Sonora, CA — As summer recess is underway, so is construction of the Mother Lode’s first InnovationLab Mini-ILab on the Groveland Tioga High School campus.
Plans are for the new resource to be ready when the students return for the 2015-16 school year, according to InnovationLab spokesperson and Tuolumne County Director of Economic Development Larry Cope. “Right now we’re aiming for the end of August, first part of September,” he states. Elaborating, he adds, “There’s a little bit of construction, just some simple walls that have to be rearranged in the building.” Ahead of its opening, Cope says there will be a small public launch reception.
Through a partnership between InnovationLab and Big Oak Flat/Groveland Unified School district, the district will handle the build-out of the Mini-ILab at the high school, then staff it with existing resources and provide ongoing funding once it opens. InnovationLab staff will assist by providing guidance along with new and existing resources. Included in the latter will be two 3-D printers as well as computers and software for students to use for design and build learning projects. Through the partnership, students will also have access to the main InnovationLab Sonora campus.
Groveland and Big Oak Flat area residents with an entrepreneurial bent or interest in technology will also have access to the Mini-ILab through a yet-to-be-determined schedule, probably at some nominal charge, according to Cope.
While the program is a permanent one, Cope states, the undertaking is a pilot for potential future Mini-ILabs. “We’re fairly open to having other partners in the county,” he states, such as schools or libraries in Twain Harte, Mi-Wuk, Columbia, Tuolumne and Jamestown. “Because…we had a great partner in Groveland and they stepped up right away, and their location…accessibility to our main [Innovation Lab] campus in Sonora is more limited, than other communities…we wanted to really launch this one first.”
Equipment funding for both the main and “mini” campuses, according to Cope, comes from InnovationLab memberships, a small budget portion from the Economic Development Authority’s coffers, and grants through PG&E, Sonora Area Foundation and Sierra Pacific Industries Foundation.