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Taking on the "culture of cubicles"

"We’re a Montessori school for adults, learning from each other and with each other," says Alex Bandar ‘05 Ph.D., founder and CEO of the Columbus Idea Foundry.

With the Foundry, a DIY-friendly atmosphere has surfaced in what used to be a giant shoe factory, encouraging and inspiring Columbus residents to get their hands on the ideas they might not get to explore in their usual home and work environments.

The projects at the Columbus Idea Foundry vary across disciplines: here one can easily stumble across 3D printing right next to a blacksmithing shop, or a soap-making station by a table for jewelry design. The Foundry is a place for all different kinds of innovators to come together: “artists, engineers, Web developers, entrepreneurs and everyday hobbyists” are all able to explore and even collaborate on projects together.

Keeping the Foundry alive has certainly been a priority, and Bandar, who earned his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering in 2005, has designed a membership plan that has allowed for the project to stay and grow. After paying a $35 monthly fee, members may access the building for separate hourly fees as well as additional work station rentals. Members also purchase mandatory foundry classes, which provide them with safety and training orientation.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the Foundry hosts numerous public events such as haunted houses and “date-night” packages that allow participants to attend classes and enjoy dinner and drinks from a nearby restaurant. Bandar hopes to soon host field trips for adolescents interested in exploring, and “provide field trips to provide younger would-be “makers” a taste of tools and technology.” Bandar’s project-turned-movement has received widespread support in Ohio, as well as across the country. Mayor Michael B. Coleman has actively promoted the Foundry mission, and Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, visited the factory last year. The Foundry has received multiple grants, including a $350,000 grant from ArtPlace America, and an $84,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation.

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