Recon in Edmonton

  • Classroom

    Episode 1: Preliminary Recon of the Edmonton Public Library Makerspace

    So I figured while I’m on the road I would check out what Edmonton has on the go for makerspaces. A quick googlie and an eighteen block walk (Edmonton was +6 today, not what I packed for but a very pleasant surprise), and I found myself at the downtown branch of the Edmonton public library. I got a quick tour and chatted up two library employees.

    The EPL runs a Makerspace program that has existed for about three years, and currently employs one full-time and four part-time EPL staff members as “Makerspace Assistants”. Most of the building for the main branch of the EPL is shut down for major library renovations right now, but they currently have 4 rooms (3 public and one storage/shittystaffworkspace). The main room houses a vinyl cutter, two 3-d printers and 10 design stations (5 macs and 5 dells - all of which were loaded to the tits with software for whatever you want to do - and all of which were around 27"). They have a gaming computer room which has 4 fully accessible gaming comps (just took a peak through a tiny window but i’m pretty sure I saw an alienware tower), which also houses some type of all-in-one hardcover book printer/binder. The most popular room of the EPL marker space, according to the staff, is the recording studio. It houses a squire guitar and bass guitar combo, a nice mic, a large keyboard, a PA system, an iMac (also loaded to the tits with audio software), some digital audio interface deals, and a little mixingboardy job. Oh and there was a lonley little tube amp sitting unplugged in the corner. Plus a couple couches, a few chairs and a coffee table.

    The EPL maker space is free to use for anyone. The recording studio and gaming stations can be booked online or by calling in. The other computers are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. 3d printing jobs, vinyl cuts, and book bindings are submitted online, which can be done from any computer. Locals use their EPL cards to access services, and visitors (with the help of a maker space assistant) can get a temporary account.

    Oh and the neighbours, they are like our neighbours, but on a whol’nother level. And they serve them, for free, and it doesn’t seem to cause too many issues.

    So preliminary recon shows a well funded and well staffed program offering valuable creative services to the public for free. There seems to be a large emphasis on offering design capability and the creation of digital content.

    I am going to go back tomorrow and set up camp on one of the giant monitors, which I will use as a second screen on my laptop to do some writing, spreadsheet and graphic work for school stuff. I think i’ll camp out for the day and observe the space while trying to get some work done. Stay tuned to this thread tomorrow for episode 2: Deep Recon of the EPL Makerspace.

    Also, keep an eye out Tuesday for episode 3: Recon o’ENTS, where I will tour the Edmonton New Technology Society on their hack night.

  • @kile very cool! Do they have any resources for incubating hardware startups? Do they have a good wood and metal shop? What would they say their main funding stream is?

    Pictures would be awesome to see. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Classroom

    @arasbm, I would say incubation and physical builds are not the focus of this space. There is no wood or metal shop, and the physical builds seem to be limited to staff rebuilding one of their 3d printers. Things here are really geared towards digital production, and their recording studio seems to be booked solid. Funding for the physical space and staff is 100% from the Edmonton Public Library system, but they mentioned that they have received some donations (mostly cash, and a 3d printer or two).

    I’m set up on one of their computers now and am working on some school projects today, I will probably report in again on my experience later. I will try to grab some pics, but there are a few on their website (linked above).

    ENTS is another makerspace in Edmonton that is much closer to K3 in terms of structure, I also plan to visit them while i’m here. Their hack night is Tuesday so if you have any other questions post them here and I’ll try to get them answered. I will contact them today to let them know i’m planning on going Tuesday and see if I can get a tour and chat with one of their directors.

  • @kile very exciting! ENTS does look very interesting. From the pictures it looks like they are in an industrial building with very high ceilings, which should really help in creating efficient wood working and metal working spaces. See if they have a welding or blacksmithing area. I am also very jelous and curious about their pottery studio.

    Here are a few other questions that pop in my head:

    • How they manage access to tools?
    • How do they train new members for using tools
    • How do they handle tool maintenance?
    • Do they share materials and consumable?
    • How do they handle member storage?
    • What is their policy for member projects being stored at the space?
    • What are their main sources of income? What percentage is membership and what is donations and grants like?
    • Do they do big fundraising events? If so, what kind of event?

    I can probably go on for a while, but I am sure a lot of these questions are in your head as well. They will probably be ok with you taking lots of pictures and videos of their space. I look forward to seeing what lessons you will bring back from your visit.

    Thanks again @kile , this is awesome!

  • Design Lab

    This IS awesome - way to go Special Agent @kile ! lol

    Checking out ENTS, and ran into this fun idea: HACKSPACE PASSPORTS:

    Can wait to see some picks from your visit and thanks for sharing.

  • Classroom

    Episode 2: Deep Recon at the EPL Makerspace

    So I spent the day at the Edmonton Public Library makerspace, and I have to say the program is a great thing. As mentioned the program is funded (quite well, it seems) by the EPL system (read municipal gov’t).

