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HackBerry Lab blends tech, design in new 3,500 square foot space

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The HackBerry Lab hosted a meld of technology, entrepreneurship and design during its public opening Tuesday.

Zane Cochran, instructor for the new creative technology major at Berry College, proudly walked around his new classroom space between the Emery Barns on the main campus.

“We were in about 500 square feet in McAllister Hall,” he said. “Now, we have 3,500 square feet and we’ve filled it already.”

Every semester, the students in the four creative technology classes at the college create prototypes for open houses where they can present them to the community. The major is only in its second year, Cochran said.

“Berry is unique because it is the first college to offer a bachelor’s degree in this subject,” he said. “Colleges like Georgia Tech have masters in this kind of program, but I don’t know of another college in Georgia that offers a bachelor’s degree.”

The program is also unique because of the level of community involvement, he added.

“Some of our students are working with 3D printers to outreach to children with disabilities,” said Cochran. “One is printing prosthetic hands and another is working to modify those toy motorized cars so kids with disabilities can drive them.”

The lab is also a big draw for schools, he said.

“Our students are working with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade at the city and county schools,” Cochran said. “They visit us and we work with them on projects. It jumpstarts creativity and it gets them engaged in science and math.”

Inspiration comes from everywhere, from filling a need to making a cool project for themselves to equipping their own business.

“I never have enough shelves,” said Lauren Garner, as she demonstrated her folding bookcase. “When you move in and out of dorms, it can be difficult to pack a bookcase, which you always need in a dorm. I made this so that you can pack what’s on the shelves and then fold it up so it’s flat and fits in your car easily.”

Witt Teem built a rowing contraption inspired by his summer camp work.

“I have worked with kids’ summer camps for about six years and I see a lot of little kids who don’t catch on to the rhythm of rowing a canoe,” he said. “I built this using paddles on a wheel so several paddles are on each side and the kids use a central turning mechanism.”

Alec Leeseberg and Alan Young created a music-sensitive hologram device.

“This technology is used by places like the Haunted Mansion at Disney World,” Leeseberg said. “We have a guitar attached to a computer and a camera on the musician, so you get a hologram of the musician playing that moves in time with the music.”

Leeseberg said he has started his own company, called Holoview, which specializes in technology like this.

“Our thoughts were that, during a concert, a band could be onstage and a screen could be projecting a hologram of each member in a different style to add a new component to the show,” he explained.

Anna Alsup combined her passion for gaming with a little ingenuity to come up with PiCade.

“It’s powered by Raspberry Pi, a system that you can store old-school arcade games on,” she said. “I found old arcade game controls online and built a cabinet for it, so now it looks just like the arcade games from the 1980s.”

However, she is planning some upgrades.

“I’m using this in my apartment,” she said. “Since I’m graduating this year, I am repurposing my mini fridge for underneath the console, so it’s right there. I’m going to paint it and add a few more touches and I’m done.”