By January 4, 2016 Read More →

InterVIEW Brie Parmer of the Downtown Tinker Tank

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InterVIEW Brie Parmer of the Downtown Tinker Tank
By Brandilyn Brown

The Downtown Tinker Tank is a new shop in the heart of Modesto that promotes creativity and tinkering! It’s much like a gym but way more fun! You can either become a member to use their equipment for a monthly fee, or you can take different kinds of classes on 3D printing, wood burning, laser etching, welding, to get a feel for what kind of tinkering you like to do! Have you ever wanted to turn a sketch you made in a boring college English class of an octopus into a sculpture? Now you can. Make a light sabre in case Kylo Ren comes for you? Yes, you can do that, too. Owner and entrepreneur Brie Parmer is ready to show Modesto how fun technology can be. ModestoView caught up with her at the shop to immerse ourselves in imagination, creation and learning, and we sure accomplished all three!

MV: What inspires you?
BP: So many things! As a consumer society, we can forgot how to make something, or don’t have the time to fix something. What I love, is empowering people to be creative. Worst-case scenario, you don’t fix what is broken. Who cares, it was broken anyway! Take it apart, see how it works, and try to fix it. Just try, you might learn something!

MV: is there a STEM void in the valley? How does the Downtown Tinker Tank fill the STEM, engineering & programming void?
BP: There’s more stuff than there used to be for high schoolers, but less for junior high. I remember wood shop in junior high, and now there aren’t such classes at every school. The workforce has lost a lot of skill in these areas; some because humans are being accompanied by or replaced by computers, but also because they don’t have the computer skills necessary to keep up with the changes in technology in their fields. But these skills are teachable! There needs to be more places to learn STEM skills, places to play with and learn equipment and software, but then there’s a void for those types of places. That is how we hope to fill this void: come here, come play, come learn, come tinker, and get the training to be a foundation for your career or life. The majority of our classes are small, so you get a lot of learning, a lot of one-on-one, and a lot of time to explore ideas and try things. You can practice engineering and math in a tangible way. Take geometry: by measuring and planning, and using math in a relatable way, engineering becomes less scary. It’s isn’t just building a massive building, it’s building anything. Even sewage is engineering. There’s environmental engineering now. It’s a HUGE field.

MV: Why Modesto?
BP: Because I like Modesto! Born and raised. There’s no reason NOT to have this in Modesto. We can have the tech benefits other cities have, and be a tech hub if we want to. We have such potential for that! Sure it would be easier in a bigger city, but why choose easy? It’s important to have this here. Modesto needs it. If we give people awesome and fun things to do here, Modesto will be a place to stay [and set roots]. We deserve this!

MV: What challenges have you faced making this dream a reality? What challenges do you think are coming?
BP: All of them! Really! We are a social mission company, but couldn’t start off as a non-profit, so then we tried to get investors and insurance, and hit road block after road block. We don’t fit any formula or category. The community didn’t really know what to do with us or what to think of this shop. By the very nature of who we are and what we do, people looked at us like we were crazy! “We don’t understand this, or how it will work!” But we educated,-we showed people what it would look like, we made Standard Operating Procedures to get insurance. Because the issue shouldn’t be worrying about people getting hurt on equipment, but rather getting people to not be afraid to try something they’ve never done before! You want to learn to laser etch? Come try. Want to 3D print something? Come try. Don’t be afraid. We will have “Fix it Fridays” at some point, where you just bring in your broken things, and we help you try and fix it. We will all learn and help each other.

MV: What is the coolest thing you have made so far?
BP: The tables in the classroom! They are adjustable!

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MV: What is your next creation? The next thing you are super excited about to make?
BP: Signage! There is SO much wall on this building, and we want to make really cool signage to cover it all. Once side, we’d even like to have client-based, so they feel like they’ve invested into something really cool, and a part of our memories.

MV: What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
BP: We’d like to be a non-profit  (with an awesome board!) that runs congruently with the membership side, the class side, and to have an industrial shop further downtown for bigger projects and robotics. We’d also like to have a commercial kitchen. We’d like to invest more in the community, and provide jobs for other knowledgeable tinkerers to come share their wealth of experience, and teach classes. If you have a good idea, tell us. We want to help you foster it and make it a reality. It would also be cool to have a rotation of art, statues or statement pieces, outside to show the community the talent of our local artists. And rotating it keeps the art from becoming part of the landscape. It will stay attention-grabbing.  We don’t want to JUST teach classes, we want to invest in the community and future entrepreneurs.

MV: Anything else you want our readers to know about the Tinker Tank?
BP: Unlike some other shops we’ve been to…we are not exclusionary. We are opposite of that, completely. Don’t be afraid to come try to make something. Don’t be afraid to break equipment, we can fix it. None of this is daunting! We are free of judgement, and welcome any skill level. If you are  creative, or think you might be, and want to try laser etching, 3D printing, welding, anything, stop in and see us. You don’t need an appointment. Come hang out and tinker!

MV: Beatles or Stones?
BP: Oh, what time frame?
MV: Any!
BP: This is hard. Beatles. Because it doesn’t matter what mood I am in, there is a Beatles song for it! They have a better range of songs!

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Always up for trying something new. Obsessed with coffee. Loves to sleep. Bring on the rain, and a bottle of Wonky & Wry's Honey Braggot Ale.