So what is a “hacker lab”? Do you imagine a dark, seedy looking place with pasty looking web developers staring at monitors? When someone says hacker, do you reach for your purse or wallet, hoping that those “hackers” haven’t found a way to use RFID technology to break encryption codes and access your bank account? Are you imagining a place where you need to use high-tech computers, and have a mastery of command line coding on UNIX systems?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has several definitions for “hacker.” One the definitions: “A person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system” matches some of the shady character traits mentioned above that people often fear. Other definitions focus more on range of experience and a desire to learn and solve problems. That’s more in line with what the Hacker Lab in Rocklin is all about.
The Hacker Lab is a place where innovators of any age and experience level can come to learn, create, design and network with other innovators. Membership to the lab is similar to membership with a gym, instead of having access to dozens of different exercise equipment to hone your muscles, you get access to dozens of different tools to hone and improve your skills.
The perks of membership
Rocklin’s Hacker Lab primary comes with equipment and tools to help members with:
- Coding, whether it’s making web applications or Minecraft mods
- Welding and CNC routing
- Design for 2D plotting, 3D printing, laser cutting
- Textiles and sewing
The cost of membership is normally $124.99 per month, but Sierra College students with qualifying classes get to take $100 off by paying only $24.99 per month. In addition to access to 24/7 access to the tools mentioned above, members get discounts on classes that are held at the Hacker Lab.
How to find classes at the Hacker Lab
The easiest way to find out what classes are available and when is to visit rocklin.hackerlab.org, then click Events. At first you’ll see a listing of the upcoming classes available along with the cost of the class. Members get a discount on classes, but the public can take classes without becoming a member first. Classes cover a wide gamut of skills and topics, including sewing, woodworking, jewelry, entrepreneurship, electronics, art, CAD, CNC, programming, photography and more.
Ian Milford is one of the Hacker Lab instructors who teaches classes on mold making and casting.
“It’s a great place to learn,” Milford said as he was finishing some experiments with vacuum forming, or sometimes called thermoforming. With vacuum forming, innovators can create a hard plastic mold of any solid object, whether it’s made of plastic, metal or wood. To create the mold, the object is placed on a surface with tiny holes that connect to a vacuum. Then a heated sheet of plastic is placed over the object, while the air underneath in sucked out with the vacuum, creating a tight mold of the object. After the plastic has cooled, the object can be removed revealing a near-perfect imprint of the original object. Some of the molds Milford has worked on even reveals wood grains.
How to find what tools are available
Need more specifics on what tools are available at the Hacker Lab? Go to rocklin.hackerlab.org and select Resources > Browse Resources. You will then see a listing of all the resources such as 2D and 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, CNC tools, meeting rooms and more available. Most of the listings have a photo of the resource, plus schematics with links to the resource creator, plus the ability to book a particular resource for a date and time.
Need an office space?
If you’re running a start-up and need more room than the tiny corner of your bedroom, the Hacker Lab rents out private spaces. Desks start at $200, and offices start at $600 a month, both based on availability. Some of the amenities for renting private spaces include a gigabit internet connection, use of private conference rooms, private lockers for storage and use of their laser printer and copier. Also don’t forget the free coffee and kitchen use for those late-night projects.
Free tours available
Open tours are available certain times of the month, but free individual tours are available upon request. The tours take about an hour to complete, and they give a complete walkthrough of the lab so you can look at all the tools and facilities available.