The first day for the fall 2016 ARC-250 Survey of Architecture class at Forsyth Tech was Friday August 19, 2016. This was also my first day in the job as an adjunct instructor at Forsyth Tech. I am really excited to have the opportunity to continue to be a part of the FTCC Architecture program; a program that I graduated from in 2015. The first assignment I gave my students is to build a personal website and tell the class a little about themselves. I want to have something to show as an example for them, so here’s a little something about me.


My first attempt at college was at FTCC in 1990 when I enrolled in the Automotive Body Repair program. I don’t remember much about that time. I assume all of my raging hormones caused my brain to avoid the chore of storing those memories away for me to access later. My brain had better things to concentrate on in those days; hot and fast cars, motorcycles, and women. That’s not to say that I had access to anything more than magazines on these subjects, but I did spend a lot of mental energy concentrating on them. I was a “C” student then; and I was clueless about so many things. I had a rough spring in 1991, and after repeatedly getting strep throat, my doctor suggested that I quit either school or work. I quit school. I waivered back and forth on the wisdom of that decision for years, but now I’m sure I made the right choice.


During my career in the electronic security industry it began to dawn on me that I needed more education, although I had no clue as to what, or how I would make that happen. I started signing up for skills classes at GTCC and FTCC to learn Excel and AutoCAD, management skills and other things I felt I needed to know about. Next came enrolling in the Fire Protection program at FTCC and taking one or two classes per semester as I continued in my career. In 2009 the career had a major course correction when I defied my employer by using all of my 5 weeks of vacation to take a very intensive 5 week Basic EMT class. I earned EMT certification, but I lost my job in the process. It took me a few years to bounce back from that, but in 2012 my view of what I needed to do when I grow up finally began to come into focus.


I had an opportunity to work alongside DeEtta Famiano, a designer and recent graduate of the FTCC Architecture Program. We received a commission to build a scale model of the arch that you will soon see erected on Highway 52 near WSSU.


Road construction

DeEtta and I were competing for the contract for the model, but lucky for me we decided to collaborate. I watched as DeEtta and her crew of designers, most of them her former classmates at FTCC, used AutoCad and Revit to generate computer models that could send commands to a laser cutter to create all of the intricate pieces that I would have had to create by hand. I immediately realized the value of the knowledge I could learn in the architecture program. I signed up for the next semester as quickly as possible.


Spring of 2013 was my first semester in the Architecture program at FTCC, and I have loved every minute of my time there. I am continuing my college career at Salem College where I am pursuing a BA degree in Design with a focus in Architecture. If you are one of my students and have read this far, I hope you will see that I am aware of the struggles you will face in your college career. It’s not always easy, but if you have chosen the right path for you it is totally worth the struggle. If you have not chosen correctly this time I hope you will continue to look for the path that you will be passionate about.

We did it!


Compare this photo from the event to the model below.

I suppose it’s the artist and designer in me that looks for the flaws. What could we have done better? Does that look like what we envisioned? Our team of students from Salem College and Forsyth Tech Architecture built a great stage set for TEDxWakeForestU 2016, but I found myself still critiquing our work during the show.

I have to admit, during the show I did see things that could have been better, but I didn’t let that get in the way of the pride I felt in being part of such a great team. As I spoke to people during the intermissions of the day I discovered that our original design intentions were translated effectively through the implementation of the design. Some people asked me how we got those images to float on stage, and commented on the depth of the imagery. I know the kind of people that show up at a TEDx conference are typically friendly and courteous, but I also believe that all of the positive comments were genuine.

Preview of 2016 set

Concept Model December 2015

For me the best part of the opportunity to put together a team of talented design students for this project is experiencing the creative process. By the time we have the set built I have lost interest and am looking for the next project. I love being a part of a design team, and witnessing the magic that happens when we work together and ideate together; to create something that would not exist without the collaborative thought process.

I want to take a moment to say thank you to all my fellow TEDx designers.

Molly Blanchard – Your artistic talent shows through in your work. You have a great eye for color and design, and a steady hand. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be a part of this team.

Amy Norman – You are a natural leader and someone I know I can count on in a pinch. Thank you for taking over creating the fabric panels and selecting all of the images for the set.

