Building Maker Expo

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Hey, DW here on the ME Blog again. On Wednesday, we MEEPs brought a whack of people from the community together in DTK to introduce Maker Expo. One of our goals with ME is to connect people across groups in our community. To that end, we invited a mash up of makers, municipal government, schools, business, and community connectors. Massive thanks to those who took time out from busy schedules to see who we are and what we’ve got cooking. Your support, ideas, and rolled-up sleeves put gas in our tank. Got some pics for you (surprise!) from the gathering as well as an outline of our approach for you here, but first the TL;DR for today:

Please apply to be an exhibiting maker at Maker Expo. apply, Apply, APPLY! Please.

This Inspiration Engine that we’re making depends on you (yes you) for its richness of variety, interactivity, and awesomeness. Here’s the application form. It will only take you 10 minutes to complete. Think you’re not a maker? Think again. You are a maker if you: knit, carve, weld, sew, saw, solder, grow, weave, paint, mill, brew, grind, hammer, fuse, melt, assemble, drill, spin, glue, screw, launch, [your action word here]. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to show up with your gear and enthusiasm. Apply Now! Deadline for exhibitors is Canada Day, but help us by defying human nature and submitting your application early. You have 29 days left.

Ok, now on to more scoop about ME ethos and execution. It’s a long post, but you’ve already read the most important part…

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Our group of nine, representing kwartzlab, Maker Club for Kids, and makebright have been meeting for about six weeks. Weekly. Why are we doing this? Why are we not instead driving kids to guitar practice, building our startup businesses, hanging out on the local patio and chilling to some live music? Well, we *love* to make and fundamentally we love to support and inspire others in their making. We’ve all been to maker gatherings and makerspaces across North America and there’s this phenomenon there that you get out more energy than you put into these things.

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Agnes and Tanya and their hard working crew created these fans in our ME colours.

Why does Maker Expo matter?

Increase and celebrate the making! We talked about this one. There’s something so great about getting your maker groove on, the hours fly by, you love what you’re doing and you’re in the flow. Bringing a whole bunch of makers together geometrically multiplies that effect.

Reaffirms our WR identity as makers/doers/creators – How we roll: we roll up our sleeves and get stuff done here in Waterloo Region. We should all be proud.

“Education” (young/old/at-risk/in-need) – You might call this alternate paths to education. Working hands-on, talking to experts, hyper-focused on your niche. It’s all about learning.

Draw+keep talent here – So much talk about place-making in the local public discourse. Perhaps the most important factor limiting our growth is the availability of talent. We gotta draw it in from far and wide and we gotta keep folks here: both the seasoned veterans and the new grads. If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have mountains, water, or a consistently warm climate, but we’ve got each other and that’s enough. And, yes, I know this isn’t why makers/musicians/artists do what they do, but it *is* why some folks are interested in Maker Expo.

Evolution of our economy – As traditional factories like Budd and Lear pack it in, there is increasing attention on the make-o-sphere to evolve our manufacturing model. Disproportionately focused on 3D printing, the real makerly evolution will be built on the maker ethos of just-figure-it-out-and-do-it. We can learn from makers that rather than building a newer factory in WR, we can play as an actor in a global making ecosystem that sources parts from Shenzhen, gets fixtures milled in Minnesota, and hosts service in a Vancouver cloud, all while the creative engine revs here in Waterloo Region. Been thinking a lot about this one as I’m joining a “Big Ideas” discussion tomorrow with Kitchener’s Economic Development Group.

Community – What binds us together? Our common experience. In real life. Maker meetups, like photography, are just a great excuse to meet people.

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Our goals are ambitious:

10,000 people to DTK for the event – a related maker meetup (Waterloo Mini Maker Faire) at Kitchener City Hall back in 2013 drew over 4000 people to DTK on a sunny Saturday. This time, we want more.

Interactivity, workshops, take-homes – from community feedback and our own observations of other maker meetups across the continent, we’re looking for exhibiting makers who will enable you to get involved, to play, to fabricate and fashion.

Connect makers across domains – in the great Venn Diagram of the make-o-sphere, amazing things happen when, for instance, a costume maker partners with a robot maker with a performance artist. The magic is in the overlap.

Inclusive – it takes a lot of effort to include as broad a swath of our community as we can. We think it’s worth it. In the short term, a mono-culture would be easier to wrangle, but it’s not as interesting, resilient, or sustainable as an approach that makes an honest-to-goodness effort to put a hand out to all. We’ve got a sort of back-of-the-envelope diversity model. Let me tell you about that.

