Inside the Microsoft Garage: Chris Templeman, Program Manager

 |   MSNE Staff

This month, we’re celebrating the launch of a new Garage space at Microsoft New England R&D (NERD) Center in Cambridge. As part of our celebration, we’re spotlighting teams and individuals on the ground who are using the Microsoft Garage to build epic things.

Walking into Microsoft New England’s Garage space is akin to walking into Santa’s workshop; the whirr and purr of various machines and gadgetry light up a childlike curiosity.

In one corner, a large-format printer consistently cycles its inkjets; in another, 3-D printers dispense polymers to build a new set of goggles. Strewn across the Garage desks are soldering kits, breadboards, wires, and the occasional 3-D model.

The man behind these machines, Chris Templeman, is new as a vendor at Microsoft, but his history as a maker is strong — and local. Templeman comes to Microsoft from a studio at Artisan’s Asylum, a community art and makerspace in Somerville that celebrates and spurs creativity in the Greater Boston area. There, he took his expertise as a former engineer doing work for the US military and government and began applying it to new skills, like 3-D printing, which quickly became a passion.

“I enjoy tinkering,” Templeman explains. “I enjoy hacking. I enjoy making things. For a long time I was running my business and was focused on that. I still had projects that needed to get done, and used that as opportunity: what skillset do I really want to dig deep into? I love making things, and with 3-D printers, it’s so quick to go from thought to reality, from idea to product.”

A 3-D-printed likeness of Templeman, made in the Microsoft Garage

Templeman likens his experience with 3-D printing to an instantaneous version of his work as an engineer: then, his team would design a new product, send the design to a building team, and get a product four weeks later.

“That cycle is the equivalent of writing code and only letting yourself compile every 4 weeks,” he explains. “Nobody does that. I constantly get to hit compile.”

Most recently in the spotlight for his 2017 Make and Take installment celebrating The Year of the Rooster on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Templeman is looking to incorporate 3-D printing as a regular tool in the Garage.

As part of a campus-wide renovation, the Microsoft Garage space will soon be launching a new space on the first floor of the New England R&D (NERD) Center at 1 Memorial Drive. This facelift includes the building of a brand new makerspace that Microsoft employees and visitors alike can access — building, creating, and learning along the way.

“It’s time to get to work,” Templeman says of the new space. “I feel like a big part of my role has been prepping for the launch, but you can only do so much… now’s really an exciting time, because it’s now where the engagement piece comes in, interacting with people and getting to work.”

This, Templeman explains, embodies the maker-forward culture of the Microsoft Garage: “Within the Garage space, you have the ability to encapsulate the entire design process. It’s a laboratory where people can try new ideas and do something different. It’s a space where cross-pollination occurs, because it’s a physical location.

Two 3-D printers inside Templeman’s makerspace at the Garage

Although Templeman is new to the company, he’s invested in utilizing the Microsoft Garage as a direct extension of Microsoft culture — and of makership in general.

“As I’m learning my role here, I think it’s fundamentally to answer and understand and to let people know why Microsoft has a makerspace,” Templeman tells us. “The most succinct example: the makerspace in the Garage is the physical embodiment of hacking.”

And hack they will. Templeman’s plans for the new Garage space (which comprises the aforementioned makerspace and an in-development future realities room based on AR/VR technologies) is for people to come and explore.

The Garage is a blank canvas,” he says. “It isn’t a particular tool. It is a space where people can come and try new things. I want the space to be vibrant. I want it to be utilized. I want things to get broken.”

As the space develops, Templeman hopes to encourage creation and experimentation within the Garage for all those who visit. And he hopes to see things created beyond his imagination.

“I will do my job if I show up and there are things that are created that I don’t fully understand, nor did I initiate,” Templeman explains. “NERD opened up the conference center 10 years ago and the public has been coming in for lectures and talks. This I see as a continuation of that. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and work with us and collaborate, and get hands-on. I’m here to facilitate other people’s ideas and where that leads us… I’m here for the ride as long as possible.”

The new Garage space at Microsoft New England is currently in development and will open at the end of April. Stay posted on these developments here on the Microsoft New England blog or on social using #GarageatNERD.