Nick Ward-Bopp started out like most Makers, born with the inventive bug, building toys in his backyard. “We have been scheming on all sorts of projects since we were kids. From running network cables all over our neighborhood, to playing video games in realtime, to building a potato gun with a 3 foot-rifled barrel,” said Ward-Bopp. By we, he’s referring to his longtime friend and now co-owning partner of the Maker Village, Sam Green. “Sam and I have been best friends since middle school when I moved next door. He is an Electrical Engineer by training, and brings a lot of skills to the table that I lack, and vice versa,” continued Ward-Bopp.
Nick didn’t start out as a Kansas City native, but after moving here for college, he fell in love with the city and decided to launch his career here. “When I started school, I really had no clue what type of job I was looking for EXCEPT, I knew I did not want to work a job that required me to wear a suit.” Lucky for Ward-Bopp, the daily uniform in a maker space consists loosely of a graphic tee and closed toed shoes.
The Maker Village wasn’t a longtime dream of Ward-Bopp’s, but was born more out of fate. “In 2011 my partner and I rehabbed a building in exchange for rent-equity. That project was called the Jarboe Initiative (the building was on Jarboe street) and we learned a ton about basic construction and manipulating materials. In researching how-to videos in preparation for building things, we stumbled upon the Maker movement, and also learned about local resources like Hammerspace, Kansas City’s Woodworkers Guild, and the BTC Fab Lab at Metropolitan Community College. After researching these spaces we thought there were some gaps in the local Maker ecosystem and set out to create a neighborhood workshop in midtown.”
Filling the gap consists of exclusively hosting Saturday Open Shop sessions, where Makers can use the wood and metalworking equipment without a membership. “Our memberships are geared more toward experienced builders who are small business owners and entrepreneurs.” Open Shop allows the public to dip their toe into the creative and collaborative environment of maker spaces. “Maker Village is a more traditional shop environment with lots of sawdust and sparks. Aspiring Makers can sign up for our monthly intro classes,” and it’s another option to be involved in the space with all of its’ perks.
Working in Maker Spaces opens the door for growth, Ward-Bopp being a perfect example of seizing one of those opportunities. “I was teaching an Intro To FabLab course at the Kansas City Art Institute and [Make48] happened to be having the competition in their new Fab Lab. I volunteered to help Luis with 3D printing,” said Nick. He was drawn to the position with its diverse components, like designing, building, teaching, and troubleshooting.
“Being a Tool Tech allows me to use the skill sets that I have been building everyday through my work at Maker Village and the library Maker Space. The best part is learning how to use new tools, in new workshops, with other techs of different experiences and backgrounds… under a little bit of pressure!” continued Ward-Bopp. The fast work of a Tool Tech has not gone by without lessons learned as well. “Because there is a time crunch during the competition, we don’t have time to mess up the fabrication of a part that a team has requested. It’s important to take your time on the front end, asking questions about the design and confirming everything (dimensions, use, etc), because it ends up actually saving time.” Nick thrived during his first experience as a Tool Tech and was hooked. “After a hard day’s work I got the black shirt and have been coming back ever since!”
As for the future of Maker Village, Ward-Bopp isn’t in any hurry to switch up the good thing they have going in Midtown. “Next for us is a new website (almost done!) and a spray booth. We plan to be at this same building for the next 80 years, so we have no interest in trying to take on debt, investors, or scale this thing up.” A space like the Maker Village “empowers people to build community, one project at a time,” and will continue to do so as long as the movement demands it to.
Some advice from a modern, yet seasoned maker like Nick, to any aspiring maker at any level, “Don’t wait ’til all your ducks are in a row before taking action. Test your ideas on a small scale and keep iterating while continuing to plan and think about the bigger picture.”