Blog
2018
10
12

STEAMLabs’ Innovation Evolution

STEAMLabs has been a leader in maker education innovation since it began eight years ago. Our initial vision took hold after running a tinkering summer camp for 10 kids out of a garage. We wanted everyone to have access to maker culture, a newly emerging movement at the time. Back then, these kinds of spaces were only available to adults. Soon after, STEAMLabs incorporated as a not for profit organization and opened the first makerspace for youth in Canada.

Since then STEAMLabs has expanded to serve hundreds of thousands of youth over numerous camps, march breaks, workshops, after school programs and more. In addition, we helped numerous educational spaces such as school, libraries, and science centres set up their own makerspaces.

Three years ago, the organization evolved again and set-up operations at a much larger space at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) at 192 Spadina, becoming one of the first all-ages makerspaces in Canada. With this transition, the organization experimented with becoming a community makerspace –  expanding to include adult memberships and programs, alongside a focus in youth programs and educator training.

In the time since, the maker movement has continue to grow and evolve. Makerspaces can now be found in universities, businesses, incubators, buses, schools, libraries, churches, museums, and science centres. This kind of resource is accessible to people like never before.

Over the past three years, we have seen that the gap in accessibility to maker culture is now more nuanced. Having access to a makerspace is not a huge barrier anymore; however, effective facilitation and accessible activities are still challenges for many organizations. The biggest successes over STEAMLab’s lifetime have been in these areas of Education Innovation, which have enabled us to make the biggest impact. Our core vision, has also evolved – it’s not simply to make maker culture available to everyone, we want to help create a world through education innovation where:

People understand and can think critically about science and technology, have equitable access to it, and can use it to solve their personal challenges, improve their communities and make the world a better place.

As a non-profit, we have a duty to use the resources we’ve been given to achieve our mission in the most effective way possible. After some careful reflection, we’ve decided to evolve again and move towards a Distributed Makerspace Model, again a first in Canada, wherein we will no longer operate a makerspace ourselves, but partner with others who operate these spaces. This will allow us to focus our core efforts and resources on Education Innovation, providing training for educators and innovating new learning experiences.

Together with you and the wider maker community, we have built an excellent makerspace, and we want to ensure its future as a resource to the people of Toronto. To secure that future, we have been exploring the option of another organization taking over the operations of the makerspace and we’ve found a wonderful solution.

As of November 1st, the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy, a long-time CSI member and registered charity, who operate the Toronto Tool Library and its Danforth makerspace, will take over the makerspace at CSI Spadina. STEAMLabs will no longer be involved in the day to day operations, however, we will continue to run youth programs and educator training at the Spadina makerspace and other locations.

We are working on the membership transition plan and will host a public discussion on Oct 25th, 2018 for both STEAMLabs and Toronto Tool Library members. We have sent out a notice to all members with what the transition will entail, and have answered questions below.

Q & A

As of November 1st, the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy (IRBE), a long-time CSI member and registered charity, who operate the Toronto Tool Library and its Danforth makerspace, will take over the makerspace at CSI Spadina.

As of November 1st, 2018, the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy (who have operated the Toronto Tool Library), a long-time CSI member and non-profit, community operated makerspace, will take over running the operations of the makerspace at CSI, 192 Spadina Ave. STEAMLabs will no longer be involved in the day to day operations, however, we will continue to run youth programs and educator training at the new IRBE space and other locations. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for you. Below are some Q&A we have anticipated. If you have more questions, please email our Executive Director Andy Forest  and we’ll respond as soon as we can.  We’ll also be hosting a Member’s Information Night on Oct 25th from 4:00 to 9:00 pm.

 

What does this transition from STEAMLabs to IRBE operations mean for makerspace members?

In November and December, your membership fees will be collected by STEAMLabs and passed on to IRBE. You’ll pay your fees and book your tool use through Mindbody system as usual.

By January, members wanting access to the 192 Spadina makerspace will be expected to have transitioned their memberships to IRBE. 

We know that many members maintain a monthly membership solely to support the STEAMLabs non-profit and our activities supporting makers of all ages – scholarships, free programs, open source program development and more. IRBE is a great supporter of STEAMLabs, and will be providing facilities and other resources to help us continue our programs downtown. We want to give IRBE a running start at operating this new location, and hope that you will transfer your monthly patronage to them with one of their membership options.

 

What does this transition from STEAMLabs to IRBE operations mean for makerspace community animators?

As makerspace members, your exchange memberships will be honoured at the 192 Spadina makerspace under the new operation. Community animators form the core of our member experience, and it is our intention that you play a key role in ensuring a smooth transition to IRBE operating the space and welcoming the IRBE members. IRBE also maintains a rich volunteer community to support their operations, so there will be opportunities to continue volunteering with them. Stay tuned!

 

Will all the tools still be at the 192 Spadina space?

The new Makerspace at 192 Spadina will maintain a similar set of tools to what existed in STEAMLabs. In addition there will be a branch of the Toronto Tool Library on site with a selection of tools, board games, and camping gear to borrow.

 

Will there be new tools?

Within the branch of the Toronto Tool Library there will be a wide selection of tools – everything from air compressors and framing nailers, to soldering irons and button makers. TTL welcomes requests for new tools!

 

Will there be kids programs?

Yes! STEAMLabs will continue to operate our kids and educators programs in the makerspace as before. IRBE will preserve a program space in the makerspace for us to run weekend workshops, evening classes, summer camps, winter camps, march break camps and more.

However, it will take them some time to set up their Tool Library and other infrastructure, so some of our kids programs will be held only at our Maker Bean location in November and December.

Zero to Startup, Unity on Wednesdays and Minecraft Pro on Sundays will continue as usual at 192 Spadina. Inventioneering, Imagineering and our Winter Break camps will be held at the Maker Bean.

 

What about educator programs?

STEAMLabs will continue to run our maker educator boot camp, 2-day robotics camp, teacher training and more.

 

What about other adult programs?

IRBE will bring its suite of programs to the new 192 Spadina location, and add day and evening workshops in woodworking, home renovation and DIY, electronics, and more!

 

Will our STEAMLabs memberships be honoured at IRBE?

Your STEAMLabs membership will be honoured during November and December. After that date you can transition to a new IRBE membership package.

 

Why did you make this decision?

Eight years ago when we started STEAMLabs, we wanted everyone to have access to maker culture, a newly emerging movement at the time. Over the past three years, we have seen that the gap in accessibility to maker culture is more nuanced. Having access to a makerspace is not a huge barrier anymore, they’ve popped up in libraries, businesses, schools, science centres, universities, churches, and museums. However, effective facilitation and accessible activities are still challenges for many organizations. The biggest successes over STEAMLab’s lifetime have been in these areas of Education Innovation, providing training for educators and innovating new learning experiences, which enable us to make the biggest impact of our core vision, in which:

People understand and can think critically about science and technology, have equitable access to it, and can use it to solve their personal challenges, improve their communities and make the world a better place.

 

Who are you partnering with on your new Distributed Makerspace Model?

We have already partnered with many organizations in Canada and around the World and are currently delivering programs at the Ontario Science Centre, the Makerbean cafe, Toronto Public Libraries and more. We have also co-developed programs and done training with many other organizations such as the Timmins school board, the Pacific Science Centre, several science centres in Norway as well as many local organizations such as Kids Learning Code, Kids Code Jeunesse, the Textile Museum, Story Planet and more.

 

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