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Are you a veteran and live near a TechShop? If so, then you should know about the TechShop program for veterans, developed in partnership with the Veterans Administration. It’s a free one-year membership plus $350 for training classes.

Sean Mahan, who served as an officer in Desert Storm, now has a free membership to the TechShop in Round Rock, TX (outside of Austin.) Commissioned as an officer in 1989, Mahan served his country through 1999. After Desert Storm, he said, he never heard from the VA. “I only learned about the program by visiting TechShop, where a staff member brought it to my attention,” he said. “They’re good people at TechShop,” he added.

Mahan is grateful for this benefit so he is helping spread the word around colleges and other places where he meets veterans. “The enlisted men have been trained to listen to their officers, so I just have to tell them: ‘Go to TechShop’ and they will do it,” he says lightly, adding that he carries flyers with him to hand out. Mahan hopes to bring in so many veterans that the TechShop in Round Rock becomes the first TechShop  in the country open 24/7.  He shares the good experience he’s had:

At TechShop, they’ll help you figure things out and acquire new skills. I had some woodworking skills but I never worked with metal. They have the safety training that makes you comfortable trying new things. I’ve learned welding, which I’d never done. I’ve learned how to fabricate metal parts for diesel engines (for business). I also make custom knives for myself.

TechShop has such good upcycling efforts that I’m using other people’s scrap for my knives. I haven’t paid for any of the metal I used in these blades.

TechShop just wants you to produce. It’s such a positive environment.

The TechShop program for veterans had been running for several months with 2,000 memberships available across all TechShop locations through the VA. Last Thursday, General Electric announced that their Get Skills to Work program would fund 1,000 additional memberships over the next two years.

At initial launch, the program was having some problems on-boarding veterans, and Sean experienced it. He originally applied months earlier and never heard back from anyone, which he said sadly was what he had come to expect from the military. Now, TechShop and the VA have come up with a much better onboarding process. A veteran simply clicks a link on the TechShop website, completes a quick online registration with TroopID, and then receives confirmation of their membership from TechShop. Mahan provides confirmation that it’s working; he applied just last Thursday and learned on Monday that he was approved for a free membership. Daniel Woods of TechShop said: “We’ve registered more veterans into the program in the past 10 days then we had in the prior several months.”

Every veteran will have full membership privileges, good at all TechShop locations across the U.S. (including San Francisco, Menlo Park, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Austin-Round Rock), with access to over $1 million worth of design software and equipment for milling, forming, cutting, welding, woodworking, electronics and more.

TechShop

“TechShop blew my mind,” said Mahan. He mentioned that one of the reasons he enjoys TechShop is talking to other members and learning about their projects. “It’s a great place to get your mental wheels spinning,” he said. He plans to tell veterans that “every part of your life can be better because of TechShop.” He uses TechShop to develop skills he has applied at work. He says that he is learning to do things to improve his home and yard. He keeps chickens and he’s been building them a new and improved pen. Mahan is active riding scooters and said he created a modification at TechShop to make riding it safer.

“This is the first time in a decade that I’ve felt that there’s a real positive future for me,” said Mahan.
For more information about the program for Veterans, visit:

http://www.techshop.com/veterans

TechShop Training for Veterans

Do the veterans you know a favor and tell them about the program.

Dale Dougherty

I’m founder of MAKE magazine and creator of Maker Faire. I am CEO of Maker Media, the company that produces MAKE, Maker Faire and Maker Shed. I am Chairman of the Maker Education Initiative (www.makered.org).


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