May 17, 2014
By Attiyya Anthony, Sun Sentinel
Although Flipstone Technology's HackLab in North Boynton won't officially open until this fall, it's becoming a place where techies and engineers can meet and work together in the name of technology.
It's one of the only labs in South Palm Beach County that allows engineers to use their space free of charge — for now at least.
That's why the students from Delray Beach's Atlantic Community High School's 'Xperience' robotics team choose the industrial space to build their award-winning world-champion robot.
"We're here for people in Palm Beach County who have a passion for the kind of creative projects that we can do in the space," said Scott Conley, a partner at Flipstone Technology. "When the robots are out and the 3-D printers are humming, it's a cool place to be around, especially if you have a background in engineering."
The Hacklab is Flipstone Technology's nonprofit organization, dedicated to making the community more aware of real-world technological innovations. In a 3,700-square-foot space that resembles a large garage, there are 3-D printers, mills, saws, drills and enough tools to put a woodshop class to shame.
Kirill Safin, founder of the Atlantic Community High School's robotics team, spent every day at the HackLab from January to April, tinkering with the team's robot.
"Every year it's hard to find a space to work," Safin said. "We needed a place with high ceilings, concrete floors — a typical warehouse space."
The high school robotics group, which was founded three years ago, used to build at an industrial warehouse in Delray Beach, but this year there were no more spaces left. The group stumbled upon the HackLab and it was exactly what they needed.
Makers lab's, like the HackLab, are hubs that provide resources for engineers to create hardware and software. They are now popping up throughout the nation, but this is the first of its kind in South Palm Beach County.
Darius Dauer, an IT specialist, used to go to a maker's lab in Pompano Beach called the Learned Nerd, but that space closed down. Because he lives in Boca Raton, he said that he was looking for a closer space to build.
"It's a great location for me," he said. "It's kind of a win-win, you can equate it to a public library — you can just come in and use the resources as you need them, it's almost like a public service."
Many engineers, like Dauer, say the lab is a good place to let their creativity flow.
Earlier this year, MSN's Andrew Zimmern of "Appetite for Life" shot a video for his web series at the space, showcasing other projects that were created there.
The episode, called "Hacking Your Kitchen," featured a rice cooker that would call your phone when a meal was ready, a burner that could cook macaroni and cheese and charge your phone, useable utensils made from a 3-D printer and a lettuce garden fueled by the nutrients in your urine.
But for Conley, the space is not only about creating gadgets, it's about inspiring the next generation. In the fall, when the HackLab is officially open, he hopes to put together a high school robotics team — which Boynton Beach doesn't have.
"We will find smart kids and equip them," he said. "I will single handedly work hard to find money to make them competitive."
Conley also plans to work with the students at Galaxy Elementary.
"This space is a great opportunity to put young minds into robotics programs," he said. "Kids should be coming to our lab after school, just like any other athletics program."
City officials say that Flipstone Technology's dedication to helping students will also help build the local economy.
"With the technology they're providing we want to foster job creation," said Scott Kline, the city's economic development manager. "It's a perfect partnership that's needed to further the city's economic development goal."
Aanthony@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6648 or @attiyya_sun
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