Welcoming new members to the Yukonstruct board

On July 22, many Yukonstruct members joined the board for the organization’s annual general meeting. The AGM was a success, and we’d like to take a moment to thank and acknowledge our outgoing board members, and welcome a few new members!

Meet Our New Board

Our 2019 AGM was a huge success! With nearly 40 Society members joining us to vote in the new board and celebrate the success of the past year, we set the stage for the exciting vision that will drive this organization forward. Much thanks to all who attended, and to everyone who put their name forward.

Yukonstruct Society is thrilled to welcome our new board. Made up of familiar faces and brand-new ones, we couldn’t be happier to see these wonderful people join the organization. Each board member brings their unique set of skills and knowledge to the team and we are grateful to them for sharing their expertise and energy with our community. Without further ado, please join us in welcoming the 2019 – 2020 Board of Directors of Yukonstruct:

Barrett Horne
Robert Sharp
Chris OBrien
Glenn Piwowar
Kathie Szpajcher
Maxim Naylor
Selene Vakharia
Stephanie Hawkins
Antonio Zedda

And with immense gratitude we say goodbye to two very important board members.

John Glynn-Morris has been an integral part of our community from the earliest days. Yukonstruct members have benefitted from his dedication to building a thriving space and community. Thank you, John, for all the work and positive energy you’ve infused into this organization, we wouldn’t be the same without you!

Patti Balsillie offered her invaluable expertise and dedication. Her involvement in Yukonstruct ensured we were running a top tier organization. Her positive attitude, great sense of humor, and professional contributions will continue to shape the organization for years to come.

Thank you both for your years of service.


Everyone knows the light bulb is the universal symbol for an idea, but no one thinks about the millions of tiny connections that need to occur for that idea to be realized. Well … almost no one. Yukon artists Michel Gignac and Gorellaume have thought about it quite a bit. So much so that they’ve incorporated it into a new installation at NorthLight Innovation called Through the Thought Process (Eureka). It’s the first collaboration between Gignac, who often works in sculpture, and Gorellaume, who focuses on figurative drawing.   

They say the piece mirrors the process of an idea in that both begin with a tripped switch. In the case of the installation, it’s quite literal.

As you enter the front door of NorthLight, there’s a silver light switch on a post near The Poor Creature cafe. Follow a single black cable from that switch and you’ll find it leads to a tangle of colourful wires sweeping along the wall, thinning and thickening and splicing off in a dozen different directions on its way to a single lightbulb hanging in Cospace, waiting to fire.

What does it take to get there?” says Gignac of the lit bulb. On the way to illumination, there’s a mix of emotions, triumphs and roadblocks. All are highlighted by Gorellaume’s illustrations, which appear along the length of the wires.

Hand-painted on the wall, stoats, jump and run. There’s a pensive coyote. A fox curled in a tight circle, sleeping.

Gorellaume says he and Gignac don’t want to be prescriptive in their interpretation of the piece, but, in his mind, you can put human feelings to the critters. The stoats are in the early excited stages of an idea. The coyote, at the top of a wall the wires must wind around, is considering roadblocks. The fox is sleeping it off, perhaps hoping to wake up refreshed and with new ideas tomorrow.

Cospace, makespace and community members are invited to flip the switch anytime they experience a Eureka moment at NorthLight.

New mural at NorthLight

They say many hands make light work, but the new mural recently installed at NorthLight Innovation was a massive undertaking for the dozens of community members who helped create it.

The horizontal piece stretches across an upper wall at Cospace. It depicts two seasons (summer and winter), and day and night, along with the Yukon River and the Northern lights. The shapes, including people gathered around fires and playing with their families, are stylized. The colours are vibrant and as varied as the community members who chose them. 

That’s because there wasn’t any single artist behind the work. Under the guidance of a small team, many collaborated on this depiction of the Yukon.

The project was led by Lianne Charlie, a Yukon Indigenous artist who teaches Indigenous Governance at Yukon College, and is a PhD Candidate in Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. With the support of Kaitlyn Charlie, Youth Recreation Program Coordinator for Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Courtney Terriah, KDFN Youth Worker, and Julia Veidt, Youth Tutor for Kwanlin Dün First Nation; all of whom mentored Teya Rear, a youth artist from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.

