As an institution, how would you define 'maker culture'?

We believe that the community college system – which gives all Californians access to academic and workforce training – is the venue for making education relevant and engaging in this time of great change. By fostering a maker culture on campus, in classrooms and through the brand new Hacker Lab Powered by Sierra College which is open to the community, Sierra College provides maker opportunities that result in personal satisfaction, support entrepreneurship and startups, and enrich education for all ages.

At Sierra College, we believe that an educational experience that incorporates making, values creativity and innovation, and that adds flexibility and authentic engagement provides students and all residents with opportunities to make their own jobs and transform how and what people learn.  

How does your institution foster maker culture?

Sierra College in Rocklin, California is the first community college in the country to form a public/private partnership for developing and operating a community-based makerspace and coworking space. Hacker Lab ( is an established mid-town Sacramento enterprise with a community of more than 2,000 makers and entrepreneurs. A new partnership with Sierra College has resulted in the establishment of a second site near the Rocklin campus. The College provides lease space, equipment, furniture, technical expertise and many other resources; and Hacker Lab provides operations and technical expertise to expand the maker culture in the Sierra Nevada foothill region.

At the May 7, 2015 Grand Opening of Hacker Lab Rocklin, more than 380 business representatives, students, entrepreneurs, educators and community members toured the 3700 sq. ft. facility. Visitors were enthusiastic about using the makerspace, and over 30 people joined Hacker Lab on the spot. Another 160 indicated an interest in joining online and the next morning, people were lining up for tours. A youth Hackathon held at the center on May 9-10, sold out all 75 seats.

Both Sierra College and Hacker Lab share common goals of providing education, supporting entrepreneurship, and creating an innovation community. The Rocklin makerspace provides students with a space in which to gain real world experience. Businesses can test concepts and find interns, and member collaboration can generate start-up companies and create local jobs. Robotics clubs, corporate think tanks, student study groups, artists and community members will all be able to use the space and benefit from working alongside each other. Additionally, activities that introduce children to technology and maker skills can lead to STEM education and careers.

Members have 24-hour access in which to use wifi, workspace and equipment, and take classes to build whatever they want. Tools include 3D printers, a laser cutter, a desktop CNC Mill, an electronics lab, industrial sewing machines, a future welding station, and a computer lab with CAD/CAM, Adobe and Office software. As a community–driven organization, Hacker Lab members teach classes, host events, share information and collaborate on making projects. 

How are you approaching maker education with your current or future curricula?

Career and Technical Education programs at the community college are, by their nature, project-based. Students engage in authentic classroom and laboratory learning, with curriculum that is based on industry recommended technical skills, knowledge and abilities. The Hacker Lab-Sierra College space extends the learning environment beyond the constraints of class schedules and organized lessons. It encourages diversification across and between academic programs of study (such as Art and Engineering), and provides a nexus for business and community member interaction and collaboration.

Student clubs, organized by academic discipline, also infuse technical skills learned in the classroom. The Robotics Club competes in the annual Bay Area Maker Fair electric car races and Northern California battlebot events, and the Engineering and Solar Energy clubs compete in regional solar regatta and Rube Goldberg events.

This crossover between academic disciplines supports the development of new curriculum. For example, Engineering has developed a new course that combines 3D printing, basic machining and fabrication techniques using a variety of materials. Engineering students use equipment in the Drafting & Engineering Support lab as well as the Mechatronics lab.

As students and faculty expand their engagement at Hacker Lab Rocklin, we anticipate an emergence of new faculty collaborative partnerships and innovative curricular approaches designed to prepare skilled, trained future workers and entrepreneurs. Through partnerships with secondary schools, college and high school faculty will expand their professional development activities to include Hacker Lab.

What are the key programs, initiatives or classes that support the development of maker skills?

Career and Technical Education classes such as Welding, Mechatronics, Drafting, Construction & Energy Technology, Applied Art & Design, and Fashion Design & Merchandising all support the development of maker skills. Academic programs such as Art, Engineering, Computer Science and Philosophy are also supportive and integral to the maker culture.

