Makerspaces : Gyms For Geeks
The residents living near a dimly lit alleyway off Ossington Avenue are accustomed to seeing blowtorches and pyro boards ignited by the sound pressure of blaring dubstep music.
The two-storey building, with a red metal door and a wall of vibrant graffiti, was once a blacksmith’s shop. Today, it houses Site 3 coLaboratory, one of Toronto’s “maker spaces”.
In Parkdale, Hacklab.to acts as the pulse of Toronto’s hacker community. Its expansive space is equipped with 3D printers, a biology lab and more than 500 tools for anyone who wants them.
Maker spaces in Toronto allow those who have an interest in woodworking, programming, coding, hardware hacking, web design and art to collaborate in an environment that enables them to fully-realize their projects. Motivated by curiosity and play, members say they have adopted the MIT definition of hacking: they create, repurpose, program and invent.
With a monthly membership, members have access to training, support and equipment. Though, making a profit is not a motivativation. The membership fees strictly cover insurance, rent and not much else.
Often compared to a gym, maker spaces encourage members to escape the daily grind, put aside the time to test out new materials and work towards their project goals.
Site3 coLaboratory Gallery
Inspired by the philosophies of the global “hackerspace” movement, which inspires people to socialize, share knowledge and work together on their projects, the members of maker spaces are a diverse community interested in developing their skills.
Site 3 coLaboratory is a 2,000 square foot spot featuring a workroom, all of the tools needed for electronics and woodworking projects and a rotating selection of classes, including lampworking and metal milling.
“If there are things that you want to do, or you don’t know how to do, or you don’t have the tools to do, a maker space is a place where you can make that happen,” said Marc Reeve-Newson, one of the founding members of Site 3 coLaboratory.
Anthony Morgan, the current artist in residence at Site 3 coLaboratory, has access to the classes and the tools free of charge for a six-month period to work on an individual project.
“My project is to use a product called Muse, which is a brain sensing headband that reads broad patterns of electrical firing in your brain,” said Morgan. “I’m going to hook it up to something called a flame board that will basically make waves of fire. The idea is to be able to concentrate hard enough to make fire come out of this board.”
Hacklab.to has gained the notoriety of hosting local “hackathons”, meet-ups, programming classes and workshops at its new Parkdale location.
It’s normal for the aromas and sounds of fresh vegan food being prepared to greet members and visitors as they enter the doors of Hacklab.to. Complete with a fully functioning kitchen, the maker space also offers hammocks, a dark room for photography, a laser cutter and an impressive selection of tools and gadgets.
“I learned all about electronics here. I knew nothing, I never soldered a resistor before and now I can design boards and build electronics,” says Jade Bilkey, a third-year applied mathematics student at Ryerson University.
Bilkey says all of the different tools that are available and the space to teach classes are what draws her to the hacker community. Once she joined the maker space, she says she was hooked.