Jason “Jake” Ryan has come a long way since he rode to daycare between his mom’s arms on the gas tank of a Honda 250. Call it survival instincts or not, he has learned to see the opportunities inherent in tough situations. Today, he helps others find those opportunities as the Founder & Director of The Open Bench Project, a makerspace for the Portland community.
It’s not easy to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but he shares that he learned early on that one could change their situation. He loved being able to shape his world and nothing could stop him. Having experienced the freedom of not having to accept that which you are given, motivated him to align his goals and hard work. His vision, courage and determination resulted in a community which extends beyond the walls of OBP.
It extends even further to the makerspace movement, of which he has very strong feelings. He sees a tremendous push towards makerspaces in both the educational and economic development circles; but, with that push, there have also been some tremendous misconceptions about them. There is this sense that a makerspace magically solves problems. While they do produce a fair bit of “magic,” it is not as simple as buying a 3D printer or laser cutter and opening a door. According to Jake, these things, on their own, won’t cause people to become invested in learning. While having access to some forms of advanced manufacturing equipment might be good for prototyping some items, this alone does not actually drive an innovation economy. Makerspaces alone may not actually be the synergistic driver that we all want to envision. However, without makerspaces as PART of theses systems, we are at a severe disadvantage.
Yes, some kids love electronics, but others love wood glue, fire, or surfing. The important thing is that these kids learn to understand what that curiosity feels like and that they learn to act with courage in response to that feeling. Producing a prototype is valuable, but so is knowing how to sell a product, where to get affordable supplies, and a litany of other mission critical components.
Makerspaces provide a critically valuable resource to a community, but they are not a one size fits all solution. Without curiosity, courage, and people willing to share with one another, makerspaces are simply empty rooms with tools that no one knows how to use… or are too afraid to learn.
In other words, we have to to help people develop a stronger love for learning and to passionately follow their curiosities. That’s exactly what’s happening at OBP. Jake is first and foremost an educator. His passion is to foster courage, curiosity and success in others. That’s why he is a familiar face around the OBP and is often found offering advice, helping with projects, sharing his passions, and expanding minds. It’s all about inspiring others.
Looking ahead, he’s got bigger and better plans for the OBP in 2017. He’s most excited about finishing the buildout of the new and bigger OBP location on Thompson’s Point, but is also focused on getting the OBP classes and workshops back up and running. When asked what he might do if he had a magic wand to use this year, he chuckled and said he’s not sure he’s qualified to run such a wand. However, eliminating hunger and malice in the world would rank up at the top. And, if that wand were limited to just the OBP? They’d find 20 inches of new insulation on the roof. Everyone loves heat!
Some people believe Jake isn’t afraid of heights, but he says, that like most people he can get terrified as well, but unlike those who let that stop them, he has learned to focus and deal with those things only in his control. This advise seems good when not just talking about being at the top of a ladder but may apply to many aspects of life. And, speaking of good advice, he hopes that you come to the shop, make something, show it off, enjoy the feeling of pride, and repeat….
And then some,
Your friends @ OBP