Rise of the Maker Space

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BY MARK BURDON  |  PIVOT WRITER

If you are the type of person who loves to get your hands on power tools, or revels at  the thought of making new gizmos and innovative thingamabobs, find out the location of your local Hacker Space, Maker Space or Fabrication (Fab) Lab. Often they will be connected to coworking establishments, are possibly connected to local colleges, and are geared towards community building.

From Victoria Makerspace and Lethbridge Hackspace in western Canada to ProtoShed St. John’s, SimCoLab in Barrie (see 3D Printer photo at left) and Queen’s Hacks in Kingston towards the west, Canada is experiencing a mashup of art, technology, invention and creativity. For a comprehensive list of Maker spaces across Canada and further details, see the HackerSpace Wiki.

These communities come in as many shapes and sizes as the members themselves. Toronto is the home of Maker Kids, a space dedicated to youth innovators and creative types.

What ever you call them, Maker Spaces, Hacker Spaces, or Fab Labs; these communities and the facilities where they work are not just fun and games. Prototypes of new products are often created in these places, and/or existing products are improved with alternative materials or specifications.

Most successful Hackerspaces are entirely run by a community of volunteers in the community, and sponsored by local partners in the business community.

A perfect example of this is Winnipeg’s AssentWorks, the home of Ramp Up Manitoba.  Community members pay an affordable monthly fee and local companies such as Princess Auto, MTS and Seccuris sponsor the space as they might be able to benefit from some of the innovative ideas emerging from AssentWorks. The space is equipped with rapid prototyping 3D Printers, plotters, circuit board machines and metal working equipment. Inventors that get caught up in their latest idea can access the facility around the clock which is a common theme with the best Spaces in Canada.

One of the great things about Maker Space movement is the collaboration that can take place between entrepreneurs. In the recent floods in Alberta, HackerSpace Calgary helped local flood victims to recover their damaged electronic devices. The maligned term “Hacker” means people that like to take things apart and put them back together either as the original product or as something new. Think of a toaster transformed into a space heater.

Whether you are a computer programmer that likes to do woodworking, or the other way around, hackerspaces can empower you to let your alter ego/skill-set flourish in your off hours. You might want to paint, sculpt or do computer programming or Web design in your spare time and need to immerse yourself in that “culture” to stimulate those neurons in your brain. Or maybe you have a great idea for a new product but lack the tools and skills to create a prototype for patenting. All these scenarios are perfect reasons to plug into one of the forty or so Hacker/Makerspaces across Canada.

More information about how the Hackerspace movement is growing across Canada, see this article on the Global News Website.

Now that you likely have your creative juices flowing, connect with a MakerSpace or Hackerspace in your area and create the next Arduino or Raspberry Pi-like device! Or make a prototype of a unique product on a 3D printer to help you expedite the process of getting your invention to market! If you are an executive at a manufacturer and want to accelerate local innovation and invention, why not partner with a local Hackerspace and stimulate the engineers and product managers of tomorrow?