Together, Lianne, Teya, Kaitlyn, Courtney and Julia prepared a mural image on plywood, then invited the community to paint it during four separate community workdays, including weekends at Nakwät’à kų, KDFN’s potlatch house.

Fifteen people from the community also painted 96 “sunrise and northern light sticks” that radiate out from the mural, and Teya made five individual circles, depicting Indigenous innovations in hunting, fishing, sewing, tanning hides and mothering/birthing.   

Throughout the process, Dianne Smith, a Kwanlin Dün Elder, was involved to contribute cultural and geographic knowledge, and to ensure the work was done in a good way.

Our work draws inspiration from the land, plants, animals, and Indigenous peoples’ practices, history, politics and culture to create a sense of connection to place. Our work is vibrant and inherently Northern,” reads the proposal for the piece. “NorthLight aims ‘to empower Yukoners to bring their ideas to life in a creative, innovative community.’ This mural demonstrates that Northlight is actually joining a well-established creative, innovative community—that of the Kwanlin Dün and Ta’an Kwäch‘än Peoples, here, and all Indigenous Peoples in the North. Our mural is both a showcase of Indigenous lifeways and practices of innovation and creativity and an invitation to the NorthLight community to continue this legacy here, on this land, in responsible, informed and respectful ways.”

How To Hack The Government (And Why That’s A Good Thing)

Hacker: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.

RFC1392, Internet Users’ Glossary

What a weekend!


Four years ago we ran our first hackathon, and now we’re proud to have completed the first hackathon in our new NorthLight Innovation space – HackYG. It really felt like a concentration of some of the brightest minds in Yukon, and we were even lucky enough to have some participants coming from as far away as Mexico City. The energy in the space was truly palpable.


HackYG’s focus was on finding technical solutions in order to build a better, more efficient Yukon government. On day one, each team leader had two minutes to pitch their idea and form a team with any interested participants. Once they found their teams, they began developing their projects! The clock ticked down, with only 48 hours until wrap up on Saturday evening.

On Friday, as the teams settled into the nitty-gritty details of their projects, fuelled by coffee and inspiration, the benefits of this model became immediately evident. Projects sailed ahead at breakneck speeds as everybody focused on getting prototypes working. Forward focused, without getting mired in the minutia coders often bury themselves in when it comes to building full projects. Things like consistent naming conventions or finding the perfect API simply aren’t important when you only have 48 hours to finish your project. “Everything was really about building actionable prototypes for the future. It was hands on. It was getting our hands dirty and building something,” said Ben Sanders after presenting the grand prize winning demo: a chat bot AI that can help you access government services, like booking a campsite.


“Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined building a startup here, but today I am, and we have a team doing some really amazing stuff in part because of the leadership the government is showing.” Sanders continues, ”I think one of the biggest challenges to innovation is not being able to experiment. And one of the biggest challenges to me as a business in working with government is that the traditional RFP process is slow. It’s cumbersome. I think it’s broken in a lot of ways. It’s outdated and it’s exciting to see that through this model and other policies coming from this government that there’s a real openness to finding new ways to be better.”

And not only did the Yukon government embrace the hacker ethos, but the hackers embraced the Government of Yukon into their community. At one table, I overheard somebody worried that she didn’t have much to offer because she wasn’t very technical, and the response from the rest of the team was overwhelmingly welcoming. “90% of the stuff we have to do isn’t technical,” they assured her.


“I’ve been to a bunch of hackathons where it’s just software people that are showing up, so it’s neat to see this,” said Wes George, leader of the project that won the People’s Choice Award: a tool to convert government PDF forms into a more accessible format. No more will we have to download a PDF, print it, sign it, scan it back into a digital form, only to upload it to the same place you downloaded it from!


