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Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:17

Makerspace YXH at MHC sure to be a hit

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The open area, affectionately known as “Café Corner” in the Vera Bracken Library in the Medicine Hat College is about to get even busier later in February.

Medicine Hat College’s Carly Ridgewell, James Kuehn, and Leigh Cunningham are helping to spearhead a new initiative this February which will promote discussion, communication and an exchange of ideas.
Makerspace YXH is a pilot project which will take place at the Vera Bracken Library running Feb. 19-27. By definition, a Makerspace area “is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate.”
It was monikered Makerspace YXH, because “YXH”is the city of Medicine Hat’s twitter hashtag.
Initially, Makerspace YXH was just a tag used to identify the project internally amongst college staff working on it, but the reference eventually stuck as the program’s name. The trio are excited about its possibilities.
While they already have people ready to make time available to talk about their fields of work/study, they won’t release details publicly until everyone and the schedule is 100 per cent confirmed.
Suffice to say, this is a unique initiative for southeast Alberta.
“It’s pretty incredible the interest and the feedback already and we haven’t really gone outside the college’s walls, other than our speakers, to discuss it,” explains Kuehn who adds there’s creative, engineering arts and technology as some of the themes of interest. “It’ll be interesting going forward.
“We want people with zero knowledge of things too. We want totally different perspectives on things. It’s not exclusive by any means ... the beauty of it with this is, if people are talking about something and they’re unsure or need clarification, we’ve got the books right here to do it ... it’s the perfect place for that fluid Makerspace idea.”
For Ridgewell, a library services specialist in technology and for Cunningham, the collection and instruction librarian, they were looking to do some space reconfiguration within the college’s library.
Simultaneously, Kuehn was looking to start some program to garner some ideas and bring like-minded people together who may normally not have the reason or opportunity to do so.
“We wanted to give James the space he needed  and it gives what we wanted to do in utilizing the space more,” explains Ridgewell. “Then we can make the Makerspace a more permanent area.”
Kuehn, a 2-D–3-D digital designer by trade, is an instructor teaching the college’s computer-aided drafting and design course as well as 3-D printer courses to the public.
With the explosion in popularity, designs and uses of 3-D printing technology, Kuehn was looking to expand knowledge for everyone. He had heard about the Makerspace concept and explored the idea of starting it in Medicine Hat.
“The buy-in was pretty easy,” explains Kuehn. “There’s an appetite for that kind of environment. We have the facility and it’s nice to be able to step out of our daily routines and do this.”
Makerspace YXH’s wheels started in motion with the college group making calls to experts in southeast Alberta to gauge the interest. The general idea was definitely lauded which set the wheels in motion to set up a schedule. How each expert will utilize his or her space and time is up to each individual.
As of press time there were already 14 presenters.
“We’ll have a blocks of time set aside for everyone and we’ll see what works. People can just drop in,” explains Cunningham. “There will be someone there at all times and someone form the college to (moderate) assist.
“It’s not just going to be stuff in a room either. There’s going to be discussion and support.”
Ridgewell says there are many different formats which can be used. It can just be a group of people getting together to chat or it could be starting as a lecture and then just the addition of “participatory elements” to get dialogue flowing. Regardless, having people talking about anything from 3-D printing ideas and uses to knitting to power engineering to eco-tourism is enticing.
“It’s a human nature thing; you get like-minded people with similar interests and get them in a room — there’s real joy and you get interested,” explains Ridgewell. “You can see the spark or light in their eyes when talking about things.”
Kuehn says there has been a lot of discussion about the concept. Because he also works with Athabasca University and others involved work with the Esplanade, more dialogue about this will inevitably lead to more discussions and exchanges of ideas in other areas. There are many potential lucrative spin-offs figuratively and intellectually and the Makerspace initiative could really take off.
Cunningham and Kuehn are cautiously optimistic, but are eagerly anticipating the possibilities.
“I know it will be popular,” says Ridgewell. “When James came in to discuss it, I knew, but now it’s much larger than I thought ... We want them to come here and show and create and learn. We want everyone to have fun.”
More details of exact times will be made available. Check Twitter for updates: @MakerspaceYXH, @mhclibrary or @jameskuehn.

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Ryan Dahlman

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