We are HeatSync Labs, a non-profit community center for the modern age. Our mission is to expand access to modern, functional, industrial tools to the community at large, including artists, engineers, and students. From YouTube™ videos to music to small electronics, the Internet has created an entire generation of users who choose to break free from the traditional broadcast-consume model and instead aspire to create and share. Concurrent with this rise in interest, traditional institutions are becoming less able to provide the resources to meet the creative demand. While the cost of digital production has fallen to nearly zero, access to professional quality tools has not followed as quickly. Heavy industrial and electrical equipment, as well as professional computer software packages, can be so costly as to be out of reach for the student, entrepreneur, or garage tinkerer. In addition to these resources, it is also important to us that we provide a physical communal space, the value of which can be found as much in the access to tools as in educating and making connections among members.
Current Market Need
The Phoenix area is full of technology companies whose numerous engineers need an independent, creative avenue. Startup costs can be incredibly high in order to gain access to the tools to prototype a design, and there are legal issues to using company resources. There is room here to aid these entrepreneurs in bringing their products to market. Our public schools and university students are in need of quality professional tools. Institutions are cutting costs by removing arts and industrial programs, while at the same time raising tuition prices and enrollment and laboratory fees. Even historically non-technically savvy types are taking interest in this maker culture. The popularity of the TLC Network, scheduled predominantly with Do-It-Yourself (DIY) programming, and CRAFT magazine, a project-based publication devoted entirely to DIY crafts, attests to this burgeoning enthusiasm.The Lilypad platform, which combines inexpensive microcontrollers and fabrics into 'smart textiles,' is one example of a new blending of technologies producing, for example, a jacket for cyclists with lighted turn signals sewn in. This softening of the electrical engineering field is attracting demographics previously thought to be unreachable. A perfect place to experience this culture is at the local First Friday, a monthly multicultural venue for artists of all kinds.
HeatSync Labs will provide the outlet for these disparate disciplines. Over the last three months, HeatSync has been hosting biweekly meetings to discuss the creation of the space and the development of our website, wiki and ToolShare, our social tool sharing site. ToolShare enables users to list the tools they're willing to share, and search for a tool they would like to borrow. This early work has gained us some recognition on the national scale with writeups in the maker press space including MAKE magazine's blog coverage of us in their August 12, 2009, post, and our group recently being approached to help the artist D.A. Therrien with his Beautiful Light project shown in both Scottsdale, Arizona, and internationally in Toronto, Canada.
Steps for a Successful Launch
The non-profit articles of incorporation have recently been approved and a board of directors is currently being elected. The next step for us is to gain Federal Tax exemption. Once these legal hurdles are cleared, we will be able to accept industry donations, collect member dues, and locate a permanent space for our users to congregate and collaborate. Even with the assistance of a local real estate agent, we realize the enormity of this undertaking. As a result, we are looking to continue community relationships such as our current agreement with the Mesa Fraternity of Police to use their facilities for our meetings. A necessity for a venture of this nature is liability insurance. Early research shows the rates to be surprisingly reasonable at $2000-$4000 annually for $2 million in coverage. Monthly dues are going to be crucial, which means marketing for growth will be of utmost importance. This is where we believe high profile tools will make the difference. A popular technology that has captivated the attention of industry professionals and hobbyists alike is the 3D printer, which enables you to print a computer file representation of a 3D object. It can be used to rapidly prototype new inventions, replicate broken or unavailable parts, and create sculpture or scale models. Currently, low-end commercial 3D fabricator machines cost upwards of $20,000. There exists one alternative, however, whose ethos fits nicely in with HeatSync's. The RepRap (REPlicating RAPid prototyper), invented by Dr. Adrian Bowyer at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, is a free-to-download blueprint to create your own 3D printer/prototyper for less than $1000 in commodity parts. The Rep Rap is perhaps best explained in the project's own words:
"Today, virtually everyone in the developed world runs their own printing works, their own photographic laboratory, and their own CD-pressing plant. Moving from two-dimensions to three, why shouldn't they also make their own MP3-players, their own coat hooks, and their own car wing mirrors? … And why shouldn't they use the machine that does the making to make new improved versions of itself?" Providing such rare and professional-level tools will not only be an amazing resource to our users, but will also prove to be a powerful marketing tool supporting future growth.
This community-driven model has been successfully implemented around the country and the world under the mantle 'hackerspace,' a list of which can be found at http://www.hackerspaces.org. Generally, the model calls for a group of people to pay monthly dues between $50 and $75. This, in turn, gives them access to the community tools, a place to work and opportunities to network with other users of similar, and most importantly, unrelated disciplines. Techshop (http://techshop.ws/), a California venture targeted mainly at startups, has created a similar, but commercial, space with a $125 monthly charge. Techshop has expanded slowly into Oregon and North Carolina, but has yet to reach Phoenix. Gangplank is a workspace in Chandler, Arizona, with four resident companies and free co-workspace for private individuals. Their main focus is on software development collaboration, and as such they currently do not provide any resources or tools beyond the space itself. Many of our group are Gangplank regulars. The hackerspace model is by its nature entirely dependent on locality. These groups, where successful, tap into the community to prosper. There are no other spaces, for profit or otherwise, like this in Arizona, and as such there is no direct competitor to our model. Fortunately, Phoenix is a growing growing municipality, the fifth largest city in the U.S., with a dominating presence in innovation and engineering fueled by surrounding industries such as ASU, Intel, FreeScale and other local manufacturers, which means there is no better place to locate.
