Barrie Advance
By Janis Ramsay
Photo by Stan Howe

Chad Ballantyne, owner of The Creative Space, looks at a robotic arm, part of his not-for-profit group SimCoLab, which is a hacking space in the basement for people to learn about electronics, 3D printing and micro-computer programming.

• Find SimCoLab online at simcolab.org or on Facebook, Twitter and Google-plus.
• Monthly membership fees are $50 and the drop-in fee is $10. Additional charges for using the 3D printer apply. All are welcome at the workshops, held every other Tuesday night.

A little white lie from Pinocchio in Moving Art’s local production of Shrek the Musical will prompt a neat special effect.

A computer-activated growing nose will come to life, thanks to members of Barrie’s SimCoLab.

Members meet in the basement of The Creative Space Tuesday nights and Pinocchio’s nose is one of their first commissioned pieces.

SimCoLab started about a year ago through the efforts of former Innisfil resident Sarah Simpkin and a handful of friends, including Creative Space owner Chad Ballantyne.

Simpkin worked at the Innisfil Public Library teaching technology-themed workshops.
“Barrie has a vibrant tech community and I felt it would be wonderful to carve out a space in Barrie,” she said.
She spoke with Ballantyne and, before long, plans for SimCoLab were in the works.
SimCoLab is a non-profit community workspace where people interested in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronic art can meet and collaborate.
“We exist to develop a community of people interested in making awesome things and promoting the entire cycle,” Ballantyne said.
Simpkin said the group started small, but is now investing in more gadgets.
She has since moved to Ottawa to work with the ciy’s public library, but keeps tabs on the local group she helped start.
SimCoLab now has a 3D printer, robotic arm and several more projects on the go, including Pinocchio’s nose.
“It’s amazing what happens when people get in the room with each other,” Ballantyne said.
“We have a white board down there with things that are way out there that people want to invent.”
One of their members is 16-year-old Wasaga Beach resident Daniel Correia, who led an mini-computer workshop this month.
“I’ve always loved taking things apart and breaking them in the process,” Correia said.
His fascination with all things technical started at a young age. It even sidelined the family’s planned trip to Walt Disney World when he was five.
“He discovered this Vex robotics kit in RadioShack,” mom Doris Mittwollen said. “It was $300. He asked us how much it cost to go to Disney and said he’d rather get the kit.”
He spent hours creating different kinds of robots with the kit and admits he still hasn’t been to Disney.
“That kit taught me an introduction to programming,” Correia said.
As a home-schooled student, Correia said he’s spent many of his free afternoons studying computer technology.
One of his recent creations is an automated lawnmower that uses GPS co-ordinates.
He brought it to SimCoLab this week to show other members. While it might not yet work, it hasn’t discouraged him.
“I love SimCoLab, it’s a great space for sharing ideas and sharing knowledge,” he said.