    A large part of the role of the EPL seems to be in providing access to computers. Their maker space is almost an extension of these services. All of the computers in the space are password locked, and staff are required to unlock them (passwords are not given out). This is not an issue as there are always staff to be found. While unlocking the computers, the staff interact with clients to find out the nature of the projects in order to ensure that the computers are being used for creative activities, or for other tasks that could not be performed on the libraries typical web browsing/word processing machines (which are abundant and well used in the main area). The maker space staff are all very approachable and also help clients with low computer literacy skills to perform tasks such as setting up email accounts, and accessing photos from cellphones for example. If the computers in the space are fairly busy and the makerspace assistant decides that the project (watching youtube videos for example) could be performed on another machine, then they will book a console outside of the space for the person. One staff member told me that it was entirely up to their discretion how to handle the computer use policy, and as long as there was at least one mac and one pc available he didn’t ask what people wanted to do. He figured it is better for the computers to be used.

    The space is in a fairly high foot traffic area right in downtown (Enterprise Square), and I noticed a great number of people wander through to check out the space during the day. Their main 3d printer (a Machina X20 for those who know about such things) was running constantly throughout the day on a number of projects, as were the two located in the staff office/storage space. The computers were well utilized, but still there was almost always at least one mac and 3 pcs available throughout the day. Two people cut projects on the vinyl cutter.

    I made good use of the giant monitor for the day, and make a bunch of progress that I can say I would not have worked on otherwise.

    Obviously this program is VERY different that what is going on at k3, but it makes me wonder what we could help happen in Kamloops if we could get the TNRD and/or SD73 engaged in funding something. I overheard a conversation between a makerspace assistant and recent immigrant who was well educated in robotics. He encouraged the gentleman to get involved in either an informal capacity by attending their robotics workshops to help out (a makerspace lego robotics workshop was in fact happening across the building), or in a formal capacity by getting involved in the EPL “Technical Experts” program if he wanted to teach some of their classes, or develop classes of his own.

    Something like this at the kamloops library, evens scaled down would be great. Apparently there is a librarian at the EPL was instrumental in making their makerspace happen, who also happens to be a director of ENTS. Hopefully I will run into them tuesday at their open house.

    Stay tuned next Tuesday for Episode 3: Recon o’ENTS. Same bat time, same bat channel.

  • Design Lab

    @kile great post thank you

  • Classroom

    Episode 3: Recon o’ENTS

    Okay just got back from ENTS (thanks for the ride Michael) and it is late, but I promised an episode tonight so this is going to be a short one. I will post again with more details and pictures in the next few days.

    The Edmonton New Technology Society is fucking killing it. I got tours from a couple of the directors Richard and Michael, and both were incredibly helpful and informative. ENTS has been around for about 7 years and is currently in their third location, which is a shop space of a few thousand square feet. I will talk about the layout with pictures in a followup.

    Here is a picture of their lounge (hopefully) that was sent automatically to their chatroom with an announcement that a particular member had arrived at the space, which was triggered by this member swiping their key fob to get into the space (an option members can elect to disable). Members can also store credits on their fobs (that could either be purchased, traded, or given out by the space), and spend the credits on items such as the RFID pop machine in the lounge. This system is the final stages of testing (soon to be implemented), and is designed to be used for all types of consumables.

    Michael is super into administration, like super into it. He was very outspoken and blunt about his ideas on a number of topics of how a makerspace should be operated, and I have to say I agreed with his perspective most of the time. This deserves a thread of its own, and I will start one and share the documents once I get a chance, but Michael (and others) have formed a google group for makerspace administrators from different locations in Canada to share resources. It is called the Canadian Coalition of Creative Spaces. He has been extremely helpful already, and will be a great resource for us in the future.

    @arasbm, my laptop is dying, and I could plug it in, but I want to see if I can answer these and hit submit before it goes!

    • How they manage access to tools?
      Seems to be a free-for-all, just like us
    • How do they train new members for using tools
      Mostly one-on-one, they only do a couple workshops a year currently.
    • How do they handle tool maintenance?
      Mostly fix it in house or throw it out it seemed.
    • Do they share materials and consumable?
      Yes. They have many components and consumables available and a fairly scripted statement that goes something like “If you need a little bit of something that is great, but if you need most of something then it is probably time to be bringing your own”. Richard and Michael both said it very close to that, and added that many consumables are abundant because “nobody wants to be that guy”.
    • How do they handle member storage?
      I think most of their members return home daily. AH HAHAHAHA
    • What is their policy for member projects being stored at the space?
      I will post about this with pictures.
    • What are their main sources of income? What percentage is membership and what is donations and grants like?
      ENTS income is nearly 100% membership based. They will take donations, but do not solicit them, and are not in the sport of grant writing. They currently have around 60 members and dues are $75 (with a student membership option, and exceptions as required on a case-by-case basis). Everyone is a key holder (with a super fob).
    • Do they do big fundraising events? If so, what kind of event?

