TechTown has found a home.
The budding youth-focused technology and entrepreneurial learning center will soon spread its robotics labs, coding and videography rooms across the second floor of the Chattanooga Lifestyle Center.
That and much more.
There also will be 3-D printing and a store where young students can sell their creations, with part of their profits earmarked for charities of their choice. Tutors will be on-site too, for school subjects that the 7- to 17-year-olds who attend TechTown might need.
"Children's capacity to learn to create far exceeds what we think," said founder Paul Cummings, an executive trainer and founder of Chattanooga-based Woople. Cummings owns TechTown along with Todd Philips and John Foy, the trio who are also founding partners of SwiftWing Ventures, the venture capital firm.
"I wanted to give children from all socioeconomic backgrounds a level of opportunity to learn, grow and create," Cummings said.
Erlanger Health System's Board of Trustees on Thursday approved the $4 million sale of the Chattanooga Lifestyle Center to Noon Management LLC, Philips' and Foy's company.
Plans call for TechTown to be up and running by summer 2015. Within two years, Cummings expects the roll-out of similar centers, first in Seattle and Norfolk, Va., followed by New Orleans, Washington D.C. and Chicago.
As far as Cummings' research has shown, there is not another multi-disciplinary center of this kind in the nation for youths.
"Every conversation I've had, everyone has embraced it," the father of five said. "I've talked to state, regional, local governments, businesses."
It will cost an estimated $2 million to build out and equip TechTown's 22,000 square feet at 325 Market Street. More than half a million dollars worth of technology equipment will be in TechTown. The first floor is expected to be retail space, and Erlanger will occupy the third floor.
Cummings estimates 400 to 600 children will go to the center each year. It will be open 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.
TechTown will have opportunities for adults to learn too, something for which Cummings has noted a demand. Plans call for programs to teach veterans, teachers and people 55 years old and older. Companies could use the space during early afternoon hours too.
"The economic impact can be huge," Cummings said. "It will affect jobs in Chattanooga. It will keep people in Chattanooga."
Seventy-two children attended TechTown summer camps this year at Baylor School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the inaugural classes for the program. Some had never touched a computer before.
The program is unstructured so that children can freely pursue their interests. When they arrive they are encouraged to experiment in order to figure out which area is best for them. Their progress and creations can be tracked online. The idea is for their work to build on itself, so that they ultimately end up with portfolios to show their skills.
TechTown students can get day passes, which drop in price the more days they buy. A one-day visit is $35, but signing up for 25 visits, drops the fee to $30 per visit, for example. Monthly memberships are $460 and $200 for additional siblings. Children aged 7, 8, 9 and 10 will get 30 percent discounts.
Scholarships also should be available.
Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:34 a.m. Oct. 27 to reflect the following change: More than half a million dollars worth of technology equipment will be in TechTown. Not $6,000, as previously stated.