Denton Hinshaw – Your can-do attitude when we were building the set made it so much easier for all of us. Thank you for all your efforts in sourcing materials, and being a major contributor to the project.

Kameron Dozier – You and I disagreed at one point during the day when we were putting the set together. I appreciate the way you stood your ground and made a valid argument for your point of view (you know what I’m talking about). You were right, and the set turned out great using what we had to work with. Thank you for your patience and persistence in printing all those images.

Jake Denton – You put in a lot of hours, and a lot of heart. I know I can count on you to come through when we need someone to step up. Thank you for using your construction expertise to help make the set come together so easy.

To all my teammates – I hope you had fun on this project. I enjoyed developing the concept with all of you, and I like the fact that we all had a role in developing the final concept. It’s difficult for me to remember all of the events during the process, but it’s easy for me to remember how great it is to work with all of you. I hope you had fun, learned something, and will take what you learned from this experience and do more even greater things in the future. I don’t know how many of you heard Andy Chan, Vice President for Personal and Career Development for WFU, mention Wake Forest “breaking the bubble” that surrounds their campus, but he made it a point to refer to the newspaper article about our team when he spoke of breaking that bubble. Your efforts to be a part of this event go much farther than you may realize.

Each year there is a new TEDx executive committee, and typically the leaders were a part of last year’s team. I hope that the next TEDxWakeForestU team sees the value in partnering with other schools to put on a great show and put up a great set. Maybe one of you will lead next year’s design team.

Several schools collaborating on TEDx event at Wake Forest University

Several schools collaborating on TEDx event at Wake Forest University was the headline in today’s Winston-Salem Journal. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the article. I was expecting a tiny paragraph in the Local Happenings or possibly the Milestones portion of the paper. It feels really good to have a platform like the W-SJ to voice my opinion.

That opinion being that this TEDxWFU is a community collaboration, and that it takes work to build Social Capital. I learned about Social Capital from the relationships I developed as a part of StoryLine. It turns out Social Capital is a concept that is not embraced by everyone. But I feel like it is a concept that is embraced by people when they realize how fragile their life is and they need connection. I learned that of all the work we did at StoryLine in an attempt to build Social Capital, the ones realizing the most rewards were those of us doing the work of StoryLine. I hope to inspire others to care about building Social Capital, and to not wait until they are down to care, or expect someone else to solve their problems. I feel like the article states those messages in a way that people can connect with.


L-R: Denton, Jake, Molly, Amy, Kameron (back to camera) in a studio at FTCC in December design session.

I am very proud of the work our design team has done so far. We have all of the parts and pieces built and ready to go to the set build next Friday. So far everything appears to be looking the way we intended. It’s time to start getting excited. When the lighting crew at WFU throws the lights on the set, the truth will be told. Fingers crossed.


TEDx Wake Forest U – and I go way back.

UNCG IARc 2012

UNCG IARc 2012

My friend Jan Detter linked me up with the team of students from the inaugural TEDxWakeForestU executive committee in 2012. They asked students from UNCG Interior Architecture program to design and build the set. This was my first opportunity to be a part of a team building a stage set.


I still remember the very first TED Talk I watched. Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation “Do Schools Kill Creativity” holds the record for the most watched TED Talk, that was the one that hooked me. My friend from The StoryLine Project, Jan Detter, introduced me to Sir Robinson. I was introduced to many things I had never heard of by my friends at StoryLine, and I was always delighted by the things these folks introduced to me. That is why I had no hesitations when Jan asked if I could help out with the inaugural TEDxWakeForestU event in 2012. I was immediately impressed with the level of complexity that the students were mastering while working out last minute logistics for the speakers, facilities crews, and stage crews. I was intrigued by the crew of students from UNCG Interior Architecture that showed up on Friday afternoon, 20 hours before show time. They had great energy, and I found myself right in the middle of them as they figured out how to assemble the thousands of laser cut cardboard pieces they brought with them for the stage set. We stayed up late that cold night, and started early the next day assembling the components. I LOVED being a part of the crew. You know, I’ve always been envious of the crew setting up the stage for a concert or show, much more so than feeling any desire to be a performer.

