Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sunday May 24, 2015 makerspace

There’s been a lot of talk about makerspaces around the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL). And now, thanks to our partnership with Ohm Base, we have one located in the Waverley Resource Library. The makerspace is still under development as we investigate getting new tools to enable creators of all ages to make their projects. But there is already a lot to see if you come for a visit.

“The makerspace is not just about technology,” says Stephen Hurrell, Head of Automation at TBPL. “It’s also about art. That’s why we want to get tools like sewing machines, green screens, music equipment and a vinyl cutter; we want to encourage both technical users and artists to use the space and collaborate on projects.”

Collaboration is the key behind the makerspace. While the staff at TBPL are a very diverse group, not everyone has the time or the skills to be helping and collaborating with people in the makerspace. That’s why partnering with Ohm Base is the perfect fit; Ohm Base wants to lower the barrier for creators by providing them with tools, space, and a community. Having lost their previous location in the old Hillcrest High School, they’ve now found a place here at TBPL. And TBPL wants to partner with other organizations in the future to increase the collaborative opportunities available for everyone.

“We’re looking at forming partnerships with local businesses,” says Hurrell. “We’re going to develop small business zones as well as the makerspace. We’re hoping that the two will have a back and forth synergy along with the children’s department. Children are naturally curious and have a built-in desire to learn first-hand.”

While that is the future hope, at present you can stop in on most weekday afternoons until closing to visit the Ohm Base volunteers and the makerspace. Tear Down Tuesdays are every Tuesday from 5:30pm until close; you can grab a screwdriver and take something apart to see how it works. This is open to people of all ages. The Ohm Base volunteers have also set up some demos, including some hydrophobic (water-repellent) materials and the 3D printer.

“Everyone loves when we demo the 3D printer,” says Chris Riley, Board Chair of Ohm Base. “It’s going almost constantly when we’re in there.”

The Ohm Base volunteers have internal projects on the go as well. They’re reproducing the enigma encoder, allowing them to encipher and decipher secret messages. When the lights and windows are installed, they’re going to install a circuit that will make the lights blink out a pattern you tap on the window. Riley is working on a simple electric motor that anyone 6+ will be able to build. And if they get the laser cutter, they’ll cut kits out of plywood for people to assemble.

Ohm Base has also started running some programming in the makerspace. Their first program, Encryption 101, was run on April 28 by Jeffrey Cliff, an Ohm Base volunteer. They had a good turnout, with a lot of back and forth between Cliff and the participants. Cliff admits that he went a little too deep into the theory of encryption during the first part of the program. But he tried to always bring it back to a practical level. “The discussion tended to focus around looking at things in terms of security,” he said. “Everyone wants to keep themselves safe online.”

Their next program will be July 17’s “Making Slime and Goo,” which is open to ages 8+. There are only 15 spots available, so be sure to register at the beginning of July if you’re interested.

For more information, or if you’d like to join the TBPL Makerspace Google+ community, head to

Shauna Kosoris

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