U of T news
  • Follow U of T News

Maker Faire: U of T startups share tech wonders at the biggest-ever event for Toronto's 'maker' community

Sojourn Labs, Icewire Makerspace, InteraXon and others met with makers of all ages

Engineering alumni Ramy Ghattas and Paul Giampuzzi share the secrets of robotics at Maker Faire – and regularly through their education startup, Logics Academy (photo by five by five photography)

Wheeling, floating, flying and soldering.

These were just a few of the adventures University of Toronto entrepreneurs, students and more than 10,000 Toronto ‘makers’ of all ages got their hands on at the 2014 Toronto Mini Maker Faire, hosted at Toronto Reference Library on November 21 and 22.

“It’s a nice place for us, culturally, because everyone that comes here already believes the process of making things is something we should value,” said U of T student Phil Lam, co-founder of Sojourn Labs, a startup based at U of T. (See Sojourn Labs and the other U of T gadgets and makers in this photo gallery)

“To be in this community is really rewarding, because that’s what we believe, too: we believe that making things is something we should be doing as a society, and valuing as a society, and it’s nice to be with people who feel the same way.”

Lam and his co-founder, student Jonathan Lung, are developing a human-powered car-bike hybrid with help from U of T’s Impact Centre and their vehicle was featured in several media stories about this second Toronto edition of Maker Faire. (Watch the CHCH television story featuring Sojourn Labs) 

From a business development point of view, Lam said he appreciated the market feedback. 

“This kind of potential customer interaction allows us to refine our design, refine our ideas and refine our pitch,” he said. “But I find Maker Faire a really neat place because they do all sorts of progressive things when it comes to education: authentic learning experiences, experiential learning.”

The Maker Faire concept was launched in 2006 by Make magazine as an interactive science-fair-style event celebrating engineering, arts, science and the 'do-it-yourself' mindset. Since then, a growing interest in DIY-culture has resulted in independent editions, dubbed 'Mini Maker Faires,' popping up across the globe as communities gather to encourage fun, creative, experiential learning of makery. Many aspects are also geared towards kids' involvement with science, technology, engineering and math.

kids compete with battle bots at the Maker Faire

With hands-on robot battles, rocket launches and design-it-yourself boat races – in addition to soldering and 3D workshops, laser tag, and two floors of exhibits from hobbyists and small businesses – there was a lot to experience for ‘makers’ from all backgrounds at the latest Toronto edition.

“It was wonderfully surprising how fully everyone embraced the event,” said Elena Yunusov, Maker Faire co-organizer and communications officer with U of T's Undergraduate Medical Education. She said the event grew significantly after its debut last year at Wychwood Barns.

“The library – our key partner – said ‘yes’ to almost anything we suggested, no matter how wild. Makers flooded us with applications. We blew past our registration targets weeks before the event received any media coverage. And the sheer excitement of people, especially children, who came to the event completely warmed our hearts and made us glow with the happy kind of exhaustion.”  

Maker Faire projects and demos driven by U of T students, researchers and alumni included Sojourn Labs; Icewire Makerspace; Get Your Bot On; Logics Academy; hitchBOT; InteraXon; R2D2 Builders Group; and the U of T Human-Powered Vehicle Design Team and their super fast bicycle-type vehicle, Bluenose.

“I like it because it’s stuff you don’t learn in class, it’s very practical experience,” said Bruce Hu, a second-year engineering student and volunteer on the Human-Powered Vehicle Design Team. “This is a full design, a full package. You design and then you build.”