TheLab.ms plans to host a grand opening for its 3,000-square foot maker space at 999 E. Arapaho Road, Richardson, on Dec. 1. Best described as a “gym for tinkerers and makers,” the nonprofit organization not only provides a physical location for collaboration among people interested in subjects such as robotics, coding and 3D printing—it also hosts meetups and events for its members.
“What the lab offers is a place for people to make connections with other people ... who may share similar interests in making, creating and innovating,” TheLab.ms President Olivia Snyder said.
Snyder said she joined the lab to learn more about 3D printing. At the maker space, she was able to connect with members who were knowledgeable about the technology. Members of the maker space have 24/7 access to cost-prohibitive technology that is not found in the average person’s home.
“The whole concept was kind of intimidating to me,” she said. “At the maker space, I was able to meet people that were happy to teach me how to use [the technology].”
The volunteer-run nonprofit organization is membership-based and funded through donations. Currently housed in Plano, the group was about to run out its lease and was looking for a larger space. At just the right moment, TheLab.ms was invited to join Richardson’s Innovation Quarter, or IQ.
“We had heard about the vision for the Richardson IQ, and [we were drawn by] the idea that we would be plunked right down in the middle of who we want to connect with,” Snyder said. “The community Richardson has to offer and the structure of the IQ definitely tipped the scales for us.”
The IQ is a 1,200-acre industrial area east of Central Expressway that, for the past several years, has been the subject of an in-depth, city-led revitalization effort. The vision for the area is that it will become the "premier tech hub in Texas," according to a 2018 vision statement. In late December, Richardson City Council opened the door for mixed-use redevelopment projects by approving sweeping changes to the area’s land use regulations.
TheLab.ms was targeted as a tenant for The IQ because it lends itself perfectly to the goal of creating a collaborative ecosystem among businesses and organizations, said Doug McDonald, the city of Richardson’s planning projects manager.
“You can put all the pieces in place in terms of physical aspects, but how do you build that collaboration piece that’s not here today? ... The maker space is a key part of that,” he said.
The IQ is already home to some of Richardson’s largest tech companies, including Raytheon, Lintec and Verizon. Working in close proximity to these corporations, as well as being able to connect with other businesses and organizations through resources like the Richardson Chamber of Commerce, was a huge draw for the lab, TheLab.ms Vice President Tommy Falgout said.
“One of our biggest struggles has been awareness,” Falgout said. “So to have that brand awareness in the community, and also through the corporations, would be huge for us.”
TheLab.ms is currently accepting new members and is offering discounted memberships to students, first responders, retirees and members of the military. More information about the organization is available here.
“We are truly a community that thrives on ideas and trying different things,” Falgout said. “It’s much greater than the sum of its parts.”