In addition to College courses, campus events such as Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) or Art & Innovation Day have fostered maker skills and demonstrated the critical link between the sciences and the arts.

The College’s Innovator Insights spring 2015 workshops were attended by more than 200 students and community members, and featured Mark Randall, Chief Strategist, VP Creativity, Adobe Systems; Brook Drumm, Founder of Printrbot; Josh Klint, Founder of Leadwerks and Jason Singh, Founder of Clover Wallet.

Partnerships with William Jessop University’s STEM Expo and the City of Rocklin’s upcoming Makery Fair further extend the College’s CTE faculty and students out into the community. The Sierra College CACT has been a sponsor and volunteer at two youth Hackathons attended by more than 160 children.  

How are your students involved in making? Are there maker groups or organizations on campus organized by students?

Students have joined Hacker Lab as members and volunteers at the Rocklin site, establishing a presence in the local maker community. Student “Facilitators” have attended advanced training and are volunteering up to 10 hours per week to manage the front desk, welcome visitors and conduct tours; or oversee and coach members within a technical craft area such as CAD, laser cutting, CNC machining or 3D printing.

On campus, student clubs compete in statewide and regional events. The Robotics Club builds and races electric cars at the annual Bay Area Maker Fair and fighting robots at a Northern California battlebot competition. The Engineering and Solar Energy clubs build projects and compete in regional solar regatta and Rube Goldberg events.  

Give a snapshot overview of the primary facilities, technologies and tools that campus makers have or will have access to?

The Rocklin Hacker Lab site is 3770 square feet of commercial space consisting of open meeting and collaboration space, a computer lab, two 3D printers (uPrint and Ultimaker), a 60 watt laser cutter, an electronics lab, a desktop Shop Bot, a textile lab with eight industrial sewing machines, a table saw, a desktop metals lab, and upcoming welding station.

Members have 24-hour access to the site and also have access to the mid-town Sacramento maker space which is 10,000 square feet of coworking and maker space.

Classes and Meet Ups are scheduled at both locations and can be viewed at Last year, more than 500 classes were offered to members at the mid-town location. 

How does your school engage with the maker community at large?

Sierra College has a Memorandum of Understanding with Hacker Lab that defines the roles and responsibilities of each entity. Hacker Lab organizes short term classes, special events and Meet Ups, recruits and trains volunteers, and develops a membership base of makers, hackers, entrepreneurs and artists. Sierra College has partnered with Hacker Lab to develop an entrepreneurial speaker series; has sponsored and staffed a Youth Hackathon for children ages 12-17; and featured inspirational women entrepreneurs as role models for girls at a Nontraditional Employment for Women event held on the Rocklin campus.

Sierra College also partners with eight regional high schools to strengthen programs of study aligned with the maker movement and our CTE programs of study. Under the Sierra STEM Collaborative program, which was funded for seven years by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, manufacturing, engineering and design labs at these high schools were reinvented with Sierra College support, and faculty participated in many forms of professional development training (including attendance at the Bay Area Maker Faire) to support new curriculum development and pedagogy. These labs are mini-maker spaces and include laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC equipment, CAD labs and fabrication equipment. To date, more than 10,000 students in Placer and Nevada County have completed high school classes supported by the Sierra STEM Collaborative project. 

What partnerships (informal or formal) do you have with makers and/or community organizations outside of campus?

Sierra College is a member of the U.S. Fab Lab Network, the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity and SME Sacramento Valley Chapter #145. The College developed a letter of regional support, which was included in a U.S. Makers Network Apprenticeship proposal submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The College has a formal agreement (MOU) with Hacker Lab ( and developed the first public-private partnership of its kind to jointly build and operate a makerspace and coworking space that serves both students and the community at large.

The College’s Nevada County Campus has a developing partnership with The Curious Forge, a makerspace in Grass Valley (about 25 miles east of Rocklin). This makerspace reflects the strong artistic values of residents, and includes a ceramics and jewelry lab.

