Summerside tech gurus building co-op for artists, inventors and tinkerers

Published on January 10, 2016

Chris Willcock looks around the unfinished space he and a few others are hoping to turn into a shared workshop in Summerside.

©Colin MacLean/TC Media

Turn unused Greenwood Drive building into Summerside’s first makerspace, a.k.a. hacklab

SUMMERSIDE - The lights are flickering in the half-finished room where the only furniture is an old couch and a beach chair.

It doesn’t look like much right now, but Chris Willcock and his friends have big plans for this space that is in need of some tender loving care.

When they look around, they imagine artisans honing their crafts, hobbyists learning from each other and inventors collaborating on their next innovation.

They want to turn this unused Greenwood Drive building into Summerside’s first ‘makerspace.’

“We’re trying to build a self-sustaining community who want to be creative with technology. Technology of all kinds, whether it’s woodworking, solar panels, electronics, this is a space that welcomes all creatives,” said Willcock.

Makerspaces, also known as hacklabs, are starting to pop up in cities all over the world.

They function as shared workspaces, where hobbyists, artists, programmers and tinkerers can gather, share resources, learn from and teach each other.

Members pay a nominal fee and get access to the space and its equipment. If they’re comfortable with doing so, some members will be called on to teach classes in the space or give demonstrations of their skills to raise money to help support the space. They’re also usually supported by industry and other community groups.

“Part of it is almost like an old-fashioned co-op where you can share equipment that you normally couldn’t afford or have the space for on your own. But really, the community is what it’s all about - it’s the people and their knowledge transfer,” said Derek Campbell, one of the organizers of the space.

The other two main organizers for the Summerside Makerspace are Aaron Boeker and Steve Howard.

All the men have a deep interest in technology and innovation and see this project as an opportunity for the community. Plus it’s a good excuse to meet and hang out with people who share their interests.

“It’s just going into the unknown. Why do we have a large hadron collider in the world? Just to find out things we don’t know,”  said Howard.

“So, getting a bunch of folks together to create something new is probably going to create something that we can’t even predict. That’s what I see coming from the makerspace.”

The organizers are currently getting some cleanup crews together for the their chosen location, known as the Summerside Venture Centre, which has been made available by the City of Summerside.

Eventually, they will put out a call for donations to help get the space off the ground, said Willcock, but for right now, they’re focused on getting the space cleaned up and freshly painted.

Anyone who might have some gently used tools, art supplies or other materials can contact the organizers through the makerspace’s website,www.summersidemakerspace.ca. Anyone interested in becoming a member of the space can also contact them through the website.

 “We would be looking for support in the form of time, treasure and talent,” said Willcock.

They hope to have the makerspace cleaned up and within the next month have the first members working shortly after and finally host an open house by mid-March.