TAMPA, Fla. — There are only a couple of them in the state of Florida — an 8,000-square-foot space where you can enter with a great idea and leave with an actual invention.
From robots to drones to video games, if it’s fun and technological, then there’s a good chance you’ll find it in the Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Center, also known as the AMRoC Fab Lab, located in University Mall.
“This is a safe space. You can try anything; if you don’t like it, you can try something else, nobody is assessing, you aren’t getting dinged for failing,” said Executive Director Terrie Willingham.
Willingham has managed the nonprofit lab for the past three years. All of its programs and services cost little to no fee.
“The idea of creating this public community space that has all these resources that students don’t have access to or extracurricular programs that may not be available in certain schools, we have it all here,” said Willingham.
In one corner, students from a USF arts and humanities class are designing a large mural that will eventually hang in the lab.
“It gets them off of campus, out into the community, it helps them to be a positive in the neighborhood and to get to know their neighbors, and it allows the neighborhood to know us,” said Lindy Davidson with USF.
In another corner, a group of Hillsborough County teachers learn how to re-engineer their classrooms.
“When we talk about burnout rate in teachers, it’s because we have so much to do, and learning new technology to drive careers for students needs to be the most important thing,” said Brandy Jackson, CEO of Scoutlier.
While in other parts of the lab, you can learn how to wire a remote-controlled car or send a drone zooming into the air.
“I could show you how to run a program and get it started in just a few minutes,” said Clinton Millsap, drone program coordinator.
AMRoC is especially proud of turning hobbies into careers. They’ve already helped launch 25 new companies through their entrepreneurship program.
“It started with us sitting in our living rooms and our parents saying we are wasting our time inside,” said Allante Sparks with Stryke eSports and Gaming Center.
Stryke is in the incubation phase of its video game company.
“It’s a $30 billion-plus industry as of 2021, so it’s big,” said Sparks.
Willingham said she just wants people of all ages and backgrounds to know they’re here and they’re ready for you.
“If someone comes in and says I’m really looking how to do something, we will find a way to help them do that,” said Willingham.
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