Penn State York partners with downtown York makerspace

Penn State President Eric Barron and Penn State York Chancellor David Chown cut a ribbon Wednesday to announce the launch of the new "Working Class" makerspace in downtown York. - (Photo / David O'Connor)

If you’re in a battle, like one to secure funding for a new nonprofit, you want the Penn State Nittany Lion on your side.

Organizers of downtown York’s Working Class, a so-called makerspace housed in the Rudy Art Glass building on Philadelphia Street, feel they have all of Penn State’s resources behind them.

A ribbon-cutting was held Wednesday afternoon at Penn State York to announce the launch of Working Class, a 13,000-square-foot hub for “tools, education and community – a place that would welcome people who make things,” as one venture organizer described it.

Penn State York, in Spring Garden Township, received $50,000 last year under a statewide grant program called Invent Penn State designed to encourage entrepreneurship.

Half the money went to the Working Class venture. The other half supports students at the school’s Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies who have been helping with the Working Class makerspace.

The idea for Working Class was born back in early 2014, co-founder Erin Casey said at the ribbon-cutting. The goal is to open the facility by year’s end.

To reach that goal, Working Class hopes to raise a total of $150,000, and an additional $200,000 after it opens to fund its early operations, said its board president Josh Carney, owner of York’s Carney Engineering Group Inc.

Of the Penn State funding, Casey said, “It also has given us a tremendous credibility in the larger community, to have such a respected university support our project.”

The ribbon-cutting for Working Class was just one segment of a ceremony at Penn State York’s Pullo Center that attracted Penn State’s president, Eric Barron, and Penn State York Chancellor David Chown.

The partnership with Working Class was just the latest move by the school’s Graham entrepreneurial center, which expects to announce plans soon for the start of a new on-campus home.

The Graham center, now based in Penn State York’s Bradley Building, expects to find its next home in a new building next to the institution’s Elias Science Building, officials said.

Barron’s presence at the ribbon-cutting was symbolic of Penn State’s commitment to Working Class, which means “bringing resources of Penn State downtown to innovators,” said the Graham Center’s executive-in-residence, Jody Keller.

“This is the beginning of a real partnership” with Working Class, Keller said.

Casey owns Design Quake, a business and educational consulting firm in the same building as Rudy Art Glass Studio, an architectural and decorative glass fabricator. 

Invent Penn State is focused on using the university’s research and entrepreneurial spirit to bring ideas and products to market, university officials said. Since 2015, the university has provided funding for 17 innovation hubs in campus communities across Pennsylvania.

The $50,000 Invent Penn State grant also funded Start-Up Challenge, a business-pitch competition.

Six teams made it to the final competition earlier this year, and one team (made up of Penn State York official James Oplinger and new graduates Michael Wakeling, Sahil Heighes, Michael Culbreth and Steven Asten) won $2,000 to continue to develop its product.

The product allows users to control common home devices, like security systems and door locks, using a cellphone.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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