Tech support

Two Indiana Kiwanians ‘speak geek’ at Idea Co-op.

Story by Julie Saetre • Photos by Curtis Billue

Don Hoffman and Scott Kleine are both retired. But like many Kiwanians, they aren’t about to slow down. So when Jill Snyder visited their Greenfield, Indiana, Kiwanis Club with a new opportunity, they immediately jumped at the chance.

Snyder was representing Idea Co-op, a new collaborative, technology-based co-working center and maker space sponsored by her employer, NineStar Connect. 

“I was interested in finding a place for entrepreneurs to start up, as well as teaching programming classes,” she says. 

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After her presentation, Hoffman and Kleine approached Snyder and offered to volunteer.

“Don even said, ‘I don’t care if it’s watering flowers. I want to find a way to be involved in Idea Co-op.’ I’m like, ‘How soon can you start?’ Ever since then, those two gentlemen have been two of three ‘senior interns.’ And they’ve just been wonderful.”

One of the interns’ key duties involves assisting Snyder with the Coder Dojo program, monthly introductory programming classes for young people ages 7 to 17. Idea Co-op partners with TechPoint, a nonprofit technology organization that provides instructors. The interns help with logistics: logging in class members, providing name badges and permission forms and circulating through the classroom to assist when necessary.

“We have kids come in and literally within 30 minutes, they’re coding,” says Snyder. “I was under the impression that the schools were doing more of this type of teaching, but they really aren’t. So I’m very passionate about introducing these kids to this opportunity, because (programming) jobs are high-paying jobs. They’re quality jobs.”

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The interns also work with and teach others to operate a laser cutter and a plasma cutter, among other tasks. Kleine, a former industrial arts teacher, has ample experience building midget cars, sprint cars and other dragsters, including a land speed racer that has set records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. His senior internship allows him to stay up-to-date with modern tech.

“Technology changes so fast and things update so quickly — that’s what keeps me moving forward,” he says. “I enjoy that part of it. Plus there are some great people here. You’re around creative people, rather than sitting there reading books or sitting at home or mowing the grass. It stimulates the mind.”

Hoffman and Kleine also are becoming proficient at using the Co-op’s 3D printer and teaching others to do the same. They pitch in with a variety of other hands-on projects, from distributing T-shirts during special events to hanging acoustic tiles in a podcast room.

“I like the atmosphere,” says Hoffman. “If I want to talk about golf, I’ve got 20 buddies who will talk about golf. If I want to talk about the (Indianapolis) Colts, I can talk to 20 different people.
But if I want to speak geek, I don’t know any geeks. None of my friends are this kind of geek.”

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This story originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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