Make believers

Hardesty Center for Fab Lab Tulsa has grown from an MIT concept for fostering innovation to a privately funded, stand-alone facility where Tulsans can take projects from concept to creation.



San Miguel Catholic Middle School students work with Fab Lab Tulsa volunteers. Fab Lab also operates educational programs with Kendall-Whittier Elementary School and Street School.

Fab Lab Tulsa began as a concept but has evolved into a national model.

It celebrates its first full year in its permanent space Sept. 13, a far cry from the original idea imported in 2008 and cultivated by a handful of friends.

Fab Lab is short for Fabrication Laboratory. The idea originated in 2001 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a community outreach project meant to use technology to foster innovation. It’s a long way from Cambridge to Tulsa and a long way from the original MIT plan to what has become sort of a master idea for a stand-alone facility where users generate new ideas and new products.

Matt and Diama Norris started Tulsa’s Fab Lab. He’s an engineer with Spirit AeroSystems who heard about Fab Lab when MIT officials talked with Spirit about putting a facility in Wichita. Diama is a public policy specialist with Community Action Project (CAP) who also had contacts with MIT.

They visited the MIT Fab Lab “and came back energized,” says Anne Pollard, another early Fab Labber. They recruited a couple of friends, Dr. Robert Strattan, a University of Tulsa professor, and Dan Moran, one of the founding members of Fab Lab Tulsa and secretary of the board of directors.

Their first funding came from Jeff Gettys, vice president at a company called Callidus, which has since been sold to Honeywell. His daughter is a friend of Diama’s and introduced him to the Fab Lab. He put up a significant amount of money to buy the first equipment, computers and accessories.

Pollard was involved with Kendall Whittier Main Street, a program that works to promote and restore the Kendall Whittier neighborhood, and heard about Fab Lab through Moran. She jumped aboard.

“It took us a good three years to get going,” Pollard says. “That core group put blood, sweat and tears into it. … That was our other job.”

A major breakthrough came when Michelle Hardesty took a look.

“She is an incredible visionary,” Pollard says. “She took a look at us and took a leap of faith.”

The Hardesty Foundation, which she runs, became the naming sponsor.

Another friend of Pollard’s, Deborah Zinke, owns property in the Kendall Whittier area.

“She is an advocate for community development,” Pollard says, and  provided a building at East Seventh Street and South Lewis Avenue.

The Fab Lab has computers and devices to cut, drill, machine, engrave and slice non-metallic materials in a variety of shapes and forms. It also has hand tools, such as soldering irons, and equipment to fabricate electronic devices.

Non-metallic components can be used as patterns for items constructed from metal.

The response since Fab Lab’s facility opened “has been tremendous,” says Nathan Pritchett, a former partner in a technology business who became executive director in February. “We’ve had a large influx of artists, hobbyists, designers … people who make a large variety of products.”

It also operates educational programs with the nearby Kendall-Whittier Elementary School and Street School, an alternative high school and therapeutic counseling program. TU’s University School also brings students from its summer camp.

“We’re also seeing a lot of entrepreneur and venture types trying to develop products or start a business,” Pritchett says. “They have had ideas but no resources.”

Serving as a resource is what Fab Lab is all about.

Most Fab Labs are sponsored by educational institutions or nonprofit organizations. Tulsa now has one of “the largest Fab Labs anywhere,” Pollard says, and it has become “kind of a model for a new type of Fab Lab that is a stand-alone facility, independent and privately funded.”

The Hardesty Foundation is the major funder, but Fab Lab also receives support from the Chapman Charitable Trust and the Kaiser, Zarrow, Frank and Bank of Oklahoma foundations, among others. It receives no government money.

It hasn’t produced any major innovations or new products yet, Pritchett says, “but we’re optimistic that something like that will come.”

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Table Talk: August 2012

The buzz on Tulsa’s tastiest products, restaurants and events.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Two new eateries open in Brookside, one offering time-honored Italian recipes and the other featuring delectable upscale pub fare.

Lighten up

Cool off with these refreshing white wines featuring citrus, tropical and floral flavors.
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January 2019

We’re serving up our new chef-inspired fondue and traditional brunch options like Alpine Benedict Cheese Fondue, French Toast Fondue, Avocado Fiesta Toast plus bottomless mimosas. Reserve...

Cost: Varies

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The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Ahha Tulsa
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Center for Poets and Writers at OSU-Tulsa
700 N. Greenwood Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Center for Poets and Writers at OSU-Tulsa
Website »

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Cost: FREE

Where:
ORU Global Learning Center
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Tulsa, OK  74171
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Cost: Free

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The Willows Family Ales
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tulsa, OK  74120
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Cost: Free and open to the public

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McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
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Website »

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Telephone: 918-852-6311
Contact Name: C.D. Smart
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910 S. Boston Ave.
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Hardesty Regional Library
8316 E. 93rd Street
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Sponsor: Mental Health Association Oklahoma
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Tulsa, OK  74127
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Contact Name: C.D. Smart
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Cost: Free and open to the public

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McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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Tulsa, OK  74119
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Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong
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Stand-up comedian Brian Regan brings his tour to our city! Regan has distinguished himself as one of the premier comedians in the country. The perfect balance of sophisticated writing and...

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Brady Theater
105 West Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Cost: $50

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1229 E. Admiral Blvd.
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The Orbit Initiative, produced by The Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Trust, resumes its FREE community satellite adventures at seven local community centers this Saturday, January 12th, and...

Cost: Free

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Tulsa, OK  Various
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Cost: Free

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Jenks High School, Building 6
205 E. B St.
Jenks, OK
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Sponsor: Tulsa Audubon Society
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Cost: Free for Garden members & their dogs. Admission + $4 per dog for non-members.

Where:
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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
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Contact Name: Chris Swafford
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Cost: Free and Open to the Public

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Glenpool Library
730 E. 141st Street
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Sponsor: Success Skills
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Contact Name: Ron Watkins

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Contact Name: C.D. Smart
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Come and Support ORU Women's Basketball as they jump into another exciting season. Join in on the fun and purchase your tickets today! All children ages 13 and under, accompanied by an adult, will...

Cost: $7.00

Where:
MABEE CENTER
7777 S LEWIS AVE
TULSA, OK  74171
View map »


Website »

More information

Evergreens are often overlooked and under-appreciated in the landscape, yet in the winter months they provide color, form and texture that their deciduous counterparts can’t provide. Take a...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 for ages 13+; $4 for ages 3–12; 2 & under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Cost: 59.95

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Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Cost: $150.00

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Mabee Center
7777 South Lewis Ave
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Contact Name: Mabee Center
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Living Arts of Tulsa is celebrating its 50th anniversary during its signature gala, Champagne & Chocolate. The event features a fashion show and auction and features the work of artist...

Cost: $100

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 E. MB Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74120
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