"The Bay Area is overflowing with money and incubators for startups. We want to provide something different: a home for ideas, projects, and people that don't fit into other places," says Manylabs founder Peter Sand.
The educational non-profit opened their new open science workspace, on Folsom Street near 7th Street, in March. It's a three-floor, 5,400-square-foot industrial building that was once headquarters for the Columbia Elevator Company. The building rent is largely paid by a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The first floor has been transformed into a flexible meeting and exhibition area. The second floor workshop provides lab benches, tools, an inventory of electronics parts and other prototyping materials, and a growing collection of scientific apparatus. The top floor is a sunny open office that encourages casual run-ins among residents and visitors. Even the rooftop is getting use as a sensor test range.
The core of the enterprise is the Scientist in Residence program. If accepted, applicants receive a six-month renewable position, along with a small materials stipend, a desk, and use of the workshop and other facilities. They also get help writing and applying for grants that will fund their work.
Current residents include an engineer studying the relationship between heart rate variability and stress management techniques, and a Stanford doctoral student in biophysics who's developing methods for science teachers to make custom lenses for their classrooms using a toaster oven. Other projects include paper mechatronics, 21st century notebooking, low-cost, accurate sensors for air quality, and the Global Biotic Interactions open data search index.
Manylabs just announced a new crowdfunding campaign, which will help ensure crucial staff and operations support for up to 20 new residents next year. "We're looking for anyone who is driven by a science, tech, or education idea that they think will improve the world, and who's willing to share what they learn and join in our open, supportive community", Peter explains. "We don't care so much about your pedigree or your employment status as long as you can show knowledge and passion for your work."
Manylabs is also a hub for community science and science education efforts. They host grassroots groups like Nerds for Nature, and are forging partnerships with local schools, non-profits, university researchers, and others. They also invite science and education startups, university programs, and other organizations to rent the space for events and workshops, and to collaborate on open science projects.