Our Members’ Got Talent: beautiful cutting boards made by Russ

Russ LaChapelle came to the Yukon in the early 90’s to work on the highway and never left. Russ and his wife Barb finished raising their three kids in Whitehorse and have been part of raising the grandchildren that followed, both from their own kids and the many that have grown to call them Grandma and Grandpa. He has always had a love for woodworking and enjoys it when he just needs a break or gets an idea or 10. When he discovered Yukonstruct (a local place to build things when you do not have your own shop) it was a match made in heaven. Russ started to challenge himself making cutting boards, rocking chairs, Time Out chairs for the Grandkids, puzzles, Aviaries, Lizard enclosures and many other things.

Russ’ attention to detail and design is second to none. All of his children have something in their homes made by Dad and he is working on making sure all the Grand-kids have something as well.

Get inspired and say Hi! to Russ next time you see him in the woodshop!

Meet the Makers: Jenn

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our makerspace. Jenn is president of YuKonstruct’s Board of Directors. She is creative and practical, and being part of and understanding the sharing economy a little more is important to her. 

Jenn, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?
President and co-chair of the board, I also sit on the Executive Committee and the Facility Task Force Committee.

Why did you join?
There are a few reasons, I am interested in and went to school for design and business I love that YuKonstruct marries those two so successfully. I am attracted to the NFP model and like to give back to my community. YuKonstruct has a great board, it is a privilege to serve the members at YuKonstruct and work with such a great team.

What do you like most about YuKonstruct being up and running?
What I like the most are the people and the community they represent, the passion exhibited by members and the inclusiveness. Our organization is growing and evolving and that process is never without challenges, we are at a pivotal stage and I am excited about where we are right now as an organization. Here are highlights of some of the of the great stuff that’s going on:

  • we won both the regional (across the north) and national awards from Startup Canada as the “Best Entrepreneur Support Organization”,
  • our members also won awards (plural!),
  • numerous organizations contact us monthly to get involved and help them with community building projects, we are recognized as the place to go to take an idea and turn it into something awesome;
  • partners like YWITT and local schools are working with us to access our space, tools and our community.

Our funders look forward to the future of the organization, we have great members making big contributions, we have a lot to be proud of!

What do you think will be our biggest challenge?
Adapting to change and all that goes with it as the organization and board matures and as we define what it is to be a member, a volunteer, staff member and board member, we are all in it together.

Why should people become YuKonstruct members?
People should join the community because they want to be part of a cutting edge, award winning, enthusiastic organization where members collaborate by sharing ideas and expertise. Where else are they going to get a chance at all that?

Meet the Makers: Graeme

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our makerspace. Graeme is a member of YuKonstruct’s Board of Directors. Read on to find out what got him involved and what inspires him to create. 

Graeme, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?
I am one of the Directors on the Board of Directors. I am currently volunteering as the Secretary. I have been a general member of YuKonstruct in the past and when I heard that the organization was looking for volunteers to be on the Board I put my name forward.

I joined YuKonstruct because I had never been involved in a makerspace before and I wanted to learn more about them and to ensure that the organization here in the Yukon got off to a strong start.

What do you like to make?
I am actually a writer. So I love to write stories. I am an avid reader, always have been. As a kid I was always lost inside a book. Even today, much of my living room floor is covered in stacks of books.

What inspires you to make things? 
I love the act of creating. I love the aspect of creating something outside of yourself. There is enormous satisfaction in taking something from a kernel of an idea embedded in your mind, prying it loose and bringing it to fruition.

What do you want to build at the makerspace?
I am fascinated by the laser cutters at YuKonstruct. Why you may ask? Because lasers people!

I am looking forward to trying to make a Gysin Dream Machine at the makerspace this spring. I watched a documentary about this device awhile ago and if nothing else it looks like it could be a great conversation starter.

What advice do you have for other makers and entrepreneurs in the Yukon?
My advice for other makers and enterpreneurs is to follow your passion. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. There are great resources and volunteers here at YuKonstruct that share the same drive and passions as you and will be more than happy to help out.

Meet the Makers: Mary Ellen

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our makerspace.  Mary Ellen is a member of YuKonstruct’s Board of Directors and has worked in architectural design and project management since 2005. 

Mary Ellen, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?
I’ve been a member since 2015, and a director for a year and a half.

How did you get involved with the makerspace?
I had an intern working for me who got our office involved. (I run a small architectural practice here in Whitehorse called Northern Front Studio). We did some training sessions on the laser cutter and CNC router. We were then able to experiment with making models of our building designs, directly from the drafting software we use. It is pretty exciting to play with the tools that YuKonstruct has access to.

What do you want to build at YuKonstruct?
I’m always interested in the connection from 3D modelling on the computer to ways to realize large scale projects. 3D printing has so many possibilities in construction. Lately i’m looking at furniture designs made on the CNC router, and hopefully that will also lead into lighting fixture design.

