Eric Holsinger’s OBXDIY Makerspace in Kitty Hawk offers space and tools to help entrepreneurs give wing to their dreams.

By Mary Ellen Riddle

Eric Holsinger

Eric Holsinger at his OBXDIY Makerspace

Have you ever had an idea to create something, start a business or solve a problem, but you didn’t know how to make it fly? A relatively new business on the Outer Banks thrives on helping people fasten wings to their dreams.

With a focus on what benefits society and the community at large, OBXDIY Makerspace and Small Business Coop in Kitty Hawk empowers people who have the drive it takes to solidify their desired goal. Created by Eric Holsinger and managed by Kim Twiddy, the business lets office space to small businesses and offers associate memberships to people seeking a creative environment, intellectual support and a cooperative atmosphere with a physical space and tools to bring their ideas to fruition.

Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes, from a school library turned creative lab where kids invent machines to a series of offices that like-minded businesses rent with a community space for meetings and classes and a lab, such as they have at OBXDIY. “A makerspace is what you make of it,” Holsinger says.

So what’s been cooking in Kitty Hawk? Hannah Slater brought her idea to break down and repurpose plastic to Holsinger, who helped her bring the idea through multiple stages. After reviewing the work of a young German engineer who designed multiple machines to decompose and repurpose or upcycle plastic, they worked together to come up with an affordable way to meet a similar goal.

At first the duo had to contemplate how to cut up the plastic in order to melt it. Holsinger, who is a big “off the shelf guy,” had what he called a eureka moment. “I called a buddy and put plastic through a wood chipper,” he says.

Having solved the breakdown aspect, Holsinger and Slater went on to use various pieces of hardware to invent a plastic injection molding system that works with a mini computer and some controls. They feed the plastic into a pipe where heaters melt it. The prototype has possibilities. Holsinger says they are experimenting with ideas and designs and deciding whether to play with the idea some more and take it out as a business or shelve it for later. They realize how easy it would be to make a machine to recycle plastic into sheets. Using a CNC router (computer numeric control router), which they have at their disposal, they could cut the plastic into whatever one programs the machine to do. “You can make just about any 2-D object out of it,” Holsinger says, pointing to an electronic control panel as an example and also suggesting crafting a picture frame with decorative border or a plastic waterproof part for a boat. Ideas also can be launched into an Opensource market, where they can become a collaborative project; one Opensource model has the creator launching an idea for feedback or contribution, and collaborators can contribute back.

A software engineer by day, Holsinger, 54, brings to OBXDIY Makerspace a rich background in electronics and software and experience in the construction and electrical construction industries.

While makerspaces have traditionally revolved around interest in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, Holsinger’s space meets the specific needs of the Outer Banks community.

“We did local demographic research, and all technology wasn’t gonna cut it,” he says. The research revealed that a small business cooperative with cheap office rentals and resources was needed.

“And then a creative space where people can come together and leverage the resources in the space for their small business and their personal and professional development,” he adds.

Today the current space measures 2,800 square feet that is a combination of office space, large event room and maker lab. They will be expanding in the future. Four businesses and a local outreach organization are renting space including businesses that focus on music, photography, and WiFi and Internet services.

The rent allows OBXDIY to maintain the cost of operating a business cooperative and makerspace. And, importantly, as stated in a media release created by Holsinger: “It allows OBXDIY to be self-sufficient and map out our own destiny over time, based upon the needs of our members and the community at large.”

Currently one member, Morgan Vuyovich with Little Wildflowers Art Studio, hosts classes in the creative space. Being able to use the space for a certain amount of hours per month is part of her membership.

Twiddy, the manager of OBXDIY Makerspace, is also the creator of Outer Banks Entrepreneurs. She uses the space as a member to host monthly meetings, Member Spotlight Nights and public events.

Small businesses renting offices can also use the space. Biff Jennings from Shooters at the Beach, a professional photography business, uses the space for both professional and personal purposes – to hold photo shoots and host a fly-fishing club.

And singer/songwriter, music teacher and coach Ruth Wyand, who is partially sponsored by the Mustang Outreach Program, teaches private and group music, voice and songwriting classes for kids in the space, as well as coaching middle school and teen rock bands for the Mustang Outreach Program.

Currently, all office spaces are filled and there is a waiting list. Potential members are strictly vetted to make sure their vision is like-minded and compatible with the small business tenants and members. They also have to be serious about their intent, have the willingness and energy to see their ideas through, and be creating something that will have a positive impact on the community.

What comes with a small business co-op lease? Utilities including high-speed internet, 24/7 monitored security and access to the facility, refrigerator, microwave, tables and chairs, scheduled access to the event room and storage space by request.

OBXDIY also has tools, but use of them is strictly vetted. They include a 3-D printer and software to run it, multiple computers and a maker lab with electronics engineering and experimentation capabilities. There are tools available for use in off-site locations, such as wood and metal working tools to be able to create things from fiberglass, plastic, metal and wood.

So what does Holsinger reap from OBXDIY besides office space? “I like to help people,” he says. “I like to help people understand things. I like to work with people one on one and with small groups to take on projects that are not pie in the sky that I know we can do.”

Thus far he has helped Wyand build needed shelving, is working with Jennings to erect a photo shoot backdrop, and is tweaking the entire space to become a thematic, attractive site for the blossoming of ideas. This includes a physical design concept that merges a “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” feel with a “Yellow Submarine” ideal.

He’s planning on adding to solid office doors with glass portholes to add light and creativity. This helps offset the fact that the offices have no windows to the outdoors. Wyand’s door has a bright yellow metal frame surrounding her porthole that resembles a submarine design. Ideas currently germinating: a modular green wall system that’s a self-sustaining wall-mounted garden. They also are working on creating a new stand-up desk system with some components of the design, interestingly enough, suited to building the green walls for the garden.

From big ideas to the small details, Holsinger is providing a safe, savvy and super-creative space. While the rents may be reasonable, the intellectual property at OBXDIY is priceless.

Want to learn more?

OBXDIY Makerspace

3901 N. Croatan Hwy., Kitty Hawk

obxdiy.com

OBXDIY communicates via e-mail: info@obxdiy.com

All membership applications and queries go through Kim Twiddy. You can contact her at: kim@obxdiy.com

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