It’s time again to reflect on all the goings on from the past year at theCO! Last year we saw some impressive growth from many of our members’ businesses, and this year we tried to take a page out of their business strategy books. We have tripled the size of our team in 2018, adding many new positions and expanding theCO in some amazing ways.
One of the most obvious expansions has been that of Driving Innovation, primarily serving Distressed and At-Risk counties throughout the state. You may remember that we mentioned this project at the end of last year. and now we have successfully put two finished mobile units on the road, with a a third in the works. To catch you up in case you missed it, January of 2018 marked the completion of theLab. This serves as our mobile Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) Lab. We have traveled to counties all over Tennessee, demonstrating cutting edge technology and talking about the jobs surrounding it.
We crammed as much cool tech into theLab as we could, including 3D printers, a laser engraver, manufacturing robots, a table-top CNC router, virtual reality stations, and several drones. As we continue traveling to schools, camps, and chambers of commerce around Tennessee, we hope to inspire and encourage innovation and an investment in technology that will pay dividends for so many communities in the state.
theVenture makes mobile unit number two, and it takes a different approach to engaging cities around Tennessee. We made this one into a high-end rolling conference and workshop room where business experts can work with entrepreneurs and small business owners. This mobile unit allows us to take the advice and expertise of professionals to the people who normally couldn’t reach theCO. Our team focuses on giving as much information as possible in a relatively short amount of time so that business owners and entrepreneurs across the state feel enabled and empowered when growing their companies. It has taken a lot of work to make our original dreams for this project into a reality, but with everything finalized we look forward to continuing our work on the road in 2019.
While we certainly saw a lot of great things from an employee perspective, there have also been some really cool opportunities for many of our members. Two of the students who work with our CO:bots program qualified for the VEX Robotics World Competition! There they competed in a variety of challenges with their self-designed robots against kids in there division from as far away as China.
In addition to this we had two different members make prototypes on our 3D printers that they could take to potential investors. They were able to print, tweak, and re-print their designs several times before finally getting the perfect product to present to the market. Finally, several new members have started businesses by utilizing the Makerspace to create a wide variety custom products. As the Makerspace sees increased usage, we continue to see more and more creative projects coming from our awesome members, not the least of which was a four foot tall model of the Eiffel Tower!