What are you working on now?
We have a few custom designed homes and a large multi-family project in the early stages, so I will be back to try another scale model, to help our clients visualize what the buildings will look like.

What advice do you have for other makers and entrepreneurs in the Yukon?
My best advice is to keep experimenting, to see what you can make the tools do for you. And expect to do everything at least twice, (and I do mean everything).

Meet the Makers: Chris

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our makerspace. 

Chris, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?
I’m a Director (Treasurer), and member.

How did you get involved with YuKonstruct?
I’ve been working in technology commercialization for about 15 years now. So when I moved here two years ago, I gravitated towards (co) space. I attended a few talks there and at some point I heard about the makerspace. It was the first I heard of such a thing. I went to a Tuesday Open House last fall, and became a member soon after. My primary interest was the wood shop, as I could make use of some of the equipment as I was completing my fence.

What do you like most about YuKonstruct being up and running?
YuKonstruct makes a set of tools and skills accessible. I didn’t grow up using mitre saws and table saws for example, & there hasn’t been a lot of people in my circle of friends with these tools or ability to use them. YuKonstruct provides access to expensive equipment, to training, and to mentors.

What do you want to build at YuKonstruct?
I have a few upcoming projects. Next summer I will be building a shed and I expect I’ll be spending some time at the wood shop. Over the winter however, I expect I will take advantage of my new CNC router expertise and build some custom shelving for my crawlspace, and perhaps my office.

What advice do you have for other makers and entrepreneurs in the Yukon?
My advice is focused more towards the entrepreneur than the maker. Your product is not as good as YOU think it is. Your employees will not likely be as committed to your idea as you are, unless you compensate them accordingly.Your product is not as good as you think it is. Your employees will not likely be as committed to your idea as you are, unless you compensate them accordingly.

Establish a Board of Advisors or Directors to help you in areas where you lack strength.

Focus. Strategy receives a lot of attention, but execution probably matters more.

Watch your cash with fervor. Your business can survive a lot of bumps if there is cash. You won’t survive without it.

Do what you are good at and find partners to complement your skills, but be sure to establish your working relationship on paper. Insist on shotgun clauses with co-founders as you may have irreconcilable differences.

Startup Canada Award Win

Startup Canada, the national rallying community for Canadian entrepreneurs, recently celebrated outstanding entrepreneurs, businesses and support organizations from all over Canada. The winners were announced at the red carpet Grand Finale in Ottawa, attended by leading Canadian investors, innovators and anchor company executives.

Jaret Slipp and Lauren Manekin-Beille, respectively YuKonstruct Executive Director and (co)space Director, received the national Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award on behalf of YuKonstruct and (co)space. This category rewards government organizations, not-for-profits, academic institutions and private for-profit businesses that demonstrate excellence in advancing Canadian entrepreneurship through their leadership, innovation and impact.

This ceremony culminated the Startup Canada Day on the Hill, the largest annual national entrepreneurship event convening more than 1,100 leading entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, industry executives, and government representatives annually to raise the bar for Canada as a globally competitive innovation nation.

Prior to the national awards, YuKonstruct took part in the Startup Canada Northern Region Awards. (co)space partnered with Startup Canada to host the awards in Whitehorse on September 19, 2017. Northern innovators were recognized for their creative enterprises and YuKonstruct was honoured to receive the award for Entrepreneur Support.

“Hosting the Startup Canada North Awards this year has created sparks of new energy and motivation in our community,” said Lauren Manekin Beille, (co)space Director. “Our entrepreneurial ecosystem has come alive in new ways and innovative trailblazers have been coming out of the woodwork. This event has given Startup Whitehorse, (co)space and YuKonstruct a path to show the north just how much support there is up here to help bring to life our community’s startup ideas.”

The other northern regional winners include:

  • Chris Lane, Partner, MakeIT & Northmark Ventures | Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Scotiabank
  • Heather Dickson, Founder, Dickson Designs | Woman Entrepreneur Award, presented by Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
  • Mike Russo, Founder, Firebean Coffee Roasters | Young Entrepreneur Award, presented by BDC
  • Robert Sharp, Founder, Yukon Green House Design | Senior Entrepreneur Award, presented by BDC
  • Proskida | Innovation Award, presented by Intuit QuickBooks
  • Pinnguaq | Social Enterprise Award, presented by Centre for Social Innovation

Meet the Makers: Bob

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our makerspace.  Bob is a member of YuKonstruct’s Board of Directors and an experienced maker. Read on to learn about his thoughts on the makerspace and be sure to check out some of the inspiring projects on his Instructables account.

Bob, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?
I have been a member, an instructor for a number of workshops and have been on the Board for three years.

Why did you join YuKonstruct?
I like to make things, try new things and work with others so Yukonstruct is the kind of place for me.

What do you like to make?
I like to make things that that serve a useful purpose and provide value to others.