    So to sum it up, these guys seem great. They have offered up all of their documentation, the code for their superfob system, and many other great ideas for the use of the Kamloops Makerspace. Plus I got some sweet hearing thermometer posters. We need way more hearing protection for the shop.

    2% battery left, awesome. Stay tuned for episode 4!

  • Design Lab

    @kile this is the most epic update from the field ever - tank you so much for your text and images, @kile.

    Lets scoop some do-able take-aways, and drop em into our structure.

  • @kile
    Thanks for coming out, you’re welcome back anytime. Like I said, feel free to drop into our chatroom anytime if you’ve got questions.

    We’re currently working on a fancy OctoPrint integration to be able to poll the status of any of the numerous printers in the shop. We’re currently at 5 printers but expect to have 7-8 by the end of Feb, if everyone’s plans come together.

    The integration will be published to GitHub like the rest of our stuff. So if anyone’s interested they’re welcome to use or improve it.


  • Classroom

    Episode 4: Recon o’ENTS in words and pictures.

    Okay so this one is a bit delayed but here it is. Thanks so much @kulps-ENTS for hosting me, I’m glad that you found our forum.

    I mentioned in a previous post that ENTS are in a warehouse style space that must be close to a few thousand square feet. As you walk into the space one of the first things you see on the left are the “dirty shops”. Here is the entrance to their wood (left) and metal (right) shops, with their safety gear prominently featured between the two.

    Here is a view of their woodshop. Note the tablesaw/router table combo. The two tools share a fence and mounted this way give extra support for working large sheets on either tool.

    And here is an image that I find inexplicably stirring. This one I have titled “woodshop porn”.
    When the blue clamps went on sale at princess auto, @kulps-ENTS drove around and cleared out all of the clamps in all of the stores in Edmonton. Most of that wall was filled for $250.

    Here is a couple of views of their metal shop. I like the fold down table idea for a space saving workbench.

    Coming out of the shops there is some project storage in the hall. The front door is behind the camera, notice how long the space is looking into the main room.

    Once you get out of the “dirty shops”, the rest of the warehouse is pretty open. Here is some sexy rolling storage in their main area:

    They have a bunch of tables in the main area, all equipped with power.

    Here is a pic of @kulps-ENTS. A big ol’ grease board is visible in the background.

    At the back of their main space is the section devoted to 3d printing (seemed very busy on hack night).
    There are actually 5 WORKING 3d printers there! Along the back wall notice the stockpile of components. These are all free and shared. Read about the consumables policy in the post above if you are interested.

    To the right of 3d printing is the electronics bench.

    To the right of that, over the short wall, is their pottery studio. This is a new addition for them within the past couple months, and has already driven many new members to their space. In fact, they are already expanding the pottery area.

    Back towards the entrance there is a printer area. There are 3 workstations where the gentleman is seated. The other person standing is in front of a CNC milling station. Notice the plotter in the background and vinyl cutter in the foreground.
    And here is a closeup of their itsy bitsy teeny weeny laser. (Yay, one area where we are unquestionably further along: LASER POWER!).

    And last of all here is a really cool project that they are in the final stages of testing for. Their membership tracking software (aMember pro) is linked to their door entry system. Some code that they have modified allows a “credit” plugin where there RFID fobs also store credits which can be used for consumables, for example a tasty beverage from here:
    A member used to work for fountain tire, and they have received these touch-screen consoles as a donation:
    They plan to hack these units to be their credit mgmt system where members can purchase or trade credits for their fobs. Ultimately they plan to expand this system to deal with other types of consumables as well.

    ENTS has offered to share any of the code for portions of this system that we may decide to implement. I am beyond useless when it comes to code, so I will write a bit more about this in a separate topic, with a link to their GitHub so that anyone who knows what they are looking at can weigh in and voice their opinion on wether or not this may be a good fit for us.

    If anyone is ever in Edmonton I would highly recommend checking out ENTS, these guys have been really approachable and super helpful. Thanks again ENTS!

  • If anyone wants a better look around our space, you can join our chatroom at and query the camera system. We just installed 5 additional cameras, so you can really get a good look around, the aerial shots are sometimes easier to see the floorplan from.
    I just captured all these shots now, so you’ll see some lit shops and some dark areas.

    As kile said, we try to be super available and would love another space to share in some of the tools we use. We’ve started to customize a lot of the stuff to our needs, but your needs are likely pretty similar. If we could work towards a common goal, that’d be great.

    If anyone has questions about ENTS or our experience I’m happy to answer them or at least offer what insight I can.

    7_1485908020960_Workspace.jpg 6_1485908020960_Woodshop2.jpg 5_1485908020960_Woodshop.jpg 4_1485908020960_Pottery2.jpg 3_1485908020959_Pottery1.jpg 2_1485908020959_Metalshop2.jpg 1_1485908020959_Metalshop.jpg 0_1485908020958_Electronics.jpg