Over the course of the two days I volunteered for the event I also worked behind the scenes to assist transporting and cueing the speakers before and during the show. I was the oldest guy on the crew, but being around so many college students working so hard made me feel so young and energetic. I met lots of interesting people during that show. The opportunity came at a time when I was trying to figure out who I was going to be when I grew up. I know this experience made it easier for me to choose to go back to school and get a degree in Architecture. This opportunity also made me known to the executive committee for TEDxWakeForestU. They pass down notes each year, and underclassmen move up into lead roles each year, so I had an in.

Preview of 2016 set

Preview of 2016 set

I have been able to assist in some capacity almost every year since 2012. Last year I only supplied oversite for the construction of the set, and led Wake Forest students to assemble the final set. This year the executive committee chose to allow me to lead a team of students from Salem College and Forsyth Tech to design and build the set. I am very impressed by the way my team is problem solving and being resourceful. I have a design ideology – Design By Conversation, and my team is reinforcing my confidence in the technique. As we ideate and reiterate we explain our ideas, and absorb others ideas to adapt our own. The results is ideas that would likely be left undiscovered otherwise.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about the set design for 2016. TEDxWakeForestU 2016 will be on Feb. 20.

TEDxWakeForestU 2012

TEDxWakeForestU 2013

TEDxWakeForestU 2014

TEDxWakeForestU 2015

TEDx 2016 Design/Build Team

 TEDxWakeForestU 2016 will be an opportunity for our community see the results of college students with different skill sets trusting each other to do their part to create something powerful and beautiful. I am leading a team of design students from Salem College and Forsyth Tech to build the set for the event. 


Wake Forest University, Salem College, and Forsyth Tech students collaborate to bring TEDx to Winston-Salem.


image 1

TEDxWakeForest U 2016, Wake Forest University’s fifth annual TEDx conference, is set to take place on campus in Wait Chapel on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The TEDxWakeForestU conference started in 2012 by student activist and campus leader, Lucy Lan, in order to promote technology entrepreneurship on the Wake Forest campus. The event is planned and executed each year by a team of independent WFU students that coordinate speakers from various fields, disciplines, and parts of the globe.

This year’s theme is Haven: Fearlessness Reimagined will deal with security in the broadest sense. The conference’s eight impressive speakers will present on topics ranging from food security, to the eradication of human trafficking in America and abroad, to the future of IT and network security. This year’s talks will paint a picture of a secure and comfortable future in a world that is becoming more and more unpredictable every day.

The set design for this year’s TEDxWakeForestU event will be designed and built by a team of students from the Salem College design program and the Forsyth Tech Architecture program. The team was developed by Alan Shelton. Shelton is a graduate of the Forsyth Tech Architecture program and is currently studying as a design student at Salem College. Shelton has been a consultant on past TEDxWakeForestU set designs, and lent his talents to the TEDx Greensboro stage as well.

Shelton says, “The 2016 event has a theme and topics that cover a large swath of issues having great impacts on our world. Designing a set that compliments the theme of the event and is well thought out and well executed is perfectly aligned with the work students do in the design programs at Salem and Forsyth Tech.”

Set Design/Build Team:

Alan Shelton – Recent graduate of FTCC Architecture Technology Program, and Junior at Salem College, majoring in design with a concentration in Architecture, minoring in Entrepreneurship. Alan is CoFounder and President of the non-profit corporation Winston-Salem MIXXER, that is opening a community workshop studio in 2016. Alan has lead design/build teams for numerous TEDx events.

Molly Blanchard – Molly is a Junior at Salem College with a Studio Art Major and double minor in Art History and Graphic Design. She has been a stage manager at Salem since her freshman year. Molly has experience in stage set building.

Amy Smith –  Amy has a diverse portfolio including attending UNCSA, NCSU Archaeological Field School in Palau, and she is currently working to complete the AAS Program in Architecture Technology at Forsyth Tech, as well as a BSBA in Entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. Amy and her husband hope to develop a plan to repurpose abandoned infrastructure to accommodate efficient indoor horticulture and aquaponics in “food-desert” conditions.