The major barrier to market entry is cyclical in nature. Without tools and a space, potential donors may be hesitant to give, and members may be unwilling to pay monthly dues. Without this startup capital, however, it will be very difficult to acquire a space and fill it with tools. Our strategy, then, must address this issue, and the RepRap is the solution to the problem. This first tool, providing tens of thousands of dollars of functionality at a fraction of that cost, initiates our outreach plans. The RepRap is a high profile device which immediately conveys value and prestige upon our space. Since a primary goal of the RepRap project is a machine that can build itself, it is important for prospective and current owners to be able to locate the nearest RepRap. To this end, the RepRap team maintains a list of its machines around the globe. As of this writing our RepRap will be the only one in Arizona. This will allow us the incredible opportunity of being the mother of all future RepRaps in this state. It is not unheard of for users to travel hundreds of miles just to see the nearest RepRap and for others to seek them out to begin printing parts to start building their own. We also intend to reach out to colleges, high schools, and other art communities in order to educate by conducting talks and workshops. By taking the RepRap out to schools, First Fridays, and other events, we will be able to gain real mindshare. It can be difficult to describe what exactly HeatSync is, and the RepRap in some ways directly displays what we do in a very real, visual, and tactile manner. It is the promise of the future!
Our goal is community outreach, not just to offer service, but to survive and flourish! As previously described, we believe the only way to maintain and indeed grow the non-profit will be through helping the community achieve. We intend to be a driving force in creating interest, especially in younger students, in the fields of engineering, science, and the arts. We also want to pick up where school leaves off – providing access to industry-leading tools in combination with an open, engaged community of peers. Finally, we want to encourage a return to “The Commons,” where we create and share for and with our neighbors, enriching all of our lives. An important component of this is getting away from our “throw-away” culture—to encourage modifying existing products and repairing broken items instead of buying new. We aim to instill the mindset of learning by both dissecting existing technology and collaboratively constructing the products of our imaginations.
We are a team of artists, engineers, and makers with a passion for community service. We have long existed disparate on the web, developing and sharing. Now we want to bring that culture back home again. Amongst our group you'll find, for example, professional engineers, seamstresses, musicians, and students.
*Andrea Young - Executive Director
- Andrea Young is a founding member of HeatSync Labs. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies with an emphasis on Law from Arizona State University. Young has a strong background in the financial industry, having worked for Bank of America for 5 years. She has previously worked with a non-profit organization, Southwest Youth of Unity, for which she still volunteers as an adult sponsor and mentor. Young is currently working on an additional Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis on Education. She is also an avid gamer, comic enthusiast, and is eager to learn more about electrical engineering.
*Jeremy Leung - Director of Education
- A self-proclaimed jack of all trades stemming from his interest in any thing he can get his hands on, Jeremy Leung is a maker. Whether that involves music, art, inventions, code, written work, or a mixture of all of the above, you'll find him dabbling in it. His current passion lies in teaching and the intricacies of communication -- how to properly convey ideas and concepts through the available means. This has led him to a slight career change with his long-term employer, from Senior Systems Administrator to developing training programs.
*David Huerta - Director of Community Outreach
- David Huerta founded the DeVry Linux User Group (DeLUG) in 2003, originally a student organization, that drew members and activities from the greater West Valley Free Software community. David was also the Chair for the IEEE Computer Society Student Branch at DeVry in 2005, and was a proponent of the foundation of the IEEE EMB Society Student Branch. He currently serves as the Chair of the Phoenix IEEE GOLD Affinity Group and is a member of the IEEE Phoenix Section's Teacher In-Service Committee. David has presented at national conferences including Schmoocon, ABLEconf, and Toorcamp.
*Paul Hickey - Director of Finance
- Paul is currently a Systems Administrator for the Center for Teaching and Learning at Mesa Community College. He works with faculty to develop curricula that incorporate new instructional technologies, tracks his department’s capital and operational expenditures in accordance with District guidelines, and monitors grant money spending to ensure accountability within the grants office. Paul’s other passions include high-end electronics such as Home Automation and Audio-Visual equipment.
*Jacob Rosenthal - Director of Project Management
- Jacob’s background is in project management which he utilizes in his current position as Application Systems Analyst for Arizona State University and as an Undergraduate student with ASU’s Cognitive Center for Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC). His work with the CUbiC lab recently resulted in a paper accepted to the IEEE HAVE 2009 conference and this fall he was asked to return to CUbiC to mentor two newly formed Capstone teams as they begin their two-semester projects. Jacob endeavors to surround himself with brilliant people and is an active member of the ASU Linux User’s Group, the ASU Software Developers Associations, and the IEEE.
- Jason Turner - Real Estate Agent
- Commercial Real Estate
- (480) 621-3284
- Shelley Detwiller DiGiacomo - Lawyer
- Osborn Maledon
- (602) 640-9358
Our goal is community outreach, not just to offer service, but to survive and flourish! As previously described, we believe the only way to maintain and indeed grow the non-profit will be through enabling the community to achieve. We intend to be a driving force in creating interest, especially in younger students, in the fields of engineering and science. We also want to pick up where school leaves off – providing access to industry leading tools in combination with an open engaged community of peers. Finally, we want to encourage a return to “The Commons,” where we create and share for our neighbors, enriching all of our lives. An important component of this is getting away from our “throw-away” culture—to encourage modifying existing products and repairing broken items instead of buying new ones. We aim to instill the mindset of learning by both dissecting existing technology and collaboratively constructing the products of our imaginations.
This application was a finalist but sadly not accepted. Posting our feedback below:
Below please find the feedback and comments from the EAP judging panel. The members of the panel hope that the feedback given to you will assist in the further development of your idea, and that you will reapply for funding in the spring semester. Judging Feedback
- Interesting idea
- Market is somewhat unclear, more research/information needed in application
- Better description needed up front
- Budget needs to be more detailed (specific amounts, not percentages)
- Good team
- Strong written presentation