In recent years, the number of co-work spaces where people can rent offices and offices has increased in Rochester. The spaces have common amenities such as printers and coffeemakers, and like other workspaces, they have their own built-in social environment.
But a new kind of collaborative workspace, focused on helping people in tech careers, recently opened on the second floor of the Sibley building. The Boundless Connections Technology Center (rochester.boundlessconnections.com) not only offers a collaborative working environment, but also plenty of resources for just about any technical skill a person could wish to acquire.
“We’re not turning anyone away,” says CEO Christina Lopez. “We have people who take an online course and feel like they just can’t do it on their own. Maybe they don’t have the internet fast enough, things like that. So we have ways for people to engage in all things technology. We will find a way. If we don’t know, we connect with the larger community to find those who do.
Hence the name. Although the Boundless Connections Technology Center offers education, it is not a school with formal classes. It functions partly as a resource center and partly as a tutoring program.
“Instead of trying to get 30 people to learn something at a time, we are individualizing the learning,” says Lopez.
You can walk through the door wanting to learn coding or robotics, and they’ll connect you with the tools you need and someone who can show you the ropes. Or, let’s say you’re enrolled in a design program at a college and you just can’t seem to get a handle on the software you need to use. They will buy the software and put you in touch with someone who can give you targeted instructions.
Maybe you want to start a small business selling some products that you have designed and need access to a 3D printer. Boundless Connections, which has three 3D printers and staff who know how to use them, can help.
It all comes at a price. Program and membership costs vary, but adults who want full access can expect to pay $ 1,500 per month or $ 4,500 per three-month session.
Since it opened in August 2020, around 125 people of all ages and backgrounds have used the center, with an average user making 31 visits per year, according to Lopez.
While Rochester’s tech hub is new, the company that became Boundless Connections was started in 2009 by Lopez, who had worked as a programmer for knife maker Cutco, and Mike Marvin, professor of computer science and math at Jamestown. Community College. Their goal was to address what they saw as a missing link in the U.S. tech industry, Lopez says.
In 2012, Lopez and Marvin launched a pilot technology literacy program for 13 to 17 year olds. Lopez opened the first Boundless Connections center in 2017, located in his hometown of Olean, Cattaraugus County. The location of the Sibley building is the second.
As technology is constantly evolving, what has not changed is that people learn in different ways and have uneven access to tools. One of the goals of the company has been to help people get into college, stay in college, and be successful in college, Lopez says.
The company’s annual TECH Unleashed program for ages 13 to 17 meets on Thursday afternoons and includes junior technology center membership as well as snacks. Scholarships are available for those in need. Although this is a group setting, the instruction is always individualized – each week a facilitator helps each student progressively work toward their goals.
“This facilitator is basically a project manager for any project you decide to do,” Lopez explains. “Your project will be at the service of the community. And as you learn, you actually build relationships, you learn what are called “soft skills”, I call them “essential skills” – in fact, making eye contact, being able to. explain things in a way that people can understand – they start to learn this from day one.
Brenton Cousins, 21, got involved with Boundless Connections at the age of 13 in Olean. The company had a booth at his school’s fair and he started attending his summer camps.
By his freshman year at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he says, he had enough know-how to help lead his school’s Neurotechnology Exploration (NXT) team. “I already knew what they were doing,” he says.
Today, he is in his final year in the Computer Engineering program and is the COO of Boundless Connections.
Adults can participate in Boundless Connections through TECH Launch, a self-paced program for ages 17 and over. This is where the co-working aspect really comes in – you can come up with a goal and sign up to use the space and its tools, and access mentoring if you need it.
Then there are TECH Clubs and Networking TECH Groups. They meet weekly and function as a social group, troubleshooting arena, and a way to deepen with guest speakers on various topics such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and Bitcoin.
Anyone who wants to use the centre’s tools can purchase a low-engagement pass, Lopez explains.
“Our programs are for people interested in entering the tech industry, but we have day passes and seasonal passes for everyone,” Lopez said.
“It’s like coming home,” she continues. “You walk in, kick your shoes off, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and take a seat. “
Rebecca Rafferty is the editor-in-chief of CITY. She can be reached at [email protected]