Creativity, beauty mingle at Concentric Sky.
What does a huge dome that pulsates with colored LED lights when music is playing have to do with keeping the creativity flowing at Concentric Sky, a Eugene Web development firm?
Everything, it turns out.
In late August, Concentric Sky developer Yona Appletree - the dome's main visionary - his boss, Wayne Skipper, and several co-workers set up the 30-foot-high dome in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for the annual Burning Man arts festival.
It created quite a splash, including being named "Best. LED. Dome. Ever" by CNET News, a computing and technology news service.
Over six or seven months, Appletree, with help from Skipper and other Concentric Sky developers, designed the dome, built its hardware and programmed its computers.
The dome wasn't a company project, but it had the full endorsement - including substantial financial backing - of Skipper, who founded Concentric Sky in 2005.
Why spend time and resources on something that doesn't directly contribute to the company's bottom line?
"The bottom line is only one important metric of a successful business," Skipper said. "It's important to keep employees happy and motivated in order to retain the type of talent that you need to innovate."
Skipper himself has an eclectic work history, starting off in avionics systems for the Navy, then silicon chip manufacturing, with stints at Texas Instruments, Applied Materials and Dell. He left Dell to study classical art and architecture in Europe, then turned his attention to software design.
"Creative stimulation is the seed from which innovation grows," Skipper said. "For this reason, I surround my team with art and thought provoking displays meant to keep the creative juices flowing. I believe we can extrapolate this to the public at large, and for this reason I'm a big proponent of public art. Creativity is good for everyone."
Concentric Sky is in the business of developing sophisticated Websites and mobile applications for a range of clients, including National Geographic, Encyclopaedia Britannica and the American Park Network.
In addition to supporting outside projects that encourage developers and designers to think outside the box, Concentric Sky takes great pains in selecting its clients, said Cale Bruckner, vice president of the 55-employee firm.
"We spend a lot of time reviewing projects that come to Concentric Sky to choose projects that interest the people here," he said.
One such project is the "Oh Ranger! ParkFinder" application for iPhones and iPad, which enables people to find national and state parks to visit and learn about the activities at each park. Concentric Sky has worked over the past year with American Park Network building a back-end content management system to manage all the content to support the application, Bruckner said.
"We have a lot of people here that are outdoor enthusiasts," he said. "It's easy to inspire people to do their best work when you have projects like the national ParkFinder."
Sometimes work for a client can turn into a little business of its own. That is the case with Emergent Health Care Solutions, a new Eugene company founded earlier this year by Dr. Dan Fitzpatrick, a surgeon at Slocum Orthopedics; Rex Hughes, owner of Hughes Fire Equipment in Springfield; and Concentric Sky, which has a small ownership stake in the company, Bruckner said.
"They came to us with a broad idea, and we helped them distill it into something that could be implemented in a year," he said.
The idea is an app that provides doctors secure access to NextGen, the Electronic Health Record used at Slocum.
Instead of having to sit down at the NextGen terminal to access patient charts, doctors can pull up those records on their iPads as they move from room to room. A doctor even could be at his kid's soccer practice, for example, take a call and look up a patient's record through a secure, remote connection, Bruckner said.
Emergent Health Care Solutions charges a site license fee, and every doctor at the site who wants to use the app also pays a fee, "so it's potentially a very large opportunity," Bruckner said.
As for Concentric Sky's Radiance Dome, it may soon make an appearance closer to home, perhaps as a fundraiser for the Science Factory, said Skipper, who serves on the museum's board, or at an event with Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.
The ultimate goal is to create a curriculum around simple wiring, electronics and computer programming that in Skipper's opinion "is something that children could do."
"The dome project is close to my heart, merging both hardware and software in innovative new ways," he said. "We created a beautiful display that brought joy to hundreds of people."