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Inventing a Better Future

The future can seem pretty bleak.

Lately, it seems like we have a new hurricane every week. Visit any local school, and you’ll see an entire generation physically attached to their phones. Read an article about the future of employment, and you might believe we’re all a few months away from competing for jobs with a vastly superior robot. The Kardashians replicate themselves like creatures from a ’50s horror movie, and Kid Rock is running for the United States Senate.

It’s a long list.

But the future isn’t fixed, and it isn’t inherently bleak. The future is what we make it—it’s something we literally build with our brain, hands, and heart.

That’s the principle that guides Inventor Forge, a 501c3 nonprofit founded in 2016. The idea behind Inventor Forge is the same one that led to the creation of TechShop in St. Louis, located in the Cortex Innovation District. Both Inventor Forge and TechShop are MakerSpaces. These spaces are created to give tinkerers, innovators, and inventors access to the tools, equipment, and collaborators they need to make their ideas come alive. Somewhat like the garage Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in, only much bigger and better resourced.

They conduct basic, intermediate and advanced technology classes, as well as host fun activities like multiplayer video game parties and board game nights. Inventor Forge is always looking for new members interested in STEM/STEAM or who just need a place to do a project.

George Fetters, Larry Brown, and David White started Inventor Forge in early 2016 when he began teaching intro-level Arduino and Raspberry Pi classes at several libraries throughout St. Charles County. If you aren’t aware of what Arduino and Raspberry Pi are, don’t feel bad. Simply described, they are kits that teach basic computer programming and electronic circuitry using small circuit boards that look sort of like something the smart kids in a movie like Goonies would play with.

Inventor Forge grew quickly. In July 2016, they opened their first location on Jungermann Road and started hosting workshops and open-house nights. In August of that year, they were invited to attend a Nation of Makers event in Washington, D.C. In March 2017, they added a second location and more equipment at the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners facility on Mid Rivers Mall Drive, courtesy of a grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation. They continue to add more classes, more equipment, and more members.

We humans have the capability of shaping our own future. We aren’t a passive species, doomed to helplessly sit by while robots, Kid Rock, and hurricanes do their thing. But shaping a better future isn’t a metaphor, a bland campaign slogan, or something that will just happen on its own. It takes real work, such as spending Wednesday nights figuring out how to solve little problems using a Raspberry Pi kit before you can figure out how to solve bigger problems using something far more powerful.

In other words, the future, as always, belongs to the nerdy kids (and grownups) who love creating, building, and innovating. They are the ones who will ensure the future isn’t as bleak as we sometimes think it will be.

And in St. Charles County, you can find some of those future-shapers at Inventor Forge at 235 Jungermann Road, Suite 112, in St. Peters, or at the St. Charles County EDC startup facility at 5988 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters.  Photo courtesy of Larry Brown

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