Nicknamed “Silicon Valley North,” Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa, Ontario, is known for innovation and is home to roughly 1,700 tech firms. In 2010, it was also host to the very first Maker Faire in Canada: the Ottawa Mini Maker Faire. Gaining traction and support over the past five years, the event organizers are gearing up for yet another first: the inaugural Maker Faire Ottawa, the first large-scale featured Maker Faire in Canada, taking place November 7 and 8 at the historic 33,000-square-foot Aberdeen Pavilion. We salute the team on their hard work and chatted with one of the organizers, Remco Volmer, to find out more.
What was the main impetus for organizing Maker Faire Ottawa?
The original impetus was one of our members being one of the first 10 people to get a Makerbot CupCake in 2009. We quickly got one for our lab as well, and collectively put it together. As we were the only proto-makerspace in the region, we quickly drew a large community of hackers and Makers to our space.
All this led us to connect with Make: and apply to host a Mini in 2010, the first one in Canada. It was an immediate hit, and we’ve grown in leaps and bounds ever since, moving the Faire first to Shopify’s lounge space and from there to the Canadian Science and Technology Museum. In 2013, we had the distinction of being the fastest-growing Mini worldwide, which resulted in our invitation to become a feature Faire this year, again a Canadian first. We will rise to the occasion, highlighting the creative spirit, powerful entrepreneurial energy, and incredible curiosity of our city and its people.
Here’s their fun video from the 2013 Mini:
Who is involved with organizing the event?
Maker Faire Ottawa is produced by Artengine, an interdisciplinary research-creation laboratory, developing projects at the convergence of technology, new media, art, and design. Artengine is also working with Design 1st, a leader in connected hardware product design, and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters to propose a lab that fosters innovation in design, prototyping, and new manufacturing within Ottawa’s new Innovation Centre.
What is your role?
Pretty much the same as Kermit the Frog on the Muppet Show, including the flailing arms.
What was the first Maker Faire you attended, what other Maker Faires have you attended, and what was your impression?
The first Maker Faire I attended was also the first Maker Faire in Canada: our 2010 Mini Maker Faire. It was a joyfully chaotic affair, spread out across several small spaces within our building, attracting a bewildered but excited audience. Since then, I’ve visited Faires in Toronto, Montreal, Eindhoven, and New York. It’s really interesting to see how the Faires take on the character of their city and how adaptable the event is. It’s not a franchise that imposes itself on a place — it’s a highly local expression of shared values.
Tell us about the Maker community in Ottawa. What, in your opinion, uniquely defines it?
Ottawa’s economic history is shaped by technology, both hardware and software, earning it the nickname “Silicon Valley North.” We have the National Research Council creating a lot of local expertise, as well as some 1,700 technology firms, including successful startups like Shopify, You.i TV, and Klipfolio. So we have this wealth of highly knowledgeable, creative people, who are often Makers at heart, who want to build and create for the sheer fun of it.
The tradition of hardware and the new surge of software innovation also mean that there’s a particular momentum towards IoT and wearables. We, as organizers, on the other hand, have a strong interest in how artists and designers interact with technology and how they can create a new aesthetic experience enabled by new technologies. Think drone graffiti and fashion-tech design. Our aim is for Maker Faire Ottawa to become a platform for the collision of these approaches. We’re excited to see what emerges.
What has the community response been so far?
The response has been incredible. We received triple the number of Maker applications this year, and there’s a strong buzz around town and beyond. In fact, the community support has been so strong that the Mayor of Ottawa will open the Faire and officially proclaim it “Maker Weekend.”
Ottawa Six-Pack Sampler
Here’s a sampling of six projects that will be on display at Maker Faire Ottawa. Head to the site to check out more Makers and glean all the information you need to attend and join the fun.
Kentucky Perfect by Robert Hengeveld
In Kentucky Perfect, rolls of sod are laid end to end along a narrow aluminum structure. A wheeled light assembly continually moves across the grass as if scanning it. This is occasionally interrupted by the rapid entrance of a reel mower that cuts back any growth of the last twenty minutes. The lights again return to its methodical sweeping. Periodically, a watering-boom also enters the stage misting the grass according to the atmospheric conditions. The project incorporates an intentionally overstated measure of technology to explore the very role that technology plays in the culture in which we live.
Firefly by Lumipendant
Our Fireflies are wearable, hackable, and quite social. These playful Fireflies flow through various light sequences based on human contact and socialization patterns while engaging their audiences into discussion and exchange. From a vantage point the keepers of the fireflies will paint an array of light, data, and human interaction into a new space.
Paparazzi Bots by Ken Rinaldo
The Paparazzi Bots is a series of autonomous robots each standing at the height of the average human. Comprised of multiple microprocessors, cameras, sensors, code, and robotic actuators on a custom-built rolling platform, they move at the speed of a walking human, avoiding walls and obstacles while using sensors to move toward humans. They seek one thing, which is to capture photos of people and to make these images available to the press and the world wide web as a statement of culture’s obsession with the “celebrity image” and especially our own images.
ScrewedCircuitz by Dan Rouleau
Based in Montreal, here at ScrewedCircuitz, we take the time, inspiration, and devotion to build that unique electronic musical instrument for your creative needs. Whether it’s for recording, sampling, live, haunted houses, movie production, or just to annoy your neighbor.
DIY CO2 Incubator by Pelling Lab
Biological incubators/bioreactors are great for anyone wanting to grow, genetically modify, and manipulate bacteria. However, if one wants to grow mammalian cells (eg. human cells, mouse cells, etc), incubators are required that control both temperature and the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Maintaining an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 5% is essential for maintaining the pH of common mammalian cell culture media. There are some CO2-independent media formulations on the market but they can be expensive. At Pelling Lab, I gave myself the challenge of building one for under $500 and using as many recycled/found materials as possible. I built mine for ~$350.
Rapidly Deployable Automation System by Erin RobotGrrl Kennedy
The RDAS is a CubeSat rover robot that unfolds from a CubeSat form factor and begins to rove around. Optional control is available with the Tele-op Headband wearable.