaces. Each activity has two managers who oversee the activity and certify potential makers to use the equipment safely. Once certified the maker could use the equipment unsupervised.

The pictures below were taken during our Curious Forge tour:

Ellen at Entry

Ellen at Curious Forge Entry into former GV Group Manufacturing Building



Electonic Workstations



3D Printer Workstations


Woodworking Shop Area



Donated Large bed CNC Machine, not yet operating



Demonstration items produced by Laser Cutter.



Laser Cutter of Foreground with Workstations in background


AR Sandbox

Augmented Reality Sandbox


Contours Projected on sand in the box


Simulated rain filling lake created in the sandbox

The sandbox was created by two UC Davis Computer Scientist. It was fascinating to move the sand with your hand and see the contours adjusting to the movement. The contours are measured by an X-Box sensor above the box and then projected on the sand.

Makers are using the Curious Forge to create products for sale, to show, to use, to amaze.

More detail at the website HERE.

The Curious Forge shows off new 20,000-square-foot makerspace

A “makerspace” that got its start in the garage of co-founder Liam Ellerby moved this summer into a 20,000-square-foot building on the campus of Nevada City School of the Arts, becoming one of the largest such facilities in the world.

For the uninitiated, a makerspace is “a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.” The Curious Forge’s members, who call themselves “a community of builders, tinkerers, artists and professionals who love to make,” have access to training and more than $100,000 in equipment.

On Thursday, The Curious Forge hosted an open house to show off its new digs, complete with spaces dedicated to making jewelry, woodworking, ceramics, metal fabrication, sewing and more, a wide variety of equipment including CNC equipment, 3D printers and a laser cutter.

Full Story is at The Union  HERE. Bottomline:

“What we’d like to do is become a creative and technical hub for Nevada County,” Ellerby said. “We’re hoping to kick-start an economic ecosystem.”

Many of Nevada County Applied Technology business got started in the garage, the guest bedroom,  or the barn.  The Curious Forge in a high tech alternative to a garage with a lot more space and high tech tools to create a new business.