Kameron Dozier – Kameron will graduate from the Architecture Technology program at Forsyth Tech in summer of 2016. Kameron uses his artistic and math skills to design interesting architectural elements. He intends to use his skills to own a home restoration business.

Denton Hinshaw – Denton, a Forsyth Tech Architecture Technology student, has been designing and building since childhood, when he designed and built miniature landscapes. Denton has standing offers for work as a draftsman in the construction industry, and plans to own his own construction company in the future.

Jake Denton – Jake is in his first semester in the Architecture Technology program at Forsyth Tech. Jake has worked as a carpenter for Habitat of Humanity of Forsyth County after completing the Carpentry program at Forsyth Tech in 2013. Jake is a community focused builder, and hopes to travel abroad using his skills to help others.

group photo november resize

Molly, Jake, Alan, Amy, Kameron, and Denton

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)


About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or fewer) delivered by today’s leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and made available, free, on TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from thousands of volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed; the annual million-dollar TED Prize, which funds exceptional individuals with a “wish,” or idea, to create change in the world; TEDx, which provides licenses to thousands of individuals and groups who host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

Follow TED on Twitter at, on Facebook at or Instagram at


We had a great turnout for the MIXXER mixer on Sunday. Nearly 100 people total stopped by to share ideas about what MIXXER should be. We heard so many great ideas, and the excitement in people’s voices was undeniable. We are off to a great start. We are currently processing the data we collected to determine the area with the most interest so we can cultivate those channels, and continue to seek input to further develop a comprehensive program for MIXXER.IMG_3728

What we have learned so far:

  • Top 3 categories of interest from survey – Woodworking, Metal Working, Glass based & Textile based (tie).
  • Over 50% of those surveyed want to utilize services and space at MIXXER.
  • Over 25% of those surveyed want to volunteer at MIXXER.
  • 20% of those surveyed want to be a mentor at MIXXER.


We will continue to collect input from the community, but we now have a place to start developing programming, and we have identified people that are interested in doing the work to push this project to the next level. I’ll keep you posted on developments. It’s going to be exciting – Stay tuned.

MIXXER research continues

July 23, 2014


Today I toured some interesting facilities in Raleigh and Durham. Liberty Arts, The Scrap Exchange, SplatSpace, SuperGraphic, and Raleigh Makerspace. All of these places subscribe to the mantra that together we can accomplish more. These places all utilize the leverage of shared resources to empower people to follow their heart and create things. Liberty Arts is chock full of beautiful metal sculptures and extremely talented people creating them. Next-door The Scrap Exchange is providing a channel for unused materials to be inventoried so that they can be used rather than fill up our landfills, as well as providing educational and outreach opportunities to their community. SplatSpace, SuperGraphic, and Raleigh Makerspace provide high-tech and specialized equipment that would be out of reach for the average person to empower them to exercise their talent for creating.


The one thing that I felt at all of these places is the importance of community building. In questioning the people that manage these places I found consistently that they have found that building strong relationships is the key to their success. All of these operations have their challenges, but it seems that teamwork can overcome many obstacles.


This sense of community building is what I am counting on as the driving force behind MIXXER. If you are new here, MIXXER is a makerspace project that will be opening in Winston-Salem in the future. Currently MIXXER is a large number of people having conversations and making plans to open a space where people can share resources to build the things that are important to them. This Sunday – July 27, 2014 these people of Winston-Salem will come together to let their voices be heard to direct us to the type of facilities that the community will support.


There will be entrepreneurs that build electric cars and their components, talented architectural lighting designers, artists and craftsmen, and many other talented people that believe in the power of sharing resources and relying on community to help them use their talents to build a better more fulfilled life for themselves. If any of this sounds interesting to you – contact me: or come to our party at The Olio 918 Bridge St. Winston-Salem, NC on July 27, 2014 from 4 to 7pm. I hope to hear from you soon.

