PITTSBURG, Kan. — An effort to revitalize Pittsburg’s downtown has been underway for years in the form of Block22. It has brought in new apartments, restaurants and boutiques, and on Friday, the newest addition to the block was opened: The Pitsco Idea Shop.  

State and university officials gathered Friday to celebrate the opening of the Idea Shop with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a CO2-powered dragster race for local students.  

Located on Broadway in the Foundry — a unique living and learning community— the Idea Shop houses top of the line equipment like 3D printers, laser engravers, skill saws and more to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in the community make their dreams a reality.  

“Really what today is about is celebrating the very things that not only make Pittsburg great but really makes America great,” PSU Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Naccarato said.  “And that is a focus on collaboration, a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship and an immigrant spirit that has always embodied Pittsburg, Kansas.”  

The Idea Shop marks a partnership between Pittsburg State University and Pitsco Education, a company based in Pittsburg that has been creating STEM-based hands-on learning kits since the 1970s. In fact, CO2-powered dragsters were one of Pitsco’s first products. They were offered to teachers and students in kits starting in 1970. The hands-on learning experience was designed to teach basic engineering concepts to students of all ages.  

“We’re going to be launching and using as a competition today a product that was one of the things that helped launch Pitsco Education almost 50 years ago,” Naccarato said. “I’m a big believer in there not being any accidents. I talk a lot about the notion of strategic serendipity. I think this is a great example of that.”   

Friday’s event brought together officials from all across the city and the state including Gov. Laura Kelly, Secretary of Commerce David Toland, Pittsburg Mayor Dawn McNay, CEO of Kansas Manufacturing Solutions Tiffany Stovall and PSU President Steve Scott. Kelly’s appearance at the event falls in line with her efforts since she took office to encourage innovation in communities, especially since COVID-19 hit the state.  

“The Pitsco Idea shop is an excellent example of how our colleges and universities employ an energetic approach to public-private partnerships,” Kelly said. “It’s an approach that drives innovation among talented Kansas students, creates jobs and strengthens the local economies.”  

McNay added that the Idea Shop is a great example of the work being done to revamp Pittsburg.  

“This captures the industrial DNA that is in Pittsburg,” she said.  

After each of the guests gave their short remarks, the races were on as 34 students in grades 6 through 12 began racing their CO2 cars they had spent the last few weeks making in the Idea Shop.  

“I brought up the idea to Dr. Scott once about the need for more opportunities for younger people to make things,” Pitsco Founder Harvey Dean said. “The Idea Shop it's going to be unmatched I think anywhere, certainly in this region and I believe nationally as well.”  

The Idea Shop hopes to attract excited entrepreneurs who need help getting their ideas off the ground and Scott welcomes all who have an idea, he said. 

“This is a worthy and exciting investment in our shared future,” Scott said. “It brings us together and demonstrates the concepts of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic prosperity.”