YuKonstructing a home for the territory’s inventors

Imagine if there was a space where you could build anything from cuckoo clocks to computer servers, a space where the community could come together and share ideas, expertise, tools and creativity.

Imagine if there was a space where you could build anything from cuckoo clocks to computer servers, a space where the community could come together and share ideas, expertise, tools and creativity.

“And imagine if that space existed here in Whitehorse,” said Ben Sanders on Tuesday night, speaking to a room packed with 200 people.

It was the kick-off of the YuKonstruct project, a plan to create a co-operative workshop, studio and design suite for Yukon artists, tinkerers, hobbyists and craftspeople.

Sanders is essentially captaining the project. He said the idea came from the Department of Economic Development’s tech and telecom team.

“We went out and started talking to the community, asking for input and advice. What we heard was that people didn’t have the space to build things, or they didn’t have the tools, or they didn’t have the other half of the knowledge to capitalize on an idea,” Sanders said.

Tuesday night’s event was a chance to gauge public interest in the project, as well as gather ideas for shaping the space and its goals.

So-called makerspaces have been popping up across North America in recent years. They range in size and structure from small clubs of a few dozen people working out of a garage to professional design suites and construction spaces with hundreds of members.

Sanders spent his Christmas holiday touring other makerspaces in North America, getting ideas for what could be built here.

“The one in Winnipeg seemed like a model I’d like to see happen here. It’s the biggest. It’s got a little bit more of a leadership team, and it has a specific goal to start businesses. That has helped them acquire more space, more tools, and they’re actually seeing products and services evolve from that space,” Sanders said.

Right now, most Yukon entrepreneurs have to go Outside to access prototyping technology and specialized tools to bring their ideas to life. Sanders wants to see that work stay in the territory.

“The next steps are to have a meeting with the people who come forward and say they want to build it. We need to find a space. We need to find some tools. Three or four companies have already come up to me and said they want to pledge their support in one way or another,” he said.

At Tuesday’s event, the organizers brought together dozens of inventors and craftspeople to show off the kinds of creations that could grow out of a Yukon makerspace. The event was such a huge success, “we had to order another 200 slices of pizza,” Sanders said.

Thirteen-year-old Sam Fleming was one of the most impressive inventors at the event.

He built himself a stand-alone computer server and website, and he’s never taken a computer engineering class.

“I have a Raspberry Pi. It’s a small credit-card sized microcomputer,” he says, proudly.

“I’m running a web server off of it, and on my Mac beside it I can access that web page. On the web page it asks you what your name is and your favourite colour. Then on the other screen it will say, welcome whatever your name was and your favourite colour. Then you can click back to the home page,” Fleming said.

“I kind of just taught myself. I think a space like this, it would be absolutely awesome. I’d use it all the time,” Fleming said.

Another craftsman, Thomas Jacquin, was showing off his computer numerical control machine, which he used to precision-carve an ornate wooden clock.

“I was online and I found a website of a guy doing wooden clocks. I really liked it so I asked for the electronic plans. At home, it runs for 15 hours. To build it, it took about two or three months,” he said.

It’s exactly this kind of creativity that Sanders wants to foster.

“The Yukon, there is a lot of creativity here. It seems to draw a certain type of person. What’s really interesting about the decentralization of manufacturing and design is that now you can come up to the Yukon for the lifestyle and plug into the Internet, build a product and sell it to the rest of the world without a geographic disparity being a problem.

“Maybe this could become a small Silicon Valley in the North, where you can mountain bike on the weekend and tap into the Internet and build things during the week. What’s great about it is that you can market to the whole world. We already have people flying in from Vancouver who are thinking about moving part of their business here because they see some of the excitement and the energy,” Sanders said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read