The Forge opens their Greensboro location July 22, 2014


In doing research for MIXXER I took a drive out to Greensboro tonight to check out The Forge  – Greensboro’s new maker/hacker space. Their grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday July 22. I have to tell ya – That place is super cool. From the custom made doors and architectural features, to the back-yard canopy that is truly a work of art, the style of the place screams inspiration and ingenuity. Their arsenal of tools is small at the moment, but they are still setting up so that is no surprise. One of the nicest features is the uber-cozy back room complete with a mix of art deco and craftsman furniture, handmade art pieces, and of course a plethora of high-tech tools, including a 3D printer. The only downsideIMG_3646 I can see to the place is that it’s so comfy-cozy that people may be just chillin’ too much to get any work done.


But all of that hip décor and high-tech equipment is not what I consider the greatest asset to The Forge. The greatest asset of The Forge is the people. Co-Founder Mario Aldayuz told me an abridged version of how the Forge came into being, here’s a quick synopsis:


In January 2013 Joseph Adams sent word out via the internet that he wants to gather a group of people to open a makers space in Greensboro. He went to a local coffee shop and waited. It didn’t take long before this became a regular occurrence, and Joseph found he was not alone in his vision to create a makers space. Greensboro Hackerspace was born – in a coffee shop by a small group of guys sitting around talking and planning. An amazing thing happened – these guys started paying membership dues before any equipment was procured, before a space was found or developed. These guys believed in this plan enough to invest in it with little to no guarantee that it would work. Now one and a half years later The Forge, formerly known as Greensboro Hackerspace, is opening their doors to the public.


There is one other great story about the power of people and their commitment to the project. The fantastic space that houses The Forge – right in some of the most desirable real estate in Greensboro- was provided at a very reasonable rate by a local entrepreneur and real estate developer. I’ll not share his name until I get his approval, but this guy believes in the concept and the people of The Forge enough to foot the bill on the upfit of this beautiful old building. (It’s beautiful now, but it was in rough shape a year ago) This forward thinking developer sees the potential in a place like The Forge, and he put his money down to prove it.


People investing in their own future, in their community; this is one of the greatest things about maker spaces and places of that type. Leveraging the power of sharing and community to make a better world – that’s what I’m talkin’ about.


Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.19.17 PMis the name of my latest project. MIXXER will be a maker space in Winston-Salem, NC, and if that is a new term for you – a maker space is a place where people gather to share resources to make things. The kinds of things made, and the way they are made, depend on the people that organize and use the maker space. MIXXER could be a mix of artists space, a metal shop, wood shop, rapid prototype shop, robotics lab, scrap exchange and more (or less); really there are few parameters to constrain what happens in a makers space. The only real constraint, other than physics, is the limitations of the imagination and interests of the people that participate.

I have talked to a lot of people about this idea for a few years now; starting out as casual conversations, and then over time the conversation came more frequently and with more intensity. What I have discovered is that there are a lot of people in the Winston-Salem community that connect with the idea of a maker space. I decided it is time to move beyond just talking about it; MIXXER is an idea Winston-Salem is ready for.

Recently I partnered with Community Design Studio to ask for help in organizing a meeting to start developing a plan to bring MIXXER into being. Steve Harberger of CDS helped me to conduct a meeting with some influential people in Winston-Salem. Now there is a team of people working to bring MIXXER into being. So far we have some preliminary objectives that we need to meet to begin formally organizing. In addition to the research we are doing, we are throwing a party on Sunday July 27 from 4-7pm at The Olio at 840 Millworks St. Winston-Salem, NC 27101 where we will gather people to introduce them to MIXXER. When all of these people arrive to see and meet all the other people in town that are interested in sharing resources, I believe we’ll be able to get people to commit to supporting MIXXER.

MIXXER will take advantage of the power of sharing to make it possible for people to take their great ideas from vision to reality. If you consider the cost of high-tech equipment and the space to use it, for an individual with a need for a specialty tool or machine it should not take too much calculating to see the power of sharing. Need a welder to build a custom piece for your motorcycle – sign up with MIXXER. Need tools to build a new cabinet or table for your home – sign up with MIXXER. Have an idea for a new invention and need to make a prototype – sign up with MIXXER. Soon you will be able to sign up. For now you need only make your voice heard. Contact me to tell me your vision, and if you show up at our party you’ll have plenty of opportunity to be heard.

More to come later so keep checking in. Things are really heating up.