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Lutselk'e innovation centre meant to help young people develop skills, spur economic development

A corporation aims to help young residents of Lutselk'e, N.W.T., develop skills and better their own community through what’s called the Dene DreamMaker Innovation Centre. It opened in February.

The Dene DreamMaker Innovation Centre opened in February

The Dene DreamMaker Innovation Centre is located in Lutselk'e, N.W.T. (Submitted by Ron Barlas)

A corporation aims to help young residents of Lutselk'e, N.W.T., develop skills and better the community's economy through what's called the Dene DreamMaker Innovation Centre.

"It's teaching them to fish for themselves rather than giving them the fish," said Ron Barlas, CEO of Denesoline Corporation.

The organization, which is fully Indigenous owned, is financing the centre. It's located in the organization's office in the community.

The room opened in February.

Young people can use video-game systems, virtual-reality equipment, 3D printers, coding and media software, and drones.

People, mainly aged between 10 and 20, have been attending learning sessions there on a weekly basis in groups of about 15.

"It's awesome. It's something fun to do," said Delsin Clarke, 11.

He said he's enjoyed playing around with the virtual-reality equipment and learning how to create things using a 3D printer.

"I made a 'Zelda' sword and a phone case," said Clarke.

He said he's been inspired to, one day, use the printer to create parts for cars in the community.

The Dene DreamMaker Innovation Centre has virtual-reality equipment. (Submitted by Ron Barlas)

The hope is the centre will spur kids to come up with solutions to issues residents face living in the isolated community, said Barlas.

Some of the projects being explored include 3D-printing parts for snowmobiles, and using drones for environmental monitoring and freight.

Later this month, Barlas will be part of a team judging projects participants put forward. Winners will get money to turn their ideas into a reality.

The plan is to also introduce an aeroponics farm in the community later this year, with local staff members, in the hopes of making the community more food secure.

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