Tech Valley Center of Gravity opens

Former vice president, alumni, mayor of Troy celebrate ribbon cutting

FORMER RPI VICE PRESIDENT LABAN COBLENTZ AND TROY MAYOR LOU ROSAMALIA, AMONG OTHERS, CUT the ribbon representing the Tech Valley Center of Gravity’s grand opening.

This Monday was the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Troy’s new makerspace, in what used to be an off-track betting parlor. Founding members, volunteers, and local government officials were all present during the ceremony which officially opened the space.

The idea of turning the abandoned space into a makerspace originated in February, when several RPI officials, including former vice president Laban Coblentz, brainstormed ways to keep young professionals graduating in the Capital District from leaving the area. The idea of a makerspace is to be a community driven, common space where ideas and inventions can grow in a nurturing environment. The space is open to all, from hobbyists to entrepreneurs, and no less than four businesses are currently making use of the community-owned space. The facility, located at the bottom of the Uncle Sam parking lot at 35 4th St., was donated by David Bryce ’86, the proprietor of the space, and is home to many resources for the “tinker-minded,” as some members described themselves. Lathes, drill presses, and saws of all sorts line the newly renovated area on the right side of the space. Many of these pieces of equipment were donated by members who felt as if their tools would be better served in a place where everyone could make use of the equipment. The back area of the makerspace houses a wet lab, where members have access to incubators, flow hoods, and other equipment. One startup is already operating out of the space, using it to create prototypes of microbial fuel cells. The Tech Valley Center of Gravity also houses a welding and soldering lab, office space, an electronic recycling center, and space for members to rent out and store their projects. The pride and joy of many of the members was the 3-D printer and laser cutter. This equipment is being used by several entrepreneurs to do rapid prototyping and revision on a much faster scale then they could previously, according to James Peterson ’12, founder of Vital Vio, who attributed his company’s recent growth to having access to the makerspace. All of the equipment is open to members after they complete safety and usage training.

The organization itself came about when Coblentz contacted Tom Tongue, who was the creator and president of a group called the Capital District Makerspace. The group, despite their name, lacked an actual space, but had an active membership which offered classes to their membership and the public. The two groups decided to pool their resources, as one had members and no space, and the other one had few members and a large space. The two groups quickly turned the space into a hobbyist’s dream playground and enabled the “gathering of diverse people, which is when really exciting things happen,” according to Tongue.

The actual ribbon cutting ceremony got underway at 4:30 pm and was preceded by speeches from Coblentz and Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino. Both spoke about the high hopes Troy had for the center, and thanked all the sponsors and supporters. Many of the roughly 75 members were present for the celebration of the official opening. Coblentz, Jimino, Troy mayor Lou Rosamilia, and several other members of the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency partook in the actual cutting of the green ribbon. Afterwards, each member gave a speech, along with several other members of the TVCoG board. Each stressed a different impact the center would have, with the overarching theme being the positive economic impact the center would have on Troy and the surrounding areas. Another point that was emphasized by the speakers was the impact it would have on “keeping young professionals in the area,” as stated by Coblentz, while Rosamalia mentioned Troy’s efforts to “capture the intellectual resources in the region.” The panel was concluded with a question and answer session and a tour for all present.

Those who are interested in knowing more can visit the organization’s website at http://techvalleycenterofgravity.com/, or contact Coblentz or Tongue at labancoblentz@techvalleycenterofgravity.com or ttongue@techvalleycenterofgravity.com, respectively.

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