Collide and Create

New innovation studio brings together UMKC and the community

Dean Kevin Truman has vision.

As he walks through the halls and labs of the UMKC Innovation Studio in the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center, he sees progress, growth and untold opportunity.

“This is a place for entrepreneurs to come, collide and create,” he says. “It’s digital to physical.”

While the machines are quiet and the few students in the building work independently and masked, Truman’s eyes are alight with the certain creation of new products, new processes and new collaborations that will not only build UMKC and the school, but also the community.

“We hope to see art students from the Kansas City Art Institute, K-12 students interested in science, technology, engineering and math, or enthusiasts of the virtual reality world.”

While providing some familiar components, the Innovation Studio is different than traditional makers’ spaces. For example, the space provides access to new technologies for rapid prototyping using the 3D printing lab.

“The makers’ spaces in town do a great job serving their market, but we are focused on entrepreneurship,” Truman says. “We can provide services to companies, researchers and the community. It may be someone building one model, but if they need to make 20 prototypes to make sure they’ve gotten it right, we can also accommodate that.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a major partner and funder in the Innovation Studio. They consider the programs and spaces for students, faculty, staff and the community as critical to the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Our grant to UMKC helps build on the university’s strong foundation of student and community-facing entrepreneurship support programs,” says Melissa Roberts Chapman, senior program officer at the Kauffman Foundation. “That includes the Innovation Studio. We are excited to work together to see how entrepreneurship can help remake our regional economy to become more equitable, more vibrant and more innovative.”

Students will also have the opportunity to take advantage of the labs in the Innovation Studio and will be able to work at cost. In order to maintain state-of-the-art capabilities, community members will be charged reasonable fees. The center will maintain a staff for assistance, training and maintenance, and there will be a shop manager to help with 3D printing.

“Our 3D printing facility is one of the top five in the country,” Truman says. “Someone could send a graphics package here and a technician can use the company’s files to create what they need. The machine can create product composed of metals including titanium, machine grade steel or copper. We’d track the materials used, pack and ship it to them. It couldn’t be easier.”

The Augmented and Virtual Reality (AVR) lab will have the very latest technology. Professionals and enthusiasts can use the AVR Training Lab to experience the newest augmented and virtual reality technology. The AVR Showroom can accommodate meetings, product development and training. Visitors, whether they are enthusiasts or professionals, can experience the latest virtual reality technology as well as learn the latest 3D design and development software.

“We will be a hub of information,” Truman says. “We have relationships with others and are excited to share resources. We are not an island. We are here to create community.”

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