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Inspiring Student Innovation in Rocklin, Grass Valley & Truckee

Rocklin, Calif – Through a competitive process, Sierra College was awarded a $350,000 CCC Maker Grant, renewable for a second year, from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. Sierra College was one of 24 colleges to receive a CCC Maker grant to create an inclusive makerspace community, provide internships, and develop curriculum to prepare students with innovation and entrepreneurial skills to thrive in the regional economy.

As part of the CCC Maker initiative, Sierra College will be collaborating with other community colleges, sharing best practices to prepare students for the innovation economy and developing a model for creating college makerspace communities, explained Willy Duncan, Sierra College Superintendent/President. “We’ve made a conscious decision to partner with community makerspaces, such as Hacker Lab in Rocklin, Curious Forge in Grass Valley, and Truckee Roundhouse in Truckee, that are near our campuses and reflect the unique culture, interests and businesses in each part of the region,” said Duncan.

Sierra College will be strengthening three community makerspaces, providing internships, embedding making into curriculum and preparing students with STEAM skills to succeed in the innovation economy as a result of receiving a CCC Maker Implementation Grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. 

The college has hired Dominic Felipe Gutierrez as the Sierra Makerspaces Director to be the liaison between the campuses and the makerspaces. “Engaging community college students and faculty in makerspaces, and growing the maker and entrepreneurial mindset to develop creative, passionate, curious and persistent life-long learners and educators, is essential to complement existing college programs,” said Gutierrez. “The skills needed by employers are changing so rapidly that Sierra College is boldly embracing this initiative to transform what we teach and how we teach.”

“In a makerspace community, members teach each other and collaborate on projects,” said Gutierrez. “Students may teach faculty and business owners skills, and they in turn may mentor students. There is a natural comradery when people are working in a shared work space and learning creative ways to use laser cutters, 3D printers and electronics, with a variety of materials such as fabric, wood and recyclables to develop new products or complete class projects.”

Eric Ullrich, Co-Founder, Hacker Lab in Rocklin, Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, believes the synergy of the three makerspaces, linked through the college, will generate economic growth in the region. “Programs like Hacker Lab’s Start Up Hustle, bring together students, faculty, entrepreneurs and local businesses to develop entrepreneurial startup skills,” said Ullrich. “The CCC Maker funding will build the internal capacity of each makerspace to prepare student leaders, teach in-demand skills, develop e-commerce and physical pop-up shops, and expand business partnerships to support internships.”

The Curious Forge was started in Grass Valley in 2011, with equipment for metal working, woodworking, clay work, sewing textiles, electronics and making jewelry used by over 70 creative, community minded artists, engineer and crafts people, explained Liam Ellerby, Founder. “We are in the process of moving into a new 20,000 sq. ft. space and this grant will help connect Sierra College students to hands-on skills classes and equipment that can expand learning opportunities.  Our partnership with the Nevada School for the Arts will also connect our space with secondary students.”

Truckee Roundhouse, located at the Truckee Airport, opened in December 2016 and offers wood, metal, ceramics, textiles and technology shops, according to Morgan Goodwin, Co-Founder and Mayor of Truckee. “We are a community-oriented shop that offers benefits for everyone,” said Goodwin. “By engaging Sierra College students and faculty, and expanding learning through this creative space, the Truckee Roundhouse will offer more STEM and arts education, blending skills and technologies to create the entrepreneurs of the future.”

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