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FabLab™ membership opens up more opportunities for members

Emelia Nyarku - North Forge Operations Specialist

The Author – Emelia Nyarku, Operations Specialist with North Forge Technology Exchange

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The North Forge Fabrication Lab (FabLab™) holds a range of rapid prototyping equipment to help members realize their projects and spur ideas into their own businesses.

For many, their first impression of the FabLab is at a Tuesday evening open house tour where they can see the space, the equipment available and meet some members working on their projects. Leaving a tour, you will feel inspired and be full of ideas; however, one thing that isn’t quite as visible are the unseen opportunities that can present themself as you become a new member of the fabrication lab. 

Volunteering

Thomas Tataryn - FabLab member
Thomas Tataryn – FabLab member & volunteer

Thomas Tataryn learned about the FabLab during its early days while looking for something to occupy his time. He dove right in as a volunteer after hearing about the space from his dad. “When I first joined, I was only here for a couple of months, but it was when they were building the walls to the CNC room. I helped them build,” remembers Thomas.

Thomas was interested in the lasers, so he learned how to use the equipment and made some jewellery but then moved away. After coming back to Winnipeg a few years later, he decided to rejoin the FabLab, and his interest in lasers and jewellery making was reignited. While spending more time at the FabLab, Thomas connected with other members and took on contract jobs, helping to support their business. How the FabLab was operating and who the people were making it run soon became an interest. Thomas started attending the FabLab member council meetings. “I would show up to member council whenever I could even though I never had anything to say, but I really wanted to know, what was going on.”

Member Council

The North Forge FabLab member council is a group of members who regularly volunteer their time to help manage areas of the fabrication lab, including training, tours, cleaning, security and volunteering. Updates, news, issues and events at the FabLab are discussed and shared for member council and members to provide feedback. Meetings are held weekly with all FabLab members invited to join, or they can review the meeting minutes to see what’s going on. Member council leads have specific assigned roles to help support the FabLab and dedicate regular volunteer hours.

“I wanted to have the training role when one became available because I just thought it would be fun; it would be a nice way to contribute, and eventually I got into the lasers,” explains Thomas. He’s been a trainer for the laser equipment with North Forge for two years now and last year took on the role of training lead on the member council. 

Mentorship

Met Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship (MICE) program
Met Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship (MICE) program

The opportunities can pop up unexpectedly at the FabLab and they are not always related to the equipment on-site. A post from 2021 in the FabLab Slack workspace was looking for a mentor to provide coding and programming instruction for the Met Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship (MICE) program. This call-out piqued Thomas’ attention and gave him the chance to teach and share his knowledge in another skill. “I really do like it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s taught me a lot about programming. You don’t know how much you don’t know until you start teaching. It has also helped with me being able to just talk and speak off the cuff which is something I always struggle with so it’s been very beneficial for me.” shares Thomas.

Connecting with the community

The opportunities to connect with others in the community with various skills and backgrounds have also been a plus for members.  

Avery-Anne Gervais - Founder of TinyMakerMind
Avery-Anne Gervais – Founder of TinyMakerMind

Avery-Anne Gervais is the owner of TinyMakerMind, which makes heirloom quality alphabet blocks made from maple and cherry hardwood at the FabLab. Since learning about the FabLab years ago Avery-Anne has had the chance to take on a few opportunities since she first joined.

“There was a teacher at RRC Polytech who brought me over and gave me a tour. I wanted to build a prototype for my entrepreneurship project and I got to meet a few other members to discuss the project,” says Avery-Anne. She didn’t become a member of the FabLab immediately but was able to get a desk in the coworking space and eventually joined the FabLab as a member. By reaching out to other members she was able to design and send her first prototype to her first overseas customer. Her skills were also sought after by another member who connected her with a new work opportunity that ended up taking her time away from the FabLab. To keep up with the business demands of TinyMakerMind she ended up enlisting Thomas Tataryn’s help with production for TinyMakerMind.

“Thomas and I knew of each other and I knew he could run the lasers. Neither of us remembers how it happened but he just stepped up to start doing them. And now he’s never stopped.”

TinyMakerMind alphabet box gift set
TinyMakerMind alphabet box gift set created at the FabLab

In addition to her own business, Avery-Anne Gervais has taken on a leadership role as co-chair of the FabLab member council, is part of the safety committee and recently started providing training on the lasers. The chance to join the member council and take on a leadership role has been exciting for Avery-Anne.

“That was really exciting for me and I was super happy because I think that there are lots to improve, members always have lots to say and I think it’s easy to motivate people to do stuff around here,” says Avery-Anne. For her, the benefits of membership include the connections that are made within the community. 

“It’s all about access to people and support and in an environment of people who share the same values as you who have started in the same place as you,” says Avery-Anne.

Rapid Prototyping with Advanced Manufacturing Equipment

 FabLab’s Water Jet Cutting TableDennis Bergen, a product designer with Barkman Concrete, joined the FabLab close to four years ago after his boss asked him and a colleague to go down and check it out. The 3D printers were the first pieces of equipment Dennis used to print different site furnishings like benches and picnic tables for Barkman. At the FabLab new equipment means new opportunities for business. Last year when the FabLab bought an OMAX waterjet cutting table, this helped them speed up their production. 

“We didn’t have that (waterjet) before and now that it’s come online at North Forge we’ve definitely been using it, which we weren’t expecting to use before.” explains Dennis “The CNC is the main item we use for prototyping and now the waterjet can speed up our development time.” The experience and knowledge of other members and business owners have been valuable to Dennis’ membership. 

“At the start, we didn’t understand how to run a business, there’s a lot of paperwork etc. that you just don’t really know about. Here there are so many business owners that it’s easy just to go over and talk to somebody and ask questions,” explains Dennis. 

Dennis has been able to tap into the knowledge of other members while going through the steps of starting his own business.  Zealous Decor was started by Dennis and his wife Emily while in University as they were exploring business ideas and looking to have a hobby that they could do together. “Once I started working at the FabLab with Barkman I was like well here we go, now we have the machinery so we can get started,” says Dennis. Zealous Decor designs and produces original concept wooden decor pieces with each product laser cut and stained. 

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Next Steps

Are you ready to see what the North Forge Fabrication Lab can offer you? 

Come down for an open house tour or to learn more about the FabLab connect with Marney Stapley, Vice President of North Forge at mstapley@northforge.ca

 

 

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