Making stuff, for no definitive purpose, is a trend that's catching on in Regina. Everyone, from adults using laser cutters and 3D printers, to Grade 1 students in schools, is taking part in the makerspace movement.
Bill Tubbs is a maker. About five days a week he heads to CrashBang Labs, Regina's non-profit maker space. It has everything he needs, from 3D printers and laser cutters, to electronics and computer parts — all the necessary tools to make whatever pops into his head.
Right now he's working on an LED light display. He's arranged about 100 LEDs on a board, and programmed them to change colour as the one next to them changes colour. If that sounds useless, it's because it is.
"My nine to five job is about doing things for a reason, and adding value, so when I get home at night I still have other ideas, and I just need an outlet for that," Tubbs said. "I'll have an idea and it's just great to implement it, even if I don't really know whether that's going to help anybody or produce an interesting result."
To many makers, the process is just as important as the end result. For adults the process often means learning more about programming and electronics. For children it means gaining valuable problem-solving skills.
Makerspace moves into school classrooms
Step into Danielle Maley's Grade 1/2 class at W.S. Hawrylak School, and you'll see little Tegan Rhind making a maraca with her friend. It's a plastic bottle, filled with beads, and wrapped in colourful tape for decoration.
"I don't necessarily want a craft because most of the time in Grade 1 or 2 that's what they're used to making is something pretty, or something crafty, this cookie cutter idea of what they want, and I tell them I don't want that." - Danielle Maley, Grade 1/2 teacher at W.S. Hawrlak School
"I just wanted to make an instrument because I thought it would be cool if we ever wanted to make our little own band in our club. We could take this outside and make music," Tegan said.
Maley said the process of just making something is a great way for students to learn.
"Literally I just say I'd like you to create something," she said. "I don't necessarily want a craft because most of the time in Grade 1 or 2 that's what they're used to making is something pretty, or something crafty, this cookie cutter idea of what they want, and I tell them I don't want that."
When Maley discusses the projects with the children, she tries to ask open-ended questions to help them learn. For example, Maley asked Tegan how she could make her maraca produce a different sound. In another instance, a group of girls were making a bird feeder originally planned to have straws for birds to suck the seeds out. After some discussion, they decided birds couldn't suck, and moved onto different strategies.
"Children, when they're given time to just create or work on their own passions, have astounded me in what they can create," Maley said. "So this time is basically meant for them to show me their creativity and allow that creativity which we sometimes stifle at schools."