But this goes deeper than the demos that came out of the hackathon. Everybody came away from the weekend with more exposure to different ways of working more efficiently. Wes continued: “I was taking for granted a bunch of tooling that we take to get things done in the tech world, like Slack and GitHub, and yet, having people in the public sector that work on my team, I’m actually equipping them with new tools … by the end of the weekend, people who’ve never used Slack before, they’ve got it and it’s in their tool belt.”


And on the tech side, teams learned the benefits of really, honestly scoping their projects down to something they can complete in the time available. “Sometimes when we’re in project-land we imagine that we’re just flush with resources because those deadlines aren’t pending, but that’s an illusion. What project ever has all the resources it needs to complete itself?”

In the end, there were over 60 participants presenting 10 demos, and the Government of Yukon took notice. “I personally saw application for five of them I’m just one guy,” said Richard Mostyn, Minister of Highways and Public Works. Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai added “All these people came into this space and started talking to one another, looked at the way government works, and you had all these different perspectives intermingling and changing. An understanding started to develop between vastly disparate groups that maybe had never really talked together, so civil servants would know a little bit more about developers, developers would know a little bit more about the needs of civil servants, and this whole cross-pollination will lead to better understandings and will help facilitate conversations.”


And when it was all over and everyone went home for some much deserved rest, we were left inspired by a weekend full of open communication, innovative experimentation, and the drive to do the seemingly impossible in only 48 hours. We would like to thank and congratulate all the participants who truly made this event greater than anything we could have imagined.


Keep on hacking!

Celebrating Logan!

Congratulations to our beloved Logan on his big decision to follow his own dream!
While it is sad to see him go, YuKonstruct Makerspace Society is grateful for the many incredible jobs he accomplished for the organization over the last four years. Logan leaves big shoes to fill and has been, since day 1, a big part of the heart and soul of this crazy but so amazing adventure.  Thank you!
‘Hi Everyone, 
After a wild four years I’ve decided to move on from Yukonstruct.  It’s been an absolute blast watching the space grow and the huge range of exciting projects come out of the doors. 
Since the beginning this has be an amazing place to work with various great boards, an excitable group of volunteers and our awesome members. 
I’m super happy leaving things in the hands of Julie, Laird, Lana, Heather, Wyatt, Jaret and Lauren.  It’s a truly great team that I’m going to miss, but have complete faith in to take the society through a move to a great new facility and keep things moving and growing. 
Ali and I are off for Birch camp for a couple months but don’t be surprised if you see me around after that. 
Keep learning, keep making amazing things. 

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

Results of the 2017 Instructables Makerspace Contest

The official results of the 2017 Instructables Makerspace Contest were announced this week.

The website hosting the contest, Instructables.com, is a place where makers can document their projects and share instructions on how to make everything from simple recipes to complicated technology. The goal of the makerspace contest was to document as many projects as possible with step-by-step instructions (instructables).

This year 74 makerspace teams from around the world competed for over $50,000 in prizes, including a laser cutter, 3D printers and CNC machines.

YuKonstruct’s team finished in 14th place!

After last year’s first place finish, our members took it a bit easier this summer but still achieved a very respectable placement amid the large pool of competitors. YuKonstruct’s team published a total of 26 instructables, 22 of which were featured. Featured instructables are selected by the website’s editors and recognize well-documented projects of a high quality.

For publishing over 15 featured instructables, the makerspace has won a prize pack including a Dremel 2000-01 Versa Tip Precision Butane Soldering Torch.

Projects by YuKonstruct’s Team

YuKonstruct’s projects ranged from easy camping hacks to custom made furniture, from a giant fictional bird to a laser-engraved stone platter. Check out the full collection at https://www.instructables.com/id/2017-Makerspace-Contest-Entries/

Update from the Board

It’s been 3 months since the current Board of Directors was elected at the Annual General Meeting on June 7, 2017, and you may be wondering what the Board has been up to.

