Seven Generations Education Institute to open first makerspace at Fort Frances campus

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Tomorrow – Thursday, Feb. 16 – Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) in Fort Frances will officially open its first Makerspace.

Maggie LeMesurier is the Makerspace Assistant at the Fort Frances campus she says a makerspace is a place for people to get creative.

“A Makerspace is a place to go and create whatever you set your mind to,” LeMesurier said. “Get involved in learning new tools and ways to use technology, whether it be a school or personal project, something for your business or just wanting to explore new hobbies.”

The Makerspace has been equipped for almost any kind of creative task.

“We have a lot of new and interesting technology available for free to everyone, not just students and staff but everyone in the community. We have 3D printers, a laser cutter, a digital audio lab equipped with old media conversion equipment, virtual and augmented reality, robots, Cricuts, sewing machines, an HP Sprout for 3D capture, a green screen Adobe Suite, and a lot more.”

One example of the possibilities is the use of old media conversion equipment. This equipment allows people to take older format recordings like cassette tapes or records and convert them into MP3 digital files. They also have equipment to convert old video tapes to digital files.

Christine Woolsey is the Director of IT with SGEI, and helped create the facility.

“The idea of the Makerspace and why SGEI wanted to start a Makerspace and incorporate it into our programming was to expand our ways of teaching and provide different hands-on opportunities for our students and the community as a whole,” she said. “We find that there’s not very much technology around our area, not within our First Nation communities. So we really wanted to expand that and give everybody equal opportunity to learn, explore and make. So that’s why we started it and how we thought the idea was great to incorporate into our organization.”

The hope for the space is to get people more interested in technology and using tech for creative purposes.

“Our goal is to kind of help increase people’s knowledge of technology and provide people of all ages with tools, materials, equipment, and the freedom to create,” LeMesurier said. “We want to provide a flexible and welcoming learning environment that is willing and ready to help everyone explore their creative side.”

Funded through the Northern Ontario Heritage fund and FedNor, the makerspace project began in 2019 but opening has been delayed considerably because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we ended up doing was DIY kits,” Woolsey said. “So people could still see the Makerspace and know what’s available. So Maggie created several Do It Yourself kits and there were different types of kits that she would put out once every couple of weeks and we would have them at the front entrances of all of our campuses.”

The kits included everything necessary to create the project and this was how they used the makerspace throughout COVID restrictions.

To use the Makerspace, people will have to sign up to learn about the different equipment in a session with LeMesurier.

“People can just book time with me and we can teach them how to use 3D printers (or other equipment). We go over what a 3D printer is used for, and what it can do. We do that with all of our machines and we give you a full, in-depth, tutorial on how to use them,” LeMesurier said. “So that whenever you come into our space, you can just say, ‘Hey, can I book it for this day or this time?’ If you have the training you can just use it whenever you need.”

Once makers have been introduced to a given piece of equipment, they can book time to use it as they please. The Makerspace at SGEI even supplies some materials, though makers are welcome to bring their own materials if they want or need something specific.

The Fort Frances campus’ makerspace is the first for SGEI but they are in the process of creating similar spaces at both other campuses in Kenora and Sioux Lookout.

The Grand Opening at the Fort Frances campus of SGEI will take place from 4-6 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday Feb. 16. The event will include a tour of the space, and activities and demonstrations of how the different tools work.

For more information you can email or call Maggie LeMesurier at 807-274-2796 ext. 1260.