What has been your favourite project so far?
Possibly the greenhouse assembly or the bent shaft paddles. Both provided challenges and both had many positive outcomes! [Bob’s northern greenhouse designs have been very successful and you may have seen them at local schools and backyards}

What inspires you to make things?
I would far sooner make an object than buy it. In making something, I am able to design and build to meet individual needs and gain an independence from the mass produced commercial market.

What do you think will be the makerspace’s biggest challenge?
Long term sustainability in a place that permits more people to work safely at the same time.

Bob making good use of one of his bent shaft canoe paddles

Robocritters on the loose at Augusto!

YuKonstruct volunteers Kerän and Ben were on hand for a fun robot building workshop at the Augusto Children’s Festival. Here is Kerän’s report on what they got up to.

What is it like to be a robotics engineer? Nineteen kids found out last weekend at the Augusto Children’s Festival in Haines Junction.
They were attending a robot-building workshop where they created their own battery-operated machines. Five volunteers, including an engineering grad with experience in building robots, led the kids through the business of design, assembly, wiring, soldering and testing.

Each child received a kit containing all the pieces needed to create a movable machine. The festival teamed up with BYTE and YuKonstruct to provide an array of craft supplies for decoration and volunteers to help out.

The first step was to construct wheel assemblies using motors and axles. Those were then hot glued to pieces of foam core. From there it was on to the tricky job of wiring the motors to a control box. If the wires aren’t connected properly, the robots could end up spinning in circles instead of driving forward and backwards. Then it was on to design and this is where the kids were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild. Volunteer Ben Sanders says there was no shortage of ideas. “The designs ranged from monsters and airplanes to feathered birds and even a robotic maid that serves little cups of tea.”

The robot kits were purchased from the Manitoba Robot Games in Winnipeg. The non-profit group has been introducing elementary school students to robotics for 22 years.

Meet the Makers: Julie

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our YuKonstruct Makerspace Society. Julie recently started as our Director of Programing and Communications.

Julie, what’s your role at YuKonstruct?

I am responsible for Programing and Communications. Before I worked in the industrial marketing field, training development and programing implementation. I am passionate about web design and software in general. Geeky? Yep!

Some programing we will be putting into place include workshops on technical, aesthetic and 3D design, robotics and electronics. We would like to ensure we are using our equipment to their full capacity. More workshops for kids, too!

Why did you join YuKonstruct?

After 3 years of running my own consulting and training company between Yukon and Quebec, I wanted to get involved in a community that imagines, creates and develops and at YuKonstruct that happens! As an engineering graduate registered in France, I have always loved to create new solutions, concepts and prototypes.

What do you like most about YuKonstruct being up and running?

I love how YuKonstruct acts as a pioneer being the first maker community in the North. The positive energy, the ‘repair-reuse-recreate’ attitude and DIY culture running in the Makerspace is amazing and inspiring. I have a lot to learn from our members and volunteers. I am proud to be involved in the adventure and to contribute to spread this energy through the entire Yukon community.

What do you want to build at YuKonstruct?

Wooden toys, baby clothes, baby furniture… all for my baby boy!


Join us on Tuesdays for our Open House from 7:00 to 9:00 pm to meet other makers and take a tour of YuKonstruct!


Update from the new Board of Directors

Dear members,

At Yukonstruct Makerspace Society’s most recent AGM, a new Board of Directors was elected to serve you for next year. Your Board is collectively accountable to you, the community, funders and stakeholders for meeting Yukonstruct’s mission and for the effective stewardship of our financial and human resources.

This year we welcomed some new faces and hailed the return of three of last year’s Board: Glenn Piwowar as Vice President and Bob Sharp and Mary Ellen Reed as Directors. Also, instead of Co-Chairs, this year members elected one President and a Vice-President to lead the Board.

Your new Board members are:

President: Jennifer Macgillivary
Vice-President: Glenn Piwowar
Treasurer: Chris O’Brien
Secretary: Graeme Tennant
Director: John Glynn-Morris
Director: Chris Lloyd
Director: Mary Ellen Reed
Director: Bob Sharp
Director: Ksenia Gasper

Your new Board will continue to build on the significant successes of the previous Board to advance Yukonstruct’s strategic plan. These include, but are not limited to, renovating the 3rd floor of the Strickland Street building, offering more programming that generated revenue such as the incredibly successful maker camp during spring break, new contribution agreements from our major partners and entering into an agreement to host the Canada Business Network through (co)space.

This year’s key priorities remain the same: to reach financial stability, to clarify our procedures, to develop our physical space, to strengthen programming and training, and to continue to grow our community and identity (including branding). As we navigate our growth in an exciting time of change, the Board is looking to you, our partners, our stakeholders, and our community to reinforce and expand on what makes YuKonstruct excellent – if you have ideas, comments, or questions, we want to hear them! You can easily catch the ear of a Board members or email the Board at Board@yukonstruct.com.


  2180, 2nd Avenue, Whitehorse
  (867) 457-0150

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