Calgary Protospace – the community-based makerspace – is expanding and throwing a public party to celebrate.
On Saturday, October 3, Protospace is offering public tours, food, demonstrations, prizes, mini-lectures, and hands-on opportunities. “It’s a bit like a smaller version of the Mini Maker Faire,” says Hayley Erza, one of the directors of the organization, “and we’re stressing that each of us – you and I – can make things at Protospace.”
The largest draw of a makerspace like Protospace is the ability to access tools and workspace at a fraction of the cost of doing it on your own. According to Byron Hynes, another director, a Makerspace can be many things to many people. “We have tinkerers and fixers, artists and students, crafters and software developers, engineers and hobbyists, working in every kind of discipline and material that I can imagine,” he says. “Our members have 24-by-seven access to shared work space, advanced tools and a community of knowledge and ideas.”
Protospace was established in 2009, moving into its current North-East location three years ago. They occupy an industrial bay with about 2600 square feet of space, but recently, they have been “busting at the seams,” as Erza describes it, a situation that stressed the ability to easily use the tools and equipment, especially for larger projects.
The expansion doubles the floor space to over 5,000 square feet. Hynes explains “Like most of the ‘Maker movement’, we’ve been growing steadily. We knew that by the end of our lease, we’d be looking for more space. When the adjacent bay became available, we had to jump on it. The timing was amazing, and we can show it off a bit at our Open House.”
According to Erza, “We had been planning the open house, and this became the opportunity to announce that we are taking on more space – allowing for more members and even more access to tools. We haven’t even moved into to the new bay yet, so I guess it’s a ‘bay-warming’!”
At the open house, there will be demos of computer-controlled plasma cutters and lasers, quadcopters and robots, and a few mini-lectures on a variety of topics. Some activities are hands-on, including a number of activities for “mini-makers” (kids and families).
Protospace has some very advanced tools and some pretty involved projects have come out of its doors, but it doesn’t only cater to the exotic. “Sometimes, being a ‘maker’ just means being able to solve a problem by fixing or building something you need – like most people did in previous generations. That’s much harder in a modern, urban environment like Calgary. Protospace is a great solution and a great value” says Hynes.
Protospace is run completely by its approximately 140 members and its volunteer directors. Janet Mader, a long-time member, uses this analogy: “It’s a bit like joining a gym, but instead of using fitness equipment, we have workbenches and cool tools.” René Sloos, who joined in 2014, adds “when I joined I thought I would never need the plasma cutter or the shop press, but – lo and behold —I ran in to a little project where those tools came in really handy!”
In addition to free food, you can see projects from many members on display at the open house. Some of the projects are very practical, others are innovative or prototypes for commercial endeavours. And, some of them are just plain fun. Where else will you see people riding a giant motorized beaver, get to check out a seven-foot replica of the HAL computer, or recycle a pop can in the fully-automated pneumatic can crusher?
Visit Protospace from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, Oct 3, 2015 at Bay 108, 1530 27th Avenue NE, Calgary. More information and a map are available at http://protospace.ca. You can get a visual preview in their YouTube playlist at http://protospace.ca/youtube.