A Start Up Trek – Turning Tables

Geek Culture

Picture of a knee scooter and my broken arm in the foreground.Picture of a knee scooter and my broken arm in the foreground.

My arch nemesis. And my latest battle wound.

I am starting a new public accessible prototyping lab in Huntsville, Alabama, called MindGear Labs based on the fab lab model. I’ve dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and have done a fair amount of research on the topic. But this is my first attempt at starting a business. Here is where I document weekly my mistakes and successes in creating a business from the ground up.

I’m close to finalizing a new location. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce that next week. A new location means a new layout. I wrote in the past about the layout for the last location, but losing that location was an opportunity to take some time and reevaluate my approach for a lot of MindGear’s operations. So I’ve had some ideas on how to make the layout for MindGear even better.

There are a lot of different projects that I imagine people will build at MindGear. My old layout had a number of similar workbenches that members could use to assemble their projects. But now I’m thinking having a bunch of the same tables might not be the best solution. For instance someone working on a project involving small components and minute detail would want a high table. That way they could sit or stand as needed while doing meticulous work. Some projects will involve building as a team. I’d like to have some sort of turntable that several people could sit around and work on different parts of the assembly at the same time. I’ve already planned some tables to be available for design work, so those would be similar to computer stations. Also I intend to offer classes, so I need a classroom area. Finally, I’ve been thinking about how to offer more isolated stations. Most of my planned designs stations have been clumped four at a time around a power source. Some people may prefer more solitude when working.

Then there is the issue of how I’m going to acquire these tables. I’ve done a fair amount of research on different tables, but really I could make these tables using lab equipment. And I could get a higher quality table as well for the same cost. But that takes time. Taking the time to build a lot of tables means delaying opening while still paying for the equipment and location. (I said I would talk about operations and not finances for a while, but I can’t ignore the money issue completely.)

Finally, what should the tables be made of? I have in mind these great tables made from maple butcher block. Also I’ve been thinking of tops trimmed around the side with metal; that would fit well with the Atomic Age theme I’m planning. That would be harder to manufacture, though. Most tables that I would buy would be made of some sort of engineered wood, like finished particle board. I’ve even thought about making some tables out of aluminum although that would be pretty expensive.

So lots to think about. If you have any thoughts on the best workbenches or tables I’d like to hear from you.

I wrote this Sunday night and decided to wait a day to post so I could improve on it. Given that it’s Friday you might imagine that something happened between then and now. Two weeks ago I had minor surgery on my foot, taking care of some issues before opening. I’ve been getting around on a knee scooter, shown above. I was at work late Monday and headed to my car. I stopped at a transition between hard floor and carpet and somehow my scooter’s hard rubber tires caught on the transition. Long story short I went over the handlebars and broke my arm. Sigh.

Even before the accident I was thinking about how to design a better scooter. I thought about having a design competition where everyone would design and build their own scooter. There would be judging on aesthetics, ease of use and functionality. (I really could have used a cup holder on mine). I thought it would be hilarious to watch each entrant try to fold their scooter and fit it in the back seat of a car while standing on one leg (while taking some safety precautions like padding where entrants might fall down). And finally we would have an obstacle race, complete with concrete cracks, wheelchair ramps and sidewalk curbs. I may still have that contest someday, but I’m even more determined to come up with a safer scooter.

It’s only been today that I can laugh about this. (Both injuries are on the right so I tell folks that I hobble around in circles.) If you work at the same government agency I do you’ll probably hear about me in your next monthly safety briefing. In the meantime I’ll be away for the next week, maybe two. Typing this much with one hand is difficult, and all these injuries are putting me way behind at the day job and at MindGear. When I get back I should have plenty to report. In the meantime stay safe and don’t ride any scooters with hard, narrow tires.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!