Entrepreneurs set to make their mark at new uOttawa facility

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March 28, 2017

Ottawa

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Ottawa Business Journal

 

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Entrepreneurs set to make their mark at new uOttawa facility

The University of Ottawa is inviting aspiring young entrepreneurs to get out there, make something and see where it takes them.

By Adam Feibel

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the university held an overdue formal launch party on Thursday night for the uOttawa Makerspace, a student-run hub for creative and innovative manufacturing within the growing maker movement.

Described as a “hub for do-it-yourself projects, the maker movement and entrepreneurship,” the space features 3D printers, precision-cutting machines and computer development boards.

It’s a place where the entrepreneurially minded can use cutting-edge technologies to quickly move from idea to product, said Hanan Anis, an engineering professor and co-manager of the makerspace.

“The makerspace means many things to many people,” she said. “In the context of entrepreneurship, it enables students to do rapid prototyping. This is something that was not possible before.”

Makerspaces really cater to the lean startup model, Ms. Anis said. Working under this model means establishing a minimum viable product, getting feedback and improving that product – without dropping lots of bootstrapped cash on initial prototypes that will just get scrapped or overhauled.

“Often, there’s a lot of cost involved if you’re going to manufacture on the large scale,” said makerspace co-ordinator Frank Bouchard. “But makerspaces and the maker movement generally has an emphasis on building products really quickly so you can get feedback right away.”

Such has been the case with TytoRobotics, a startup founded by two current and former master’s students at uOttawa. Using the makerspace, they have very quickly and inexpensively developed a hand-sized aerial drone for use by tactical police and military officers to give a bird’s-eye view of a potentially dangerous situation in real-time.

“If we have a part we want to model on the computer, they have the tools to do that, so it’s a very lean way of doing things,” said Charles Blouin, the firm’s co-founder and CEO and a master’s student in mechanical engineering.

The company has already been in numerous talks with clients and distributors and expects to be selling by next summer, he said.

Thursday’s event also kicked off another competition that challenges participants to design and build a hand prosthesis for a six-year-old boy, who will then choose his favourite when the contest concludes in March.

The makerspace is free for uOttawa members to use throughout the week, and it’s open to the public on Sundays. Workshops run every Tuesday and Thursday.