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Innovation Lab Expands Through Partnership

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Sonora, CA — Mother Lode students, entrepreneurs, innovator-wannabes and tinkerers alike will now have more teachers, tools and toys to tap.

The Sonora-based Innovation Lab, housed on the third floor of the former Tuolumne Hospital (101 Hospital Road), has just partnered with downtown Merced-based Vault Works/BEAT Group to expand training and innovative business opportunities at both locations for interested Central Sierra and Valley residents.

For the uninitiated, the Innovation Lab is an innovative center for co-working, providing maker space and an education center, according to Innovation Lab spokesman and Tuolumne County Director of Economic Development Larry Cope. Along with its learning environment, the lab offers a place to incubate an idea, perhaps launch it into a real product; develop an actual prototype, using on-site resources; and interact with other entrepreneurs and learners.

Through the new partnership, Cope explains, “What we will be doing is helping launch an Innovation Lab within its Vault Works in downtown Merced, and at the same time, they will be working with us in providing additional training opportunities for individuals in Tuolumne County, at our Innovation Lab, here in Sonora.”

The BEAT Group, whose acronym stands for “biology, engineering, agriculture and technology” focused education areas, is comprised of former and current UC-Merced students, who will be working between Vault Works and Innovation Lab to conduct classes, training students from the schools as well as adults. According to Cope, they are not replacing but augmenting the Innovation Lab’s roster of instructors.

“We’re just beefing up our education component of our Innovation Lab — and this has turned out to be a great partnership, where we can not only expand the Innovation Lab brand, because we now will have a center in Merced. We will also have a center up here, and you will be able to go between the two, through use of day-passes,” Copes states.

Students, working under their teachers, along with area residents, through the use of monthly memberships that run between $35-$55 a month, have up to 24/7 access to training, work space and equipment. These resources range from 3-D printing and a newly added CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, to software development, video cameras, audio boards, editing capabilities, and an electronics lab. Class offerings on 3-D printing, CNC machining, digital printing and advanced electronics will be augmented, Cope says, as the partnership grows.