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Telus LipSync Buildathon

The future is friendly because on June 2nd and 3rd, we hosted the TELUS LipSync Buildathon. While leaving TELUS Garden with 30 newly built LipSyncs was enough reason for elation — not to mention getting to meet an enthusiastic, hard-working group of makers from TELUS — it was an announcement by the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, that had us really excited for the future.

Pictured left-to-right: TELUS International Senior Vice-President and Chief Corporate Officer, Marilyn Tyfting; Neil Squire Society Executive Director, Gary Birch; and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough.

On Friday morning, Minister Qualtrough announced that the Neil Squire Society would receive approximately $750,000 for its Makers Making Change initiative “for the development of a network of groups and people with technical skills to support the identification, development, testing, dissemination and deployment of open source assistive technologies.”

The funding was part of $4.5 million awarded over two years to nine non-profit organizations across Canada working to increase the participation and integration of persons with disabilities.

Minister Qualtrough, who was in attendance at the Buildathon, sees the potential that the maker movement could have for people with disabilities, and was grateful for the makers in attendance.

“I believe this Buildathon is a great way to accelerate innovation, because change-makers — hackers, innovators, inventors, creators — have a chance to work together to build new technologies aimed at assisting people with disabilities,” she said. “It’s particularly encouraging to see you all so engaged and enthusiastic to find innovative solutions to break down barriers and promote a more inclusive and accessible Canada.”

She noted, however, even with funding, the most important part to an initiative like Makers Making Change are the people supporting it.

“Money is not always the solution. We need people — people like you,” Minister Qualtrough told the audience before the start of the Buildathon.

“We are delighted to receive the SDPP-D [Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Component] funding announced today by Minister Qualtrough from the Government of Canada,” said Neil Squire Society Executive Director, Gary Birch. “This funding is instrumental in enabling the Neil Squire Society to develop, and pilot across Canada, an innovative open source model to produce and deliver hardware-based assistive technologies to Canadians with disabilities. Thank you so much for this vital support.”

Minister Qualtrough receiving a key to the Buildathon from Executive Director, Gary Birch.
Minister Qualtrough learning how to solder under the guidance of our engineer, Ivan.

After the announcement, two full days of making with two teams of 15 TELUS employees commenced. The makers were even faster than we thought, going through the steps quite efficiently.

Mike, an engineer at TELUS, hadn’t heard of the maker movement before taking part in Friday’s session, and was excited by the potential.

“If you can enable someone with technology built in four hours, that’s a huge impact,” he explained.

An electrical engineer through his schooling, Mike had experience soldering. He found the instructions easy to follow.

“The instructions were detailed enough that it was not too difficult — you didn’t really necessarily need to know what you were doing, if you could follow through the photos. I thought that was good.”


Mike holding his finished LipSync.

Mike said that he would be interested in participating in another Buildathon.

“I really like this hobbyist sort of stuff, so that certainly appealed to me,” he said. “It was really well-organized, well laid-out, [I] enjoyed it. [. . .] It’s fun to sit down and do something a little different.”


The Makers hard at work.


Our guest speakers for the day — Walt Lawrence and Don Danbrook (left to right).

And this was just the first event of a busy month. On Wednesday, we are at Burnaby South Secondary for our second Buildathon at the school. This Saturday and Sunday, we’re at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. Our next Buildathon will be all the way in Philadelphia the following Sunday (the 18th).

Check out more photos from the TELUS Buildathon in our Facebook photo album.



Group photo of the makers holding LipSyncs