Gareth Carr, Entrepreneur | April 6, 2016
You may have heard that Idea Exchange is renovating the Old Post Office downtown and adding a Maker Lab to its multiple floors. You also may be thinking, What is a Maker Lab? I’d love to explain and tell you why I am excited about this! Maker Labs come in many forms, but essentially they are a place where the public can access creative tools and resources to build, hack, and explore, through a creative process with the latest gadgetry. Sometimes called a Maker Space or Hack Space, it’s where you’ll find 3D printers, open source devices such as Arduino & Raspberry Pi, laser cutters, woodworking tools, and probably lots of LEGO®!
The speed at which technology advances around us is astounding. If we are to have a better understanding of new innovations, we need a place where we can explore their potential in a community setting while ensuring fair accessibility. A Maker Lab brings these latest leaps of technology into an environment where it can be experienced by all. It is an ideal place for participants to engage local Industries, artists, and educators with the common goal of inspiring minds of all ages to create, build, and invent. Peer-to-peer learning and documentation of the creative process is crucial to Maker Labs as the sharing of knowledge is a prerequisite in the Maker Culture.
Maker Labs are a perfect place for young minds to invent and happen upon beautiful mistakes. Makers like to share their talents. Ideas are openly exchanged and the process of immediate creation offers numerous opportunities for educational programs. To tinker and fail is all in a day’s work for a Maker Lab as this is where you learn and improve. Makers experiment and accept failure not as defeat, but merely as a part of the process in design thinking. This allows for adaptation, prototyping, and alternative solutions to reach a common goal with more opportunity for collaboration.
As with any adventure, the journey is just as important as the destination. Incubators such as Communitech are having great success kick-starting small Tech ventures. While working with the University of Waterloo and local industry, they help local entrepreneurial inventors get their fresh ideas from concept to reality by providing the right tools and a home to grow. Maker Labs are a stepping stone to this success by providing the perfect atmosphere for these brilliant new ideas to come to life at an early stage.
When you engage your creative side you see things differently. My work as Volunteer Co-Chair to the Cambridge Arts Festival led me to rethink my core ideologies and engage in projects that have goals aligned with my own. As an entrepreneur, I take pride in being diverse as a skilled metal fabricator, videographer, project manager, Dj, scuba diver, ice climber and father. A maker lab in Cambridge will provide a great place for me to join others and share my experiences in a creative manner while collaborating on new projects and ideas that present themselves.
How does one start Making? You have a world of internet and there is no end to the DYI Maker projects available online at a simple search. Many can be done with very little cost and usually only require a trip to the local surplus store or even a simple search of your recycling bin. Don’t forget your junk drawer! The Idea Exchange also has a wonderful schedule of events throughout the city with a vast range of activities. Be sure to get involved! There are plenty of opportunities right here. More recently, The Cambridge Arts Festival team was invited to collaborate with the Idea Exchange to host their first Robot Wars event featuring creative LED light builds, simple circuit workshops, plenty of interactive robots and robot races! We had small tooth brush robots navigating obstacles, built by our guests! Everyone really also enjoyed getting their hands on some Arduino bots and robotic arms. This is just the beginning! You can also join us at the Festival on June 20th from 10 am to 8 pm where there will be an interactive Maker Lab right inside City Hall. Cambridge Arts Festival is free to all, and Idea Exchange will be there too!
So get creative and make something, anything! Maker Labs are popping up in cities all around us. Cambridge is next and we’re ready. Explore, create, inspire, become a Maker!
Gareth Carr is a multi-talented entrepreneur and Resident of Cambridge, Ontario. He operates Ayr Mechanical performing Industrial projects and Kinetic Studio, a Production and Technology venture.