There has not been much traffic through the Arts, Crafts and Technology Micro-manufacturing Centre (ACTMC) of late, but that hasn’t stopped the 3D printers, glass etchers and other equipment from producing goods for locals interested in learning the ropes.

Since midway through May, residents of Inuvik have been able to once again design their own buttons, T-shirts and glass etchings through online Zoom workshops, though the hands-on component of the workshops has been postponed until the centre has all its Covid-19 safety precautions in place.

But, according to Aurora College technology development manager Matthew Dares, getting people back in the centre is in the works, though he estimated the centre’s re-opening was still close to a month away.

A laser-engraving machine in use at the ACTMC in Inuvik. The DIY centre is hoping to open up to public within the month. Photo courtesy Kathryn Barr.

“We’ve got our plan in place and approved from the Chief Public Health officer, so we are in the process of putting in barriers and traffic signs, creating a hand sanitizing station, putting up some posters about how we’re handling Covid-19 in the workspace,” he said. “We’re going to run a pilot program where we will allow our clients to book access to the centre, one person at a time initially.

“There will be cleaning in-between client use. We will use that initial pilot to see what’s working well and what needs improvement before we start allowing more people in.”

The centre had closed along with all other Aurora College buildings on March 22. However, it remained busy, first producing in excess of 200 ear relievers — plastic holds for face masks that take pressure off the back of the ears — and then producing door opening accessories so people could open some doors around town.

But Dares said it was a priority to get the centre back to public use, as a number of local businesses rely on it to produce their own wares.

“We’ve been working towards a path that would allow us to safely re-open, especially for our commercial clients who are trying to run their businesses,” he said.  “We’ve been doing workshops allowing people to develop digital skills and also doing some manufacturing on behalf of clients so they could continue to do their work if they needed it.

“One of the things we liked most about doing our workshops is the hands-on component, so that’s probably the biggest departure — trying to have an engaging, meaningful experience while not having access to the equipment.”

Dares noted the ACTMC is used to having small class sizes, so the adjustment to doing the workshops online was fairly minimal.

“We like to give people time to ask questions,” he said. “We didn’t want to have a large number of people and make it a frustrating experience for people involved. Typically we would cap off our workshops at six people, depending on the complexity of what we’re doing, to make sure everyone had the chance to learn what we’re trying to teach.

“Certainly online, people aren’t getting that final follow through with hands-on, but it’s still a chance to engage the digital side of those skills. There’s definitely a downside to not being able to do them in person, but we have had interest and people are getting the skills, so when they’re able to come to the centre they’ll be able to accelerate what they’re doing.

“We want to use this time to stay active in the community and continue to raise awareness of the types of work people can do through the centre.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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