Santa Rosa's 180 Studios gets Keysight boost to open maker lab; Sebastopol's Chimera expands

Thanks to a signfiicant gift from a local high-technology company, a 15,000-square-foot Santa Rosa drop-in center for artists, tinkerers, hobbyists and budding entrepreneurs is set to open its first “maker” studio this spring.

Meanwhile, a 3-year-old maker studio in Sebastopol has made a sizable expansion.

A half-dozen volunteers from Keysight Technologies on Sept. 30 helped unload the first delivery to the 180 Studios ( venture coming to life in four buildings at 150 Todd Rd. The Santa Rosa-based global company is anticipated to give it more than $1 million in equipment, furniture and staff time, according to Pat Harper, Keysight vice president and general manager of technology supply chain as well as a member of the recently created nonprofit organization launching the studios. The goal is to get the company-sponsored electronics and robotics lab there operational by the end of this month.

“This gives us a starting point,” Harper said. “Now we can bring in people and show them that Keysight is committed to it. I've been pushing to get the Keysight lab in there, because is something tangible. Now we can go to other tech companies about getting involved.”

Also heavily involved in the 180 Studios project is Tom Fetter, who recently retired after 37 years at Keysight and progenitors Agilent Technologies and Hewlett-Packard.

“The more people we have here in the building, the more it will grow on its own,” Fetter said.

He has been working with David Farish, hired in December as general manager of the venture, to get the space and incoming equipment ready for the first labs to open. Keysight is sorting through surplus equipment such as oscilloscopes, network analyzers, spectrum analyzers, signal sources, power supplies and soldering irons to make sure the lab has at least one of what's needed to take measurements and build projects, Harper said.

“The idea is to have a lab where people will be able to use a $200,000 piece of equipment they wouldn't have access to themselves,” he said.

Also key to the robotics side of the lab are 25 surplus computers from the county of Sonoma. Dan Blake, vice chairman of the studios board, leads the Sonoma County Office of Education's 21st Century Teaching and Learning efforts. The goal is to have the studios ready to host hundreds of educators from around the U.S. for the reMAKE Education summit Aug. 3-5 (

The goal is to sign up 30 to 60 members of 180 Studios the first year, Farish said. Portions of the space are being divided down to 50- to 300-square-foot areas where members can store projects in progress, rentable for $2.50 a square foot per month. Membership fees range from $25–$150, including special rates for students, multiple family members and weekends-only. There's also a 20 percent discount for signups within three months of full opening.

Farish is a Santa Rosa artist with a background in papermaking, bookbinding and printmaking as well as group projects such as building whimsical off-road peddle cars. That passion is going into converting the wood-paneled former offices of the Hosokawa-Bepex plant of yesteryear into spaces for less noisy and dusty arts such as paper and textile pursuits, jewelry-making and glasswork. For that, the operation is looking for industrial sewing machines.

“I've want to have a space like this in Sonoma County for some time,” Farish said. “This lends itself to having a strong role in the community.”

In addition to the larger-scale TechShop in San Francisco, an inspiration for 180 Studios organizers is Chimera Arts and Maker Space ( in Sebastopol. Started in December 2012, the nonprofit group just moved into a much larger facility at the former Ford Garage building at 6791 Sebastopol Ave. It has moved up from 700 square feet in a portable building to 3,000 square feet of warehouse space and 4,000 square feet of yard. Hours are weekdays noon to 6 p.m. A grand opening is set for April 23.

Chimera has hosted 250-plus events and has more than 50 active members. It was in the black eight months after opening and attracted $13,000 in expansion crowdfunding. It plans to seek more funding soon for a wood shop, metal shop and other items.

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