Calgary makerspaces foster creativity and collaboration

Getting Creative: Scott Young works in the machine shop at Protospace in Calgary on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Protospace is a Calgary-based makerspace where members can create projects and collaborate with other members. (Photo by Carly Anderson/The Press)

For years, Scott Young was in search of a facility that had the tools, equipment, and space for him to work on creative hobbies, such as machining projects.

That was until he received an email from a facility called Protospace about an annual open house event that they were hosting.

Protospace is a facility known as a “makerspace.” Like many, Young did not know that term or that such facilities even existed when he was first searching for a place to work on machining, which made finding the kind of facility he was searching for rather difficult.

Machining equipment and tools, like those needed for woodworking, sewing, 3D printing and many other projects, can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and often take up large amounts of space. This leaves many without the option of pursuing these hobbies or prevents them from creating projects that require certain tools or equipment.

That is where makerspaces come in.

Makerspaces, which are sometimes referred to as hackerspaces, are community facilities that offer space, equipment, and tools to work on a variety of different projects. Many makerspaces are registered non-profits and run off of volunteer effort, such as Calgary’s Protospace.

Protospace has a variety of different equipment and tools, such as but not limited to, 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, welders, electronic repair tools, saws, and sanders.

On top of the tools and equipment offered, Protospace offers a collaborative and welcoming community with members who have an abundance of knowledge and expertise.

“There’s an incredible variety of knowledge and information here. I have yet to find something that I have expressed any interest in that no one here seems interested in,” said Young. Young is now an elected director of the facility, a position he volunteers to do.

Protospace also offers members classes and safety training. New members are required to take a free orientation and basic safety course before they can use the facility. Some members also hold classes on specific tools or skills which other members can sign up for, although there is often a fee for these classes.

“I’ve taken courses on home brewing and soap making here. We [also] have a course coming up on papermaking and bookbinding,” said Young.

The class schedule can be found on Protospace’s website.

Protospace is located in northwest Calgary and offers $55 monthly memberships, as well as a discounted student membership of $35 per month. They currently host an open house “Meet and Geek” event every Tuesday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. where they offer facility tours and membership sign-ups.

They encourage anyone interested in the facility and what they have to offer to come to this event to find out more about the space and how they can get involved.

In addition to Protospace, many post-secondary institutions in the city, including the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and SAIT, have makerspaces. These makerspaces tend to be open only to their respective students, staff, and faculty members, but they also tend to not have a membership fee.

“The whole idea behind it is that it is students coming together in a space and learning from each other to go and make their own projects and to learn new things,” said Jason Kent. Kent is the president of the SAIT Makerspace.

The SAIT Makerspace is available for SAIT students, faculty, and staff to use. It is located in the Thomas Riley building on SAIT’s main campus. Similar to Protospace, the SAIT Makerspace has tools such as 3D printers, a CNC router, computing equipment, and a sewing machine.

The SAIT Makerspace also has a helpful community similar to that of Protospace’s community, with members collaborating and offering knowledge and support to other members.

“I really like the community behind [the SAIT Makerspace]. Just people helping other people and if you need help with something, for the most part, there’s someone there that will have an idea or even just know who to talk to,” said Kent.

More information and a sign-up form for the SAIT Makerspace can be found on the SAIT Students’ Association website.

Another makerspace in Calgary is Fuse33, which is located in the southeast. They offer three different price-tiers of membership for people to choose from, depending on how much of the facility and equipment they wish to use and have access to. They also offer a variety of different courses and workshops for both members and non-members, as well as offering fabrication services to small businesses and communities.

Fuse33 memberships begin at $70 per month with a commitment of three months, and members are required to undergo a safety orientation before using equipment. Fuse33 also has a shop where people can purchase completed projects, DIY kits, and materials.

Meet the Maker: Scott Young poses in the machine shop at Protospace in Calgary on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Young joined Protospace after attending an open house event several years ago, and he is now a director of the facility. (Photo by Carly Anderson/The Press)
About Carly Anderson 7 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Carly Anderson worked as a writer for The Press in 2022.