A Local Supergeek's Guide to Geek Week WR

Two images of Darin White (one distorted with a computer program)

The rapidly-approaching, highly-intriguing, inaugural Maker Expo at Kitchener City Hall on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th, 2015, bills itself as "a diverse, family-friendly showcase of makers, artists & organizations who create amazing things of the do-it-yourself spirit."

One of Maker Expo's many talented (and sleep-deprived) producers, Darin White (pictured above, in distorted green too), offers a tighter, far more ambitious description: "The best damn show anywhere." Whatever you call it, White and his collaborators are putting together a hands-on, imagination-packed event that leans heavily on asking people to show up and try things they haven't tried before. They want to do no less than expand people's minds by giving active makers the chance to inspire closeted makers, "whether they want to make the best paper airplane or their own full-sized airplane."

In White's opinion, Waterloo Region "is a community of more substance than pretense. This place is a petri dish, ideal for a make-o-sphere to prosper." And so Maker Expo aims to offer proof of that culture by instigating interactivity, by "reflecting back to the community all the amazing things that happen here, showing that people are out there creating amazing things on their own. We don't have to get our fix from consumption; we don't need to be clicking 'buy' on Amazon to feel good about ourselves. I can go down in my lab and solder together a blinky light circuit and that'll feel great, and I think that translates across all domains of creative endeavour."

Image of Maker Expo buttons in a pair of hands

While Make Expo will include some tried-and-true creative disciplines, "this is not the science fair of the 1950s, so don't come and see any Plaster of Paris volcanos erupting," explains White, aka the brawny brains (and shutter finger) behind makebright. "Come to the learn-to-solder workshop. Or invest 10 minutes in working with foam, tape and cardboard and make an air rocket, then go over to the launch station and shoot it 100 feet into the air. We've got people doing coppersmithing and probably blacksmithing too. Even my 70-year-old mom is coming, she's going to be knitting. She was the original maker of Halloween costumes and that sort of thing, and she doesn't even self-identify as a maker." (White outed his mom on the Maker Expo blog.)

Whether or not you self-identify as a maker (or really any kind of geeky, obsessive creator and/or tinkerer), Maker Expo is but one opportunity in a week's worth of programming to go on a recon mission in the regional petri dish. Geek Week WR runs from September 14-20, and rolls together eight fabulously egg-headed attractions in both Waterloo and Kitchener.

Eric Rumble asked White to answer an essential Q about the other Geek Week events taking place downtown: Why go?

Image of Geek Week WR brand logo and event dates, Sept 14-20, 2015

MONDAY SEPT 14 \\ Hackernest KW

"The great thing about anything like Hackernest is that you're putting people in a room with beer," says White. "This is the road to prosperity." [Big smile.] "Anytime you get people together at this kind of inclusive event, they begin to know each other better and the next thing you know those people that end up drinking beer together are launching a start-up. Or people are going there and then finding the full-stack developer they need to join their company, or whatever. It's people with common interests coming out, which is a huge thing. Go, is what I'm saying... just show up! History is made by those that show up; everybody watching Netflix is just an observer."  



"I shot one of the early Nerd Nite in the old Yuk Yuk's space, in what used to be the Rum Runner (now TWH Social), and I was just blown away. I walked in and there were people crafting, other people playing board games, people doing manga drawings. And I thought, 'This is amazing, my people are here!' And there are always great talks, which tap into the same reason we like documentaries: because they're interesting and the subjects are engaging and stimulating. Nerd Nite is just terrific, and there's a whole community that's a part of it. These people get together in a room and they're talking to each other, they're not sitting there looking at their phones, they're contributing to what's going on."

Image of a speaker in front of the crowd during a Nerd Nite KW event at the Communitech Hub

FRIDAY SEPT 18 \\ Communitech Rev Centre Stage 

"Rev stands for revenue growth, so it's focused on companies that are already going and that have a product, but they need to grow their revenue. It's not a question of are they viable, because they are; it's about medium-sized enterprizes that need to crank up their sales and generate more revenue. This event is, in effect, a graduation for the companies that have been involved in Rev and are ready to move on. I'm always interested and curious to see the variety of what people are creating. There are people here that are solving real problems and that have really good stories to share." 


SEPT 18-20 \\ Hack the North

White calls this one of North America's (if not the planet's) top hackerfests, with more than 4,500 applicants having been narrowed down to 1,000 participating teams, including folks from every continent except Antarctica. Given that heavy competition, the best way to stay tuned to this huge happening will be to track its social media spikes. Alternatively, "if you're the ARM code ninja, put it out there," says White, and you may still have an outside shot at getting involved as a volunteer. And start thinking about next year's idea.