Summer 2023 Community Program Spotlight: Sears think[box]

Kristy Fann sewing

In 2015, Cleveland resident Kristy Fann made her first project at the Sears think[box], Case Western Reserve University’s seven-story innovation center. She made a set of curtain panels that still hang in her bedroom today. Eight years later, she’s still visiting think[box] as many as three times a week to tinker, to build, and sometimes, just to connect with the other members of the think[box] community.

“If you have an idea or a project that you want to complete, you can get it done at think[box]— you’ll also get excellent advice on how to think through and finish a project,” she explains. “Plus, you’ll have access to equipment that you just couldn't afford to buy yourself.” 

Fann is one of think[box]’s estimated 500 community members who make up 20-percent of think[box] annual users. This spring alone, community members accounted for more than 1,500 visits to the think[box], which is located at the base of Cedar Hill on the south side of campus. At think[box], innovators and makers have access to 3D printers, laser cutters, table saws, drill presses, sewing machines (and tables and scissors), hand tools, power tools, project space, computer-design tools and more. They are guided by student technicians, as well as think[box] faculty, staff and community members who share their passion for creativity and innovation.

Community members also can sign up to receive a free think[box] Community Card, which is similar to a library card. The Community Card simplifies entry into think[box] and enables community members to stay connected to the think[box] community. 

Think[box] faculty director Jim McGuffin-Cawley says the community presence at the think[box] is a key part of its success. 

“It’s always been open to the community since the moment it was conceived,” McGuffin-Cawley says. “The fact that we have people here who represent both the on-campus and off-campus communities is mutually beneficial—they learn from us and we learn from them.” 

Community was such an important part of think[box] that the ground floor is a dedicated community space, which will celebrate its official grand opening next month on Wednesday, August 9. The renovated space is intended to be a gathering place for brainstormers, buildings and budding entrepreneurs from across campus and the region. It includes conference and meeting rooms whose size can be modified to accommodate large and small groups, as well as events. 

Just as the space attracts people with big ideas to take to market or to solve global problems, it also includes many hobbyists like Kristy Fann, who seek to give items bound for a landfill new life as an upcycled piece of art. Community groups like Girls Who Code and Cleveland Freedom Projects also use think[box] as a meeting place.

McGuffin-Cawley encourages community members to come to think[box] for a visit. “You don’t have to be experienced in making—we’re here for newbies as well as pros. And, many times we find people who have more experience in ‘making’ even if they don’t necessarily interpret it as such,” he offers. “You can come in and do something very specific and leave or you can come in and learn how to use a variety of techniques over time. Whatever your goal is, we can help you get there.”

Learn more about think[box] online.