Committees Established

As mentioned at the AGM, a key goal of the strategic plan is to clarify decision making structures and the previous Board recommended that we establish a series of committees. We have done that by creating the following committees:

  • Executive Committee
    Chair: President Jenn 
    Board Members: Vice-President Glenn 
    Staff: Executive Director

  • Finance Committee
    Chair: Treasurer Chris O 
    Staff: Yukonstruct Bookkeeper, Executive Director

  • Governance Committee
    Chair: Ksenia
    Board Members: John, Chris L
    Staff: Executive Director

  • Marketing and Fundraising Committee
    Chair: Chris L
    Board Members: Ksenia, Bob 
    Staff: Programming and Communications Director

  • (co)Space Committee
    Chair: Jenn
    Board Members: Chris O, John
    Staff: (co)space Director
    Community Members: 2 (co)space members to be selected

  • Makerspace Committee
    Chair: Bob
    Board Members: Mary Ellen, Chris L
    Staff: Makerspace Director
    Community Members: 2 makerspace members to be selected

The purpose of the committees is to advise the Board of Directors, and not to be decision making bodies. Committees will gather information and prepare recommendations for the Board.

The chairmanship of the committees will alternate between Board members every 3 months. The Chair is responsible for bringing information to the Board and members, setting the committee meeting schedule and agenda, and presenting recommendations to the Board.

The Board will be reviewing the committee structure in December and making changes as necessary for the new year.

Makerspace Committee Seeking Community Members

The Makerspace Committee is currently seeking two community members to join the committee.

Because both YuKonstruct and (co)space are designed to support the passions and aspirations of their members, it is essential for members to have a strong voice in the decisions and operations of the organization.
(Strategic Plan 2016-2019)

Joining the Makerspace Committee is an opportunity for makerspace members to have a say in the matters that matter to them. The community members will be advising the Board on decisions that affect the makerspace including hours, membership fees, training and services to members.

Committee member commitment:

  • 1 meeting per month 1.5-2hrs

  • Commitment to sit on the committee until the next AGM (usually held in May or June)

  • Serve as a conduit for face-to-face communication with members-at-large. Filling this role may include having your profile added to the ‘Our Team’ webpage as a representative of the committee.

If you would like to take part, please email makerspacecommittee@yukonstruct.com. Include your contact info with a personal introduction and why you would like to join the makerspace committee as a community representative. Applications will be accepted until Sept. 13th at 5pm.

The next Makerspace Committee meeting will be held September 15th at 5:30pm at the makerspace.

Progress on New Location

As Colin, the outgoing Co-Chair, mentioned at the AGM, securing a new location to house both the makerspace and coworking spaces together has been one of the organization’s goals for some time.

The Board is currently looking into options for new facilities that may also include an incubator space which would be a hub for innovation.


The Board is working with Aasman Brand Communications to look at ways to create a more cohesive brand identity for the YuKonstruct Makerspace Society, which includes both the YuKonstruct makerspace and the (co)space coworking space.

Looking for more details?

See the full minutes from Board meetings on the forum: http://forum.yukonstruct.com/c/governance-and-board-minutes

Instructables Makerspace Contest 2017

Instructables.com is a website that lets you easily share your diy projects with the world. It is a great place to learn how to do almost anything, from building a telescope to curing hiccups.

As part of the maker movement, Instructables has always been a big supporter of makerspaces and YuKonstruct has benefited greatly from their generosity in the past: from donating materials for build nights to offering excellent online learning opportunities for our members.

Last year YuKonstruct won the Instructables Makerspace Contest and brought home $30,000 in new equipment for the makerspace, including a new Epilog laser cutter.

The contest is back again for 2017 and offering more amazing prizes and fun. The goal is simple: put together a team and document as many great projects as you can over the summer. This year more than before, the focus is on writing great step-by-step instructions, with some amazing prizes being offered for the best individual projects.

One of the best parts of participating in the contest is seeing what your fellow makerspace members are working on. The 262 projects made by YuKonstrut’s team last year included incredible lasercut creations, traditional woodworking, digital designs, clever life hacks and delicious recipes.

We’ll be meeting up twice this summer to cheer on team members and help each other complete and document our projects at two mini hackathons:

If you’d like to join YuKonstruct’s team or find out more, email team captain Allison at allison@yukonstruct.com


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