Recent Posts

TechShop: Where Pittsburgh Creates

Pittsburgh has a hidden gem of a workshop in Bakery Square

TechShop is Pittsburgh's open-source workshop Photo by Leah Blasko for TPOP

TechShop is Pittsburgh’s open-source workshop
Photo by Leah Blasko for TPOP

When you step in the front door of TechShop in Pittsburgh a dozen things draw your eyes at once. From the little carved stump holding pens bearing the sign ?I ?m someone ?s project, don ?t draw on me ? to a personalized Pittsburgh Penguins jersey it seems there ?s something new around every corner. Take a step through the glass doors and you ?ve entered a Willy Wonka-esque land of innovation, only instead of tasty treats you ?re opening the doors to the world of technology. The steel mills may have left Pittsburgh, but the spirit of innovation has not and this innovation has found a new home over the last few years in Bakery Square.

The city of Pittsburgh has become the epicenter of old meets new. From the repurposing of old mills into robotics labs to Google taking up residence in the former Nabisco factory, no one has done Rust Belt revival quite like the 412 has been doing it since the early-2000 ?s. Now TechShop, the city ?s newest lab for innovation, is taking a little bit of everything this town has built itself on, throwing it together, and offering a new kind of workshop and community space.

Les Gies, senior accounts director of TechShop in Pittsburgh, believes in the TechShop vision and it shows when he takes visitors and potential new members around the communal studios. From explaining how almost every piece of equipment works to how they use the shop to help the community, he ?s in love with what the shop brings. That ?s part of what makes this place so special, everyone involved believes in it wholeheartedly and it ?s hard not to.

As the company ?s seventh location, the Pittsburgh Techshop was made possible thanks to a partnership between the Veterans Affairs office and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for veterans. This program provided 2,000 veterans annually with access to the shops via membership and $350 in training credits to help teach these veterans new skills.

Nowadays, TechShop serves thousands of locals. From helping students who are involved in after-school and summer camps to teaching trades like blacksmithing, they ?re at the center of the new wave of industry in Pittsburgh. Classes aren ?t necessary, but help a great deal. Any adult can sign up and use the equipment once they sign a waiver. Each class ranges from two to four hours and includes making something to take home. Class at TechShop doesn ?t mean a lecture on using complex equipment; it ?s comprehensive and hands-on instruction that really creates a foundation for what is being covered.

Learning new skills in class isn ?t the end though. Sure, knowing how to use and having access to 3-D printers and design technology brings people into the 21st century, but the ability to work in a community is a huge part of the TechShop mission. Here, groups of people can be seen watching the laser printer slice pieces of cardboard and working together on a project. Every class, workshop, or experience is shared. This isn ?t holing up in some dark basement on your own hoping you make something good. This is working with others to know you ?ve made something great.

There ?s a wall between the assembly tables and the woodshop crammed full of boxes overflowing with circuit boards and wires. Embodying the spirit of one man ?s trash is another man ?s treasure, this area is a free-for-all. If you don ?t need it, you put it in there and the person who does can have it. It ?s a great way to share resources with others. Even the floor plan of the 16,000 square foot workshop invites its community to share. While different rooms serve different purposes, like the woodshop and the textiles station, each area is open in its design allowing for others to see what ?s being made. This isn ?t a place to squirrel away secrets but to open yourself to constructive criticism and become better for it.

Photo by Leah Blasko for TPOP

Photo by Leah Blasko for TPOP

And that ?s still not all. TechShop is also a prototyping lab. This means that a company just starting out can use the facilities to make their own prototypes. From cardboard models to computer software, it ?s all there. In fact, well-known company Square, the credit card swiping system for smart phones and tablets, did all its prototyping in a TechShop studio. One of the things that makes Pittsburgh such a perfect fit for TechShop is the amount of start-ups in the area.

The number of things Techshop is and brings to Pittsburgh are innumerable. From space to create, a way for teens to try something new, and an open environment to all wanting to create. Giles says he’s had people tell him, “I’ve sold all my tools [I] don’t need them anymore, [you] have everything here.” For those wanting to create or collaborate in just about any way possible, those people are 100% right.

Looking for a fun office outing? Try a workshop at TechShop. From using the laser cutter to designing beer mugs to making chocolate molds, TechShop hosts many different office growth opportunities.

Leah is a hockey and city life contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. She is a 2013 graduate from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University.