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Taking a crack at a diversity model, I’ll be the first one to say we’re not going to get this perfect the first time. But we’re going to try and we’re going to improve it. The dimensions of the model are:

Affluence – making isn’t just for rich folks. One of our primary reasons for locating our event in DTK is maximum accessibility by bike, bus, foot. We cast the net wide in terms of maker mediums. Painting on cardboard or fabricating platinum robots: we want you. I have no idea nor personal experience what it’s like to be in need, to be hungry, to be homeless. We’re actively reaching out to groups like The Working Centre to find out what we don’t know.

Age – we’ve seen a lot of kids under 12 come out to maker meetups with their parents. We’d like to add the high school crowd (go KCI!), university students, 30-something professionals, 40-something suburbanites, and our elderly community chock full of wisdom and a lifetime of skills. It’s been great talking with Jason Panda and Anestis Papoutsis at KCI, Kelly McManus at UW, and Stephen Preece at WLU. We still need connections with Conestoga College and our older crowd of makers.

Ethnicity – most of my friends are white, so I’m in a cultural bubble. Here too I’m under-informed and looking for insights and connections. Makers show up globally so here is another dimension along which we can stretch our engagement in WR.

Gender – gender-balanced engagement in makerly pursuits has been elusive. Participation seems to trend along old stereotypes: more women in textiles, sewing, papercraft and more men in welding, robotics, wood working. It needn’t be so. I was advising on a UW study on imparting maker skills last year and to inform that effort on this dimension, I enlisted my maker pals Stephanie Rozek, Dinah Davis, and Cat Coode. Any time you’re talking about an issue and none of the affected demographic is around the table, you should stop, invite, and reconvene.

Makerly domain – making is not new. It dates back to people rubbing ochre on cave walls. What *is* new is the ready access to information, inexpensive supplies and tools, and opportunities to mix makers across domains. That’s what we aim to deliver with Maker Expo: a delightful mash-up.

Locale – Waterloo Region is geographically big. And it stretches well below the 401. Happily we’ve got Chris and Sianna representing from Cambridge. We’re also looking to connect with makers in Guelph, Toronto, and Hamilton. Ben has been chatting with our pal and Toronto Maker Festival meta-maker Eric Boyd of We’ll be chatting up our makerspace pals at DIYODE, Think|Haus, Site 3 to invite all of Southern Ontario.

That’s it. That’s the diversity model. Easy, eh?

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That’s enough narrative from me. Just pics and quips now.

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One-inch buttons are the currency of the maker world.

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The giant “Lite Brite” that kwartzlab fielded at Night\Shift last year. So good.

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Why are these two smiling?

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Because they knew balloon guru Drew Ripley was going to attempt this! Tiny bike FTW.

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The crew finishes up some dinner after setup.

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Meta-Agnes with multiple cams in hand.

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Fighting robot, only dangerous to other robots.

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My pal Hilary Abel totin’ Francis, who she made with Paul McGough. Hey, Paul’s new band Acquaintance is releasing their new album on June 12 at The Boathouse. You’re going, right?

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Brandon and Emily from KPL, and there’s Jen from In Paper Dreams and there’s local Etsy meetup organizer Erin from Merrily Designs.

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Kitchener Collegiate Institute secondary school teacher extraordinaire Anestis Papoutsis

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and his colleague Jason Panda (right) are rocking all sorts of good making at KCI. My niece Alex goes to school there and that led me to their show (a Maker Expo in itself) After Hours where student work was out for show and sale. Just wicked. These guys are up for anything to support Maker Expo.

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Mr. Jay Johnston of startup The Quiet Coach.

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Barbara Magolon from FIRST Robotics Team Dave out of St David’s Secondary School chatting with ME organizer Matt Bells.

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Val Tsatskin (left) with Kartik Talwar of the Hack The North organizing crew. If you don’t know why these guys are awesome, go read the piece I did on them for Communitech last year. Mega meta making.

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We were super-delighted to have Jane Snyder in the house representing both Doors Open Waterloo Region (awesomely on the same day as ME, Sept 19) and The Working Centre.

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Pal Stephanie Rozek from Year of Code was in the house, making connections.

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kwartzlab maker Lauren Archer, chattin’ with…

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Her partner and mega-maker hardware/software/fabrication guy Mr. Paul Walker, and…

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The Legend…

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James Bastow kwartzlab’s president.

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Agnes Niewiadomski (centre) of Agnes Makes, one of our ME organizers, chatting with the crew from THEMUSEUM.

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Darcy Casselman, of kwartzlab fame and the backbone of makerly social media.

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Marie LeBlanc Flanagan of cross-continent force-to-be-reckoned-with Weird Canada talking with ME organizer Ben Brown and kwartzlabber Doug Moen.

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Lauren wrestled Paul.

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Thanks to our servers Danielle and Jonah.

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Hey, we love Etsy, too. Erin was on hand promoting the Etsy – Made in Canada event which is one week after Maker Expo, so make sure you get all of this in your calendar.

But for today, and the next 29 days, get your application in for Maker Expo. Apply right here.


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