Arts & Culture
6:57 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Rogue Hack Lab: Incubator For Innovation And Learning

Maker spaces and hacker spaces are a growing phenomenon. They’re places where everyday people gain access to the tools – and the collaborative inspiration – to combine art, engineering and technology in new and innovative ways. Sometimes these projects become incubators for products and inventions with enormous potential. In Medford, the Rogue Hack Lab is a local expression of this global movement.

Credit Rogue HackLab

For Mica Cardillo, the basic appeal of Rogue Hack Lab is pretty simple.
Mica Cardillo: “It’s about coming together and tinkering together.”
Cardillo is a board member at Rogue Hack Lab. He says having a cooperative facility with open access to a range of tools and technologies is incredibly useful.
Mica Cardillo: “But more importantly, it’s about being able to run into people you would not normally run into.”

Cardillo says that leads to a kind of collaborative cross-pollination that can re-invigorate a stalled project.
Mica Cardillo: “Sometimes you just run into a difficult spot and you don’t know how to get past that. And when you start being in a place with a lot of people with different skills, you can overcome those bumps and hurdles.”

Kevin Conner is also on the board of Rogue Hack Lab. When he decided to build a 3-D printer, he says, there was a lot to learn.
Kevin Conner: “I had to learn software, I had to build the machine, I had to learn the plastic thermodynamics, how things were going to expand and shrink, robotics, firmware and programming microcontrollers, all that stuff.”

And, Conner says, having access to collaborators with a wide range of skills helps a lot.
Kevin Conner: “We have one guy who’s an amazing electrical engineer. We have a couple of web programmers, and a dude who’s made a 3-D printer at least once and, you know, all these different places and we really love to just help each other.”

Mark Hatch is CEO of TechShop, a chain of maker spaces on the West Coast and elsewhere. He’s also author of “The Maker Movement Manifesto.” He says the sort of creative energy being fostered at Rogue Hack Lab is one of the defining characteristic of Maker Culture. Underlying it all, Hatch says, is a basic human need to create beautiful and useful things with our hands.
Mark Hatch: “Through the development of mass manufacturing, we’ve gotten away from the artisanal quality of making.”
Now, he says, not only are people re-awakening to that need, but new technology is opening doors to a kind of artisanal manufacturing: fashioning industrial goods in small batches, from local materials, for local sale.
Mark Hatch: “The tools of the industrial revolution are now being tied into computers, making it easier to produce high-quality products at lower volume, at competitive prices and making it easier for people to actually engage in and create fairly sophisticated projects and products on their own.”

Hatch says this democratization of industrial production has far-reaching economic and social implications. He points to Patrick Buckley, the founder of the San Francisco-based firm DODOcase, which makes covers for iPads and other electronics. He says Buckley came into the TechShop, took a few classes, developed a prototype, and within several months had orders for nearly a million dollars worth of goods.
Mark Hatch: “We’ve never operated in an environment where you could learn the skills inside of two weeks that would create a multimillion dollar company within a six month span. But we are today.”

Mica Cardillo says the members at Rogue Hack Lab have deliberately adopted a flexible format to foster that kind of creative exploration and innovation.
Mica Cardillo: “Amazing things happen when you don’t put too much structure where there doesn’t need to be structure, especially if you’ve got a lot of inter-generational mentoring going on between people with different skills and different interests.”

By creating an open space to enable tinkering, the folks at Rogue Hack Lab hope to inspire community participation in shaping new ways of living in southern Oregon.

Copyright 2014 Jefferson Public Radio