October 9th, 2012
10:48 AM ET

Jim Newton, patron saint of do-it-yourselfers

Editor's Note: Jim Newton’s full 30-minute profile airs on CNN’s “The Next List” this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. He is the founder and chairman of TechShop, a a membership-based workshop for do-it-yourselfers that provides access to tools, equipment and instruction.

Why you might know him: Newton is a serial entrepreneur, a maker and a hacker. He’s just opened a sixth TechShop, this one in Round Rock, Texas, so more tinkerers, artists, entrepreneurs and lovers of all things handmade can have access to the tools to build whatever they can dream up.

Why he matters: Newton is opening up a world of innovation by giving people the tools, the workspace and the confidence to make things they’ve always dreamed of making. He’s creating hubs for invention and creativity where people can come to inspire and be inspired.

Quotable Newton: “This is kind of innovation as recreation,” he says. “You just do it because it’s fun.”

TechShop by the numbers: There are six TechShops open right now: in Menlo Park, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Jose, CA, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Detroit, MI, and now Round Rock, Texas, near Austin. Three more are planned for  Brooklyn, NY, Pittsburgh, PA and greater Washington, D.C.  There are currently about 5,000 TechShop members nationwide.

In his own words: “Everybody has creative abilities but people just don’t express them. I mean, I see people come in here that are afraid to try anything. We give them some classes and some encouragement. And they have some success with their projects. And you see them just change. You see them light up. You see them say, 'Wow, I really can do this.' This is stunning. They’re stunned.”

Something you might not know about Jim: He worked as a science advisor on the popular Discovery Channel show "MythBusters." He’s taught robotics and is a former Battle Bots competitor.

What they did on summer vacation: The Newtons (Jim, his wife Barbara and their three children) took a 60-day long car trip across America to visit iconic landmarks.

Surprising Fact: They are still speaking to one another.

Newton’s Dream? To open a TechShop in every major city in the country. That way he’ll have access to a world-class workshop wherever he goes.

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Filed under: Innovation • Internet • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers
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