Inaugural Address

During our AGM last month, Kwartzlab elected a new Board of Directors for 2011-2012. The new Board begins its term today. I figure it’s a good time to look forward on the year ahead, so I gave my “inaugural address” to the Kwartzlab mailing list this morning as the Board’s new President. (Reposted from kwartzlab.ca)

Hi, Kwartzlabbers!

It is a great honour to have been elected to the Board of this fine and noble institution, and it is also humbling and a teensy bit terrifying to be appointed President. I am told by previous presidents, however, that the job is a doddle and that I have nothing to worry about. The fact that you are all awesome leads me to believe this is almost certainly true. But I do feel there’s a certain weightiness and austerity that comes with a title like “President” that means I really ought to get better at making speeches.

Speeches aside, I’d like to see the Board do a better job involving the membership in what’s going on. It’s the board’s responsibility to make sure we stay solvent and nobody gets killed, but after that, we all have a stake in making Kwartzlab better. When there’s something that needs to get done, any one of us can and should do it. The Board can, I think, do a better job letting people know what needs to be done so that those with the time, skill or enthusiasm can see it through.

Making the Space

Buildout

We’re a hair’s breadth away from making the toolroom a much more useful, productive space. It’ll just take a little bit of planning, and then building and we’ll have the electrical system and ventilation to bring in the sorts of tools members have been saying they want to see in the space since the very beginning of Kwartzlab. We just need a few people to volunteer a couple weekends to see it through. Ben has volunteered to coordinate. Gus has found us a certified electrician to advise and inspect the work. We just need to need to get ‘er done.

Once that’s done, we’ll also need to address things like storage, or maybe the floors in the workroom and lounge. We’ve got a great space that already does a lot of what we want. It’ll just take a little work to see it realize its full potential.

Making the Community

SoOnCon 2010

That community that’s built up around Kwartzlab is the best thing about Kwartzlab. When I first heard about the idea of a KW hackerspace, I had a feeling it was an opportunity to build a great community, but even I am in awe of what we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time.

Even so, I think we can do more. All the time, I talk to people who, if they’ve heard of Kwartzlab, say they’ve been meaning to get out to TON, but never had. TON is fantastic, but not everybody can make it out on a Tuesday and not everybody sees the value in coming to a place just to hang out and see what’s going on. I’m convinced there are dozens of people in this community who would sign up in an instant if they had a sense of what Kwartzlab was and could do. We need to find those people and get them into our space. Which means I really want to encourage more public events, talks, seminars, tutorials and the like. No, we should never sacrifice the utility of the space for our members, but I’m sure we have more than enough space to accommodate members’ projects and more public events, especially when the toolroom is up and running.

The greater the diversity of skills and interests in our community, the more likely it is we’ll see even more of the awesome collaborative energy that makes Kwartzlab so amazing. And, to be honest, a little extra membership revenue wouldn’t hurt either.

While we need to do more to bring people into the space, I also think we’re missing opportunities to get out of the space and bring our message (we have one, really!) to Kitchener-Waterloo as a whole. We could be out at Columbia Lake today taking balloon cam photos or sending up water rockets. We could set up a table at Car-Free Sunday downtown in a couple weeks dishing out liquid nitrogen ice cream. We could be driving hand-built electric cars in the Santa Claus Parade, tossing LED sticky kits out to kids. It all gets people interested in Kwartzlab which means more members which in turn means more capacity for Kwartzlab to be more of what you want it to be. More than that, it brings the ethos of making out the the community, gets kids excited about science and technology and makes the world a better, funner place. Who doesn’t want that??

Making the Making

Mini Maker Faire Toronto 2011

You are the heart, soul and life-blood of Kwartzlab. Srsly. This community, the space, everything, exists for the sole purpose of helping you make cool stuff. It doesn’t matter if that stuff helps you start a business or is just there so a few nerds on the Internet can laugh and say “That’s amazing! I can’t believe you did that.” It’s all awesome, and it’s what we’re here for.

Yeah, real life gets in the way and we can’t spend as much time on projects as we’d like. Trust me, I know. But if there’s a project you want to work on and something’s keeping you from doing it–you don’t have a particular tool, or there’s some technical problem you need to overcome, or something about the space isn’t working out for you–let us know! Bring it up on the mailing list, talk to the board, or just ask around to whoever’s hanging out at TON. People want to help. Maybe somebody has that tool or that skill they can lend you; maybe we can seek out a donation or buy something if it’ll be of use to people; maybe we can make the space for you or help you find what you need. We (the Board, the membership, the space) obviously can’t accommodate every demand placed on us–we need to balance the needs of all members–but I can promise we can talk about it. We need to know what members actually need or want for their projects if we’re going to have any chance of fulfilling them.

Kwartzlab is about making. Making cool technology, art, ideas, or a community. It’s all making, and so long as nobody blows anything up (that people didn’t want to blown up, anyway) it’s all good.

In closing, I’d just like to leave you with the immortal words of Bill S Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan: Be Excellent to Each Other. And Party On, Dudes.

Yours in humble service,
Darcy S Casselman, President, Kwartzlab
Canada Day, 2011.