Summer Lovin’, Had Me Some Hacks

You’ve just finished exams and are preparing to roll out of “INSERT-YOUR-UNI-HERE”. Whether you know if you’ve succeeded or not, we won’t live in the past. Finally! You can devote every waking minute to late-night mana-fueled explorations on the weird side of the internet. You fervidly scan through the MLH website and let out a horrified gasp.

There are barely any summer hackathons. (Oh wait.)

B-but what will you do now?

The answer is simple; hone your skills, weekend warrior.

Speaking from my perspective as a engineering student who wasn’t raised in a DIY-type household, I’ve had to place a lot of effort into exploring different resources in order to grow. Immersion is imperative when it comes to fostering any type of learning. If you’re looking for some inspiration this summer, check out these amazing maker-communities in the GTA and Kingston!

1. HackLab.TO- Toronto’s Hacker Collective (Toronto, ON)
Main website ://hacklab.to/

If I could describe my visits here in one word; cool, kewl, kül. I waltzed into their Open House one Thursday and was immediately swept into the rhythm of the place even though it was a low traffic night. If you’re looking for anything remotely resembling a cyberpunk’s lair, this is it. HackLab has been recently upgraded to a larger co-working space, with various rooms containing anything from a huge psychedelic LED board to an electronics workshop or even a biochemistry lab (you heard right, this makerspace is a jack of all trades). Offered the grand tour upon my arrival, I tested one member’s VR app (featuring Oculus Rift) and was offered help on any current hardware/software project. What’s more, I was escorted into the kitchen where the remnants of a potluck dinner waited expectantly. It was awesome.

Location: 7/10 , Friendliness: 8/10, Resources: 9/10

2. Site 3 CoLaboratory (Toronto, ON)
Main website: http://www.site3.ca/

Think pyrotechnics. Think endless possibilities. Think “let’s-combine-scorpion-peppers-with-rum-to-concoct-an-endorphin-rushing-BRAINHACK!”

At Site 3 CoLab, anything is possible. From Womens+LGBTQ Tuesdays to Electronics Wednesdays , this makerspace strives to place invaluable resources of science and technology in the hands of anyone with a burning curiosity. It is truly a community in which all members have a stake. Located in a dark alleyway, this humble — but brightly neon lighted — abode is a hop, skip and a jump from the Ossington Subway Station. I was greeted at the door and passed over to Anthony, a member who works full-time at a startup called “Science Everywhere”. According to Anthony, this makerspace boasts a great hive-mind of expertise and talents. Its pool of experts educate the community on woodshop skills, metalwork, glassblowing, lock-picking, and electronics. Time and time again, enough interest in any skill area spawns new workshops on the monthly calendar. Every year, they send a group of enthusiasts to Burning Man, having constructed projects in the past such as a flame-throwing version of DDR. Satisfied with my visit, I thanked everyone for their time and ran out the door.

Location: 9/10 , Friendliness: 10/10, Resources: 10/10

3. Coffee ‘n Code @ Tampered Press (Toronto, ON)
Meetup link: https://www.meetup.com/Coffee-Code/

Located across the street from the idyllic Trinity Bellwoods Park in Downtown Toronto, Meetup’s Coffee ‘n Code makes the list. Upon entering, you will never fail to find your friendly neighbourhood coders huddled together over heavily stickered laptops with a warm cuppa. Stuck on those data structures? Need some help BootStrappin’? All questions are welcome. Lets face it; coding alone isn’t always fun.

Location: 9/10 , Friendliness: 8/10 , Resources: 6/10

4. SPARQ Studios (Kingston, ON)
Photo credit: Ryan Lee

Ah yes, welcome to Kingston’s premier makerspace. Located right on Queen’s University campus in Carruthers Hall, this location was founded in 2013. Equipped with multiple 3D printers, metal/woodworking tools and plenty of chairs, SparQ is a gem on the campus map. As Kingston is much smaller than Toronto, there appears to be a more localized community here. However, enthusiasm runs equally as high. Many members chose SPARQ Studios as a co-working space to work on their side hustles with a small percentage of full-timers. With a large amount of students funnelled in from QICSI (the summer startup incubator), many are already very well connected. As a result, I have found the community here to be slightly less open to complete newcomers. However, every Sunday at 6pm during the school year, there are meetings hosted by Innovate Queen’s where like-minded students can network and connect. Here, you can mingle with other entrepreneurial personalities, practice pitching ideas to an audience, and listen to experienced professionals give talks on the hottest topics in tech. Don’t be shy, come on in!

Location: 10/10 (if you’re from Queen’s), Friendliness: 7/10, Resources: 9/10

To conclude, here is a comprehensive list of many makerspaces in Canada and worldwide. Even if you’re not a native of Toronto or Kingston, fear not! If a welcoming, supportive and tech-savvy community is what you’re after this summer, you won’t have to look any further than here. Stay sharp, friends!

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