Community-based artist and educator Zee Kesler has spent two years imagining how people will use a tiny house built on a trailer in East Vancouver.
Next week, construction on the Tiny Community Centre wraps up, and its director is excited about seeing it become an artist studio, workshop space, and ecology centre. Kesler told the Georgia Straight the 23.5-foot-long, 8.5-foot-wide, and 13.5-foot-tall house on wheels is a “makerspace” because it will see people bring projects to life, share what they’ve learned with others, and build a community.
“I think inspiring spaces create inspired people and citizens and students,” the Mount Pleasant resident said in the TCC, which is parked outside VIVO Media Arts Centre. “I think this is a great combination of things I enjoy. I got to learn how to build. I organized a workshop so other people could help us build and learn how to build something like this.”
Kesler is also a cofounder of MakerMobile, a Vancouver-based makerspace housed in a van. It’s one of a dozen or so local makerspaces that will be represented at the fifth annual Vancouver Mini Maker Faire this weekend.
Organized by the Vancouver Maker Foundation, the two-day “show-and-tell” event—one of many such gatherings held around the world—will bring together artists, crafters, hackers, hobbyists, tinkerers, and other “makers” in a celebration of DIY creativity. Over 100 makers are expected to showcase their projects, and the schedule includes panels, presentations, and workshops.
On Sunday (June 7), a panel will address the topic of making makerspaces. Moderated by 3-D printing consultant John Biehler, the discussion will feature representatives of four local makerspaces: Steven Smethurst of Vancouver Hack Space in Southeast False Creek, Derek Gaw of MakerLabs in Strathcona, Reza Ghaeli of Zen Maker Lab in North Vancouver, and Jason Grijzen of Fraser Valley Makerspace in Langley.
Dylan Belvedere, an engineering student at Simon Fraser University, will also be at the Maker Faire. He’s a cofounder of Maker Cube, which opened Surrey’s first makerspace (202–10663 King George Boulevard) on June 1 and hopes to start up a second makerspace in New Westminster’s Queensborough neighbourhood this summer.
Belvedere told the Straight he plans to equip the 850-square-foot Surrey location with electronics-prototyping and hand tools, two 3-D printers, and possibly a computer-numerical-control router and a sewing machine. Regular members pay $25 per month for access during business hours or whenever a key holder is present, and key-holding members pay $100 per month for anytime access.
“At least in Surrey, since the population is getting more dense around the city centre, people who would normally work out of their garages, if they were into making things, are moving into apartments and will need space like this,” Belvedere, who recently moved to Coquitlam, said by phone from Surrey.
Belvedere noted that he plans to offer robotics workshops for youth. In February, he started organizing weekly makers’ meet-ups at the City Centre Library in partnership with Surrey Libraries.
“For me, it’s a lot about community,” Belvedere said. “It’s about bringing people together that come from different backgrounds and being able to teach each other and being able to make this education accessible to the whole community.”
According to Dereck Dirom, a teacher at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School, a makerspace is a place to “dream, invent, and share”. His company, GearBots Educational Resources, offers GearBots Makerspace, an extracurricular program for kids ages nine and up, after school at Abbotsford Senior and on weekends at the Port Moody Arts Centre.
Dirom told the Straight his two-year-old program provides an opportunity for kids to learn skills such as computer programming, digital design, electronics with the open-source Arduino platform, and laser-cutting. Participants have built a 3-D printer and a drone.
“3-D printers and laser cutters engage kids, because they want to learn how to use them,” Dirom said by phone from Abbotsford. “They can use them in so many different ways that even we, as adults, don’t see. So you empower them, provide the tools for them, and they will dazzle us every time.”
During the current school year, Dirom has piloted what he calls a “makerspace” course—involving coding, engineering, and robotics—for grades 9 and 10 at Abbotsford Senior. In the coming years, he envisions schools formally offering makerspace courses in order to teach students skills that will help them succeed in the workplace.
“Teaching kids to use the tools and skills to fabricate, to think like an engineer, and to iterate are very valuable life skills that they can transfer into anything,” Dirom said.
The bulk of construction of the Tiny Community Centre took place at the Vancouver Community Laboratory, another makerspace, in partnership with local company Camera Buildings. Kesler noted that a team of 15 people participated in making the TCC, which incorporates salvaged materials.
The cozy makerspace on wheels has seating for a dozen people, a sink, a photo booth, a loft, windows, and a vertical garden. Together with fellow artists Emily Smith and Françoise Thibault, Kesler is hoping to land a City of Vancouver artist residency and station the TCC at a park for a year or so.
“I could also see it being used as an outdoor school—as a space for people to explore nature,” Kesler said. “We could have tools inside. This first project is an exploration of seeing what it can be used for and what people want it to be used for.”
The 2015 Vancouver Mini Maker Faire takes place Saturday and Sunday (June 6 and 7) at the PNE Forum.