It was a wild and awesome June for Forge Arkansas here in Jonesboro. We had our Forge IDEA Festival with G60 Pitch Competition, forged partnerships in other cities in the region, presented at 1MillionCups in Little Rock, and started the rudiments of a Forge Arkansas mobile computing lab; all while continuing to further our mission of bringing grassroots innovation to Northeast Arkansas.
On June 12, the G60 Pitch Competition was a huge success. The Judges’ choice was Evan Katz, People’s choice was Veronica Heatherly, and first runner-up was Kayla Rodriguez. June 13 we had the pleasure of holding the Forge IDEA Festival at the Delta Center for Economic Development on the campus of Arkansas State University. Great connections were made and awesome times were had.
A wide range of topics were discussed covering our mission to connect innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, and artists. Kristen Jeffers, known as The Black Urbanist, gave two talks on public spaces for innovation. Jeff Amerine of Startup Junkies Consulting of Fayetteville spoke on building a startup culture in emerging regions; by the way, make sure you check out the new Startup Junkies podcast. John Aucker of the Delta Cuisine kitchen incubator at Mid-South Community College spoke about food innovation there in West Memphis and the region. Cornell Wesley of East Arkansas Planning and Development District led a discussion about the balancing acts needed for economic development in East Arkansas. Many other talks, discussions, and demonstrations were had from my own ‘home-brewed 3d printing’ demo to Steve Schrantz’s talk on the patent process.
We ended the day with an amazing and inspiring talk by Joel Gordon, Director/CEO of The Launch Pad in the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, about why Makers matter. To cap it all off, our wonderful sponsors at Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions provided a 3d printer to give away; Steven Summers of Jonesboro won a brand new all-metal Printrbot Simple with a ton of filament! Well…not a literal ton, technically it was 10 spools of assorted colors that will last him quite a while. Keep an eye here for our upcoming spotlight on Steven and his wife’s adventures in 3d printing.
A big thanks to our sponsors and partners: Innovate Arkansas, Winrock International, Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions, Hark, ASBTDC, Startup Junkies Consulting, Sticker Mule, and Nectar. We also had the pleasure of having a delegation from The Locals from Conway at Forge IDEA Festival. All of Forge Arkansas is looking forward to many awesome collaborative projects with them. If you haven’t heard of them, you’re missing out.
All said, it was a great day for innovation in Arkansas. Next year’s Forge IDEA Festival is posed to be quite epic.
At Forge IDEA Festival I gave a teaser announcement of a project Darrell, Steven, and I been working on: the first annual Forge IDEA Challenge. In response to an absolute deluge of high school teachers in the region looking for innovative Maker-related programming, we’ll be hosting a teen innovation/entrepreneurship competition this Fall during the Arkansas Science Festival. It will consist of 50 junior and senior EAST students in East Arkansas challenged to develop innovative solutions for life outside their ordinary world (quite literally). Geeks, live-action role playing, making, etc. We’re personally quite jealous of the experience these teens will have.
Part Startup Weekend – Part Space Camp – All fun
If you want to get in on this adventure, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 17 Steven and I told the Forge Arkansas story at 1MillionCups Little Rock in the Venture Center. What an awesome and inspiring experience it was. We were amazed by the interest and support than ensued from that one brief presentation. See the video here. Forge Arkansas forged many new and powerful bonds with entrepreneurs and mentors from Central Arkansas. We’re on the radar now and look forward to doing our part to forge a great culture of innovation in Arkansas.