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Makerspace offers tools for tinkering

Peter Dahle, left, of VMAC, and Chris Caswell of B.C. Robotics check out a small, computer-controlled CNC router in Makerspace, an open community lab and social space where members can share concepts, build prototypes and develop new products. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Peter Dahle, left, of VMAC, and Chris Caswell of B.C. Robotics check out a small, computer-controlled CNC router in Makerspace, an open community lab and social space where members can share concepts, build prototypes and develop new products.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

People can share tools, tinker and innovate around the clock in Nanaimo’s first-ever Makerspace.

The hands-on community workshop is now open in central Nanaimo, giving hobbyists and entrepreneurs a chance to build and repair without the need to purchase their own equipment.

According to founder Rebecca Kirk, Makerspace not only allows people access to work space 24 hours a day, but also use of donated tools and an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas.

“I first became aware of it because my son helped develop Protospace in Calgary,” she said. “I thought, wow, this is really something Nanaimo needs: a collaborative incubator where creative people can come together and share their tools and space and curiosity.”

Kirk says Nanaimo Makerspace and its three-room shop at 2221 McGarrigle Rd. will be able to host a wide range of skill sets and trades, from those who work in robotics, to engineers, industrial designers and metal workers. People who don’t have a workshop and want to tinker can also join. Membership is $40 a month.

“Right now [we are] busy having work parties to adapt the space to what our needs are and to bring equipment and machinery in,” said Kirk, who has seen growing requests for membership.

“We have 32 paid members, 25 waiting in the queue. It’s unbelievable what’s happening.”

Chris Caswell, owner of B.C. Robotics and a director with Makerspace, said for him the workshop is a place to meet like-minded people, discuss ideas and solve problems. It also means access to tools the average person can’t afford to have in his or her garage, he said.

“There are a lot of people here who dreamed of this being in Nanaimo,” said Caswell. “[The maker movement is] taking off in all sorts of places where you’d expect, like the Silicon Valley and New York ... but it will work here as well. It’s really good to see.”

Those behind Makerspace say there’s also the potential for mentorship and maker fairs – public events for the community to learn about the space, projects and advances in technology. Entrepreneurs can also test out products.

“It’s beyond exciting,” Kirk said.

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