YuKonstruct bringing in the big guns

YuKonstruct, a co-operative workshop, studio and design space for Yukon artists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs, is getting a hefty cash boost from the Yukon government.

YuKonstruct, a co-operative workshop, studio and design space for Yukon artists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs, is getting a hefty cash boost from the Yukon government and purchasing some high-powered tools.

On Tuesday evening, the space at 135 Industrial Road was opened for its first build night with participants taking part in a workshop on light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

Coinciding with that project, Minister Currie Dixon was also on hand to announce $75,000 in funding for YuKonstruct.

With that money, YuKonstruct will be bringing in a laser-cutter, a plasma-cutter, a 3-D printer, an induction forge, a table saw and an industrial sewing machine.

The money comes from the Community Development Fund, which supports projects and events that “support community well-being, create jobs, generate spending on Yukon goods and services and have measurable social, cultural and economic benefits for Yukon residents and communities.”

The money is divided into three tiers ranging from $20,000 or less in Tier I to $75,000 or more in Tier III.

YuKonstruct aligns with the goals of the technology and telecommunications directorate, Dixon said.

It’s a branch of the Economic Development department created a year ago, Dixon said, to engage with an industry that was previously overlooked by most Yukoners.

The department provided the funding for YuKonstruct to lease its current location, but, Dixon said, in order to take the society to the next level and make it a true maker-space, they needed additional funding to purchase the large-scale items.

“What we’ve seen throughout Canada is when you create these maker-spaces you get a whole lot of entrepreneurs and smart people together and the business opportunities that come out of it are tremendous,” said Dixon.

“These are tools that are difficult for any individual to own, but this will allow us to give access and provide these tools to the community, and that’s pretty exciting for us,” said YuKonstruct spokesperson Alessia Guthrie.

Gathered in the space on Tuesday night, participants were provided materials to make several LED projects, including a keychain flashlight and a conductor tester.

There was also a space to learn how LEDs work and for users to make or work on their own projects.

The LEDs were sourced from Instructables.com, an online home for thousands of do-it-yourself projects.

Past YuKonstruct projects include sending a balloon rigged with two GoPro cameras, weather and temperature gauges and a GPS beacon into space.

The helium-filled balloon, launched from Yukon College, rose more than 100,000 feet, and then burst before parachuting back to Earth and landing about 50 kilometres east of Juneau, Alaska.

In May, YuKonstruct hosted Hacking Health at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, which drew more than 100 innovators from across western Canada.

The crowd gathered for 48 hours, brainstorming ideas to help improve health care in the North and then “hacked” those ideas to turn them into viable products.

Three projects from that event are moving forward, including an app called Yukon Baby. It’s a digital pregnancy pamphlet that can give expectant parents the information they need, while connecting them with doctors or midwives and other new parents in the territory.

A second app, called Reach Me, a project from social worker Leigh Ayton and web developer Andrew Kalek, provides those without a phone a type of online answering machine service.

Users, who may be waiting to hear back on housing or job opportunities, can dial into their own 867 phone number and a corresponding online voicemail box.

Contact Sam Riches at sam@yukon-news.com

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