Makerspace Profile: Gatineau Sustainable Makerspace

on November 19 | by

Each week, as we get to know our community and the broader IoT movement, we’re fortunate to connect with some remarkable individuals and organizations. In our “Makerspace Profile” series, we interview makerspace founders to learn more about the maker movement around the world.

In this profile, you’ll meet Gatineau Sustainable Makerspace based in Gatineau, Canada.

How did Gatineau Sustainable Makerspace start?

There are several inspirations and movements that lead to the starting of GSM.

1. Answering the needs of various communities within the region. After a period of observation and participation, this prompted the search by a group of us to help those communities more, while contributing in a meaningful and important way. These communities include Permaculture Ottawa, Transition Ottawa, various community garden groups and Earthships Ottawa. They all need to organise projects, get people engaged and to start “making constructive things happen” in their region. GSM’s projects can sometimes be described as “permablitzes” where specific projects are brought together by a group of people, usually mixed with food and fun.

2. Inspiration for the group also came from the film “Ecological Design: Inventing the Future” and two books: “Tools for Conviviality” (by Ivan Illich) and “Small is Beautiful” (by E.F. Schumacher). They outline the term “Appropriate Technology” as Gahdhi had used it, and the need for building stronger communities.

3. Other modern movements that inspired the formation of GSM included Open Source Ecology, the urban farming movement (such as Growing Power) and of course the Makerspace movement.

4. Social media: There needed to be a away to organize these projects without getting mired in administration – and to focus on action. The growth of social media in the past decade enables several groups to share information among members. Meetup.com was something that was familiar, relatively private, and cut down on administrative duties, so the group is now hosted on their site.

5. Permaculture design was used to organize and form the group. The Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario (http://eonpermaculture.ca/) helped in instructing how to apply permaculture design to social groups. These included using permaculture principles and ethics for a social group (a good example is here: http://permaculturenews.org/2013/02/08/social-permaculture-principles-in-action/).

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So it started first by observation and discovering what was needed in the existing community, then finding resources (our own backyards), beginning slow and small and so on. The model of a decentralised makerspace made sense considering that the group itself was intended to be sustainable and accessible to all.

There is no fee for being part of GSM, as we operate by donation – in order to benefit a broad range of people in the region.

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What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?

Since we are decentralized, various members provide resources for each other (these span from tools and equipment, to physical space). However, we do have a “community toolbox” (a shed in Gatineau) which houses donated equipment, material resources and tools. These include general tools, power tools, shovels, wood as well as special materials such as clay hydroponic growth medium, 250 gallon barrels and solarpanel equipment. Several members have special equipment (such as cement mixers, trailers and even space).

People resources include the talents and experience of engineers, entrepreneurs, architects, inventors and many others.

The group is also sharing seeds, tools and lends tools to each other.

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What does “hacking” mean to you and your community?

Hacking means re-purposing materials and even re-purposing social constructs (like the makerspace movement). Culture hacking would also encompass what the GSM group does: seeking change with little to no funding, in small groups and using limited resources.

Hacking in GSM means making positive change in our own backyards, and within our community, by working together with what we have – in spite of the momentous challenges facing all of us (energy use, food supply, water supplies, transportation challenges and so on). One of the goals is to boost our community resilience – through hacking.

Hacking is also means using things that help bind us together as a community: thing like food/meals, music (and the arts in general), games, and of course projects – all of these help bind and “make” communities. A recent example of that is Conflict Kitchen (http://conflictkitchen.org/).

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What projects are people working on?

We are working on an upgrade to our vermiculture composts (a workshop that was held earlier this year). DIY verical window gardens, a small greenhouse project, a rocketstove, simple irrigation reservoir system, making compost teas, bat houses, composting methods such as digesters, humanure composting).

Projects coming up include: building bicycle trailers, a workshop on bicycle repair and maintenance, solar food dehydrators, thermosyphons, cob ovens and rocketstoves, rotating composters, and a DIY brush chipper (to make mulch for gardens and to compost). Also various tours and other events.

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What are your future plans?

Building larger, more complex projects in small teams – aquaponics, living systems design, greywater remediation, passive solar heat and hydrokinetic generators. GSM is intended to be an incubator for business ideas, and to be a forum for experimenting with design and ideas. The plan is to help build ideas that can change communities for the better and help people develop their skills together.

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