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New Life for a Wind Turbine

By Shelley Paasch


On the heels of my colleague’s stirring blog on the maker space boot camp she attended, this past fall (thank you Sarah LaRosh)…let me keep the inspiration going.  When I say “me,” I mean an innovative community member in Chase County, Jenn Laird with her business, Authenticity Inspired.

Jenn is our E-Community point-person in Chase County and has been ON FIRE (cue Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire song)!  Apologies to my colleagues who have been referencing movies, as I have now changed the referencing to music.

Jenn attended the makerspace community boot camp this past September at the Fab Lab @ Independence Community College, Independence, Kansas.  She adopted the wind turbine that Fab Lab Manager Tim Haynes was planning to throw away, which is leading to a great community event scheduled for Saturday, November 23 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in downtown Cottonwood Falls.

How the story begins, though, is quite interesting.

Jenn has given new life to this particular wind turbine in Chase County, Kansas (population 2,683).  She “volunTOLD” her husband to figure out why the wind turbine was not working. Several voltage tests helped— as did his background in automotive mechanics.  Jenn was inclusive and collaborative, first, by using the high school physics class. They recently tested the first blade designs using a small DC motor as well as using a 3D printer and are continuing to test designs before scaling them up. She also engaged the biology and earth science class where the project will become based on learning about wind energy and the ecosystem.  She is planning on this ‘conversation starter’ to have its public debut at the community’s first entrepreneurial tailgate on November 23rd.  At this event, she will speak on her experience of the Fab Lab/maker space concept, hand out entrepreneurial mindset books, entertain the crowd with floats decorated in the streets, educate, empower and engage anyone who will listen.

Jenn is surrounded by a team of entrepreneurial thinkers in Chase County from bankers, small business development center members, business owners, chamber workers, the local USD 284 and Suzan Barnes, owner of the Grand Central Hotel & Grill, who was a founding member of the NetWork Kansas board, and who still serves actively.  This group is spreading the entrepreneurial mindset throughout the community as well as the school district assisting business owners who desire to make their business so compellingly distinctive that consumers say, “I must go there!”  Additionally, they offer courses that instill confidence, life skills, critical thinking and problem solving for students through our Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. 

Talk about focusing on your community.   

Completing a community analysis earlier this year for Chase County, Don Macke, e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and team member of NetWork Kansas, recommended entrepreneur-focused development and actively reaching out to local business and entrepreneurs to assist with growth, expansion, and needs.  Well THIS is certainly happening!  

It is also encouraging peer-to-peer interaction and not just by reaching out to our Kansas ‘experts’ at the Fab Lab with Jim Correll and Tim Haynes.  Jenn has reached out to another rockstar in our E-Community world, Lea Ann Seiler, in Hodgeman County, to educate herself with what is working in her community with their maker space.

When I overhear Jenn saying “I love it when networking helps 'all boats rise'” it makes me smile and gives me a sense of ease and pride that I am exactly where I should be in working with NetWork Kansas.  Our mission is to establish an entrepreneurial environment in our state, where we strive to support both communities and businesses that are working toward this shared goal.  I can honestly say, I believe, whole-heartedly and passionately this is happening in our state.

So, MUST you go there?  You can find Chase County in the heart of the Flint Hills off US 50 and KS 177.  As many of you know, I am terrible with directions, so you may want to check Google Maps first.