The City of Rocklin has formally agreed to support the Sierra College-Hacker Lab partnership by contributing to the cost of the lease space and tenant improvements. The three-year commitment is an investment in the City’s “Quarry District” and “Innovation Triangle” which includes the new makerspace as well as the College.

The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has awarded Sierra College’s Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) funding to support the partnership, particularly in relation to 3D printing. Funding is being used to send a Hacker Lab subject matter expert and facilitator to the National RAPID conference for SME Additive Manufacturing Certification and networking with other experts; and provide in-service training and support for faculty to use 3D printing in their instructional programs.

What has been the impact of maker culture on your campus?

The Hacker Lab-Sierra College maker space officially opened just a few weeks ago. Over the last year as the space was being planned, the College saw an outpouring of support from administration and faculty across disciplines. This collaborative effort continues as faculty helped set up the lab, encouraged their students to join the community and offered to teach classes. The early impact of the maker culture has been extremely positive for students, staff, faculty and the community.

Through a series of pre-opening “Meet Ups” and tours, new and renewed connections with business and community members have been established. College CTE programs have gained several new advisory committee members and access to guest speakers and job/ internship opportunities.

The College’s Executive leaders have strengthened their intent to engage the broader community and strengthen the regional economy. The City of Rocklin has defined a geographic “Innovation Triangle” that includes the College, the Hacker Lab Rocklin maker and coworking space, and City Hall.

The College’s steering committee, consisting of Deans and faculty from four divisions and five instructional programs, is leading the discussion on how workforce development should be structured. The business plan articulates a Vision statement that “Sierra College connects students, educators, businesses and community to foster creativity and transformative innovation” and a Mission statement of “Sierra College serves as a regional center for sustainable economic success by connecting partners, programs and resources.”

The College’s CTE Committee, consisting of all Perkins-supported instructional programs, has strengthened its partnership with Placer Union High School District (a Sierra STEM Collaborative partner) to explore dual enrollment opportunities and share resources. Additionally, meetings that include administrators and faculty from both districts have resulted in authentic discussions on curriculum alignment and student success. 

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

As the Hacker Lab Rocklin space just opened in early May 2015, we anticipate future outcomes that will include new businesses created, new jobs created, and new capital investment secured. In 2014, the mid-town Hacker Lab conducted a member survey to gather these data metrics. With a 30 percent response rate, member companies reported 20 new start-up ventures launched, 75 new jobs created and $3.7 million in revenue generated. The new Rocklin site will be tracking economic impact each year.

Successful events leading up to the opening of the Hacker Lab Rocklin site included:

Innovator Insights presentations that attracted a full capacity crowd of students, faculty and the community. Speakers included Mark Randall, Chief Strategist, VP Creativity, Adobe Systems speaking on “Making Products Customers Love;” and Brook Drumm, Printrbot; Josh Klint, Leadwerks; and Jason Singh, Clover Wallet on “How to Crowdfund Your Next Product.”

Intel conducted training for 60 developers to introduce Intel RealSense Technology, the next generation of natural, immersive, and intuitive apps. Participants were provided with RealSense hardware and software, and were invited to develop projects to test the product’s ability to track hand and finger movement, map facial analysis, speech recognition, augmented reality, and 3D scanning. Hacker Lab teams presented their IoT applications on May 15 at the mid-town site.

Meet Ups for community members and businesses were attended by more than 300 people, and organization and agency tours were provided for more than 150 people. More than 160 students and community members pre-registered to become Hacker Lab Rocklin members, and five College students or alumni registered to become “Facilitators”.

At the grand opening on May 7, more than 380 people attended and 30 new members were signed up on the spot. The Youth Hackathon held on May 9-10 was fully seated and the first Arduino class on May 11 was over-subscribed by 100 percent.

The City of Rocklin has formally agreed to support the Sierra College-Hacker Lab partnership by contributing to the cost of the lease space and tenant improvements. The three-year commitment is an investment in the City’s “Quarry District” and “Innovation Triangle” which includes the new makerspace as well as the College.

Leveraged resources to date include more than $350,000 in funding support, equipment, furniture and donated labor.