A couple hundred ‘makers’ gather for conference in downtown Fort Worth

Cecilia Barham, director of the North Richland Hills Public Library, watches Paul Benson cut out a design in wood on a scroll saw.
Cecilia Barham, director of the North Richland Hills Public Library, watches Paul Benson cut out a design in wood on a scroll saw. Star-Telegram

Wyatt Long, owner of Catia Services in Fort Worth, was curious. So he and a few of his employees attended downtown Fort Worth’s first “maker” conference, which started Friday afternoon.

Long’s mechanical engineering firm is just about a year old, and he said he wanted to see how it might fit in with a local maker community. His firm works with an array of clients, from aerospace companies to machine shops and has two new clients in product development.

“This is where the small engineering companies will be headed in the future,” Long said.

About 200 people, including educators, engineers, librarians and entrepreneurs, attended the two-day FabNow Conference at Tarrant County College’s Trinity River Campus East this weekend. It was also sponsored by Downtown Fort Worth Inc., UT Arlington’s Fort Worth campus, XTO Energy and RadioShack.

The maker movement is sweeping the country as innovators gather to share new ideas and technologies. Maker spaces typically provide resources such as 3D printers for people where they can create and collaborate.

Businesses and government are looking at the movement as a way to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Locally, maker spaces have been at libraries in Benbrook, North Richland Hills and UT Arlington, and Downtown Fort Worth Inc. wants to create one as part of its education goals for the central city.

Len Avecilla, a Fort Worth systems engineer who was lead organizer of the inaugural conference, said registrations were coming in so fast that attendance had to be capped at 200 each day.

The conference was designed simply to get the ball rolling and get people involved in creating maker spaces, Avecilla said.

“If you look across the country, this maker thing is hotter than burning coals,” Avecilla said. “We want to form an association, an organization or nexus for Fort Worth and Tarrant County. I see this as a seed to that.”

Manny Alvear, senior technical writer with RadioShack, represents the Fort Worth-based consumer electonics retailer at Maker Faires nationwide. He spoke to the group about the excitement and benefit of maker spaces. At some maker events, RadioShack sponsors booths where individuals can learn to solder, for example.

“There are many, many people eager to provide resources,” Alvear said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST