What is a Makerspace and why is it important for Barrie?

My name is Brian McGillis. I am a Board member of the BRIX makerspace.

I would like to take a couple of minutes to try and show just how good a decision you have made, and to convey why we are so grateful and enthusiastic about this makerspace.

The concept of “making things” is of course, not new. Humans are inherently creative, all the way back to when we figured out how to use wheels and fire. This recent period of makerspaces and maker culture has been the result of new innovations in fabrication technology, reduced cost and increased availability of many of the tools and materials that people need in order to create things. The added advantage of the Internet means that the we have an existing wealth of knowledge and ability to collaborate worldwide. This has spurred a fundamental change in the world of invention, innovation, fabrication and creation.

A phrase used to describe this phenomenon is “The democratization of the means of production”. We now live in a world where someone with an idea and passion can pay a monthly membership fee, and have access to a makerspace filled with tools and supplies that removes the barriers that have existed in the past that could keep them from pursuing their creative ideas, whether that idea is to make a coffee table or build a mini sattellite.

Makerspaces have grown vastly in number over the past 2 decades. Popular Science reported in 2016 that in the previous 10 years, the number of makerspaces worldwide had grown from about 100 to 1,400 active or planned makerspaces, and there are more recent estimates that put that number at over 2000 today. There are many in the GTA and around southwestern Ontario. Notably Newmarket has had one called NewMakeIt that has been operating since 2015, and has had 3.1 million dollars in local economic impact, and created over 100 jobs in the area.

Besides access to the makerspace itself, a major part of makerspaces is the people and community within it.

The maker culture is largely made up of people that not only love to make things for themselves, but have a passion for making things for others, teaching other people how to do things, and for working together with other people. Not only will BRIX be a place where people will have access to the tangible things they might need to make something, but they will have access to people who will be able to show them how to use the tools, what to do with them, and help them follow their creative spirit.

We have seen this within the people already associated with BRIX, and with many people we have met and talked to as we have participated in events like Celebrate Barrie in the past couple of years. This

shows that there are many like-minded people who not only would want to use the makerspace, but who would also become active participants in collaborating, teaching and sharing to make BRIX even better. In the last few weeks as the news about BRIX has been getting out into the community, I personally have met several new people who have talked to me about their enthusiasm for the makerspace, about all the great things that BRIX can be, and what they can do to be part of making it happen.

BRIX hopes to benefit many different groups of people. Starting with kids and students, we will enable them to explore the world of creation, sparking their interest and facilitating their pursuit of their new passions. The world of fabrication and technology has grown leaps and bounds in the last century, and the pace is ramping up. For example, there are companies that are currently developing the process to 3-D print soft tissues with living cells to replace things like noses and ears.

These are the technologies coming forward today, and a makerspace is the perfect place for today’s students and entrepreneurs to get started on the technology of the future.

Hobbyists and DIY-ers will have a place where they can learn how to, and make; – bowls and cutting boards
– build a bookshelf
– make a robot

– design a sustainable automated rooftop garden
– create an interactive sculpture
– or just a replacement knob or handle for something

The possibilities are endless.

Entrepreneurs will have access to tools and space where they can scale up their operation, prototype new products and ideas, and have the potential to start a business that may have been out of their reach otherwise.

Anyone could attend a workshop and discover something new. This could be anything from electronics and programming, to painting, pottery, knitting, and sculpture, or a trade such as welding or carpentry, and help them on a career path they might otherwise have missed… and we know, there is a lack of available tradespeople in our economy.

We also hope to benefit the community by participating in some of the same types of programs our existing group has in the past, such as building community garden boxes in parks around the city, and doing wearable technology programs with the MacLaren Art Gallery. We also plan to partner with Barrie businesses to recycle electronics and furniture to reduce waste going to our landfill.

It may or may not be cliche to say that we will help people make their dreams come true, but it is true that it will be a place where people will be able to try and transform their ideas into reality.

I hope that I managed to adequately convey the potential that we have, and our enthusiasm. I would be glad to discuss further with any members or anyone else in earshot.

We again are grateful and excited for this opportunity, and we are eager to get started.

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