Roundhouse coworking space is now open inside MacEwan University’s Allard Hall

MacEwan University’s new coworking space Roundhouse held its grand opening celebration this afternoon inside Allard Hall. In addition to facilitating collaboration among students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the space is open to the broader community of local entrepreneurs, volunteers, and other “changemakers”, as Roundhouse calls them. “We’re a coworking space that is focused on building a community of changemakers through innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Amor Provins, senior manager at Roundhouse. “Together with MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Institute, we’ll be working to empower people and make a positive impact in our world.”

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Special guests at today’s event included Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, who made everyone laugh with his train-related “Dad jokes”, thanking the organizers “for choo-choo-choosing him to open the space” and noting it “will lay tracks for the next generation.” Scott McKeen, City Councillor for Ward 6, and Elder Francis Whiskeyjack both brought remarks as well.

Attendees learned about the Roundhouse name and logo, both of which have significance. “When excavating the site for what is now Allard Hall (where we will be located), a train roundhouse was unearthed.” It serves as a metaphor for going in a new direction. The logo is a 13-sided shape called a triskaidecagon. “This number, that is so often perceived as unlucky, is also of significance in Indigenous cultures.” It is meant to represent Indigenous talking circles, because “at Roundhouse we believe a life-changing idea can come from anyone.”

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MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Institute “provides leadership and support towards fostering a culture of social innovation, engaging MacEwan students in initiatives and opportunities that have impact locally, regionally and globally.” Founding director Leo Wong said “as a downtown university, we focus on creating meaningful relationships with our neighbours to improve the economic and social vibrancy of our city, as well as being an environmental steward.”

Allard Hall

Roundhouse is located in the southeast corner of Allard Hall, the newest building MacEwan’s campus. It looks as you might expect a modern coworking space to look, with clean lines, bright accent colors, and plenty of natural light.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Roundhouse offers a Community Membership for $40/month that includes access to the common areas and all of its perks, including WiFi, the kitchen, special rates on programs and events, and of course coffee & tea “to fuel the magic.” Programs include office hour consulting sessions, mentorship opportunities, and workshops to build new skills.

The space includes plenty of meeting rooms, from small spaces for 2-4 people, all the way up to large conference rooms that can accommodate 20 people. The rooms can be rented by the community, and members have access to them for a certain number of hours per month.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Hot desks can be rented starting at $80/month and dedicated desks rent for $400/month.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

They also offer private offices starting at $700/month for up to 4 people.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

There is lots of flexible seating scattered around the space, including some giant bean bags that are waiting to be put into use!

Roundhouse Grand Opening

It’s a functional space, with a print room, kitchen, lots of power outlets, and all of the typical amenities you’d expect. But it’s also a fun space, with features like these pedal-powered charging stations!

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Learn more about Roundhouse here, and be sure to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Roundhouse is celebrating its Launch Week with a number of “thought-provoking speakers, workshops, and community events” so there are plenty of opportunities to check out the space.

You can see more photos from the grand opening here.

The Metro Line is open: Edmonton’s LRT now extends north to NAIT

Today the oft-delayed Metro Line LRT extension from Churchill Station to NAIT opened. The 3.3 km extension adds a second operational line to Edmonton’s LRT Network Plan, and features the first new stations in four years. But today’s launch was very different than the two most previous extension openings, to South Campus in 2009 and Century Park in 2011. Those extensions opened with great fanfare featuring politicians making speeches and shaking hands. The Metro Line opened quietly this morning with no ceremony.

MacEwan LRT Station
Train to NAIT leaves MacEwan Station

The Metro Line features three new stations: MacEwan, Kingsway/Royal Alex, and NAIT. The extension is expected to add 13,200 weekday riders to the system, and ETS says it has “capacity for considerable growth” once the line eventually extends into St. Albert.

The service that launched today isn’t exactly what was planned, of course. The line has been repeatedly delayed, ostensibly due to issues with the signalling system. The Metro Line was planned to open in April 2014, but here we are in September 2015 with what the City is calling a “staged approach” to bringing it into service. Here’s what that means:

  • Metro Line trains will run every 15 minutes between Century Park and NAIT.
  • They will also occasionally run between Health Sciences/Jubilee and NAIT (weekdays after 10pm, Saturdays after 7pm, and all day Sundays).
  • Every third train running between Churchill and Century Park will be a three-car Metro Line train (most of the time).
  • Trains are operating with “line of sight” which restricts the speed of trains between MacEwan and NAIT to 25 km/h, half the planned speed.
  • This means travel time between Churchill Station and NAIT is approximately 14 minutes.

Sharon and I decided to check out the new extension this afternoon, starting our journey from our home station at Bay/Enterprise Square. It’s been chilly and raining all day (and still is as I write this) but that didn’t stop us!

Bay/Enterprise Square LRT Station

The Metro Line was designed to operate between NAIT and the existing Health Sciences Station, so both the Metro Line and Capital Line share the stations in between (and actually will share stations all the way to Century Park as part of this interim service). That means you need to pay attention to the destination of the train you’re boarding.

Edmonton LRT
On the train!

Though there are clear announcements, this is going to be an issue for new riders. As our train was leaving Churchill Station, another announcement was made and a couple in front of us realized they had gotten on the wrong line. I expect this’ll happen quite a bit over the next few weeks.

It’s just a few moments after the track returns above ground that you arrive at MacEwan Station. I would not be surprised at all if it is renamed MacEwan/Rogers Place at some point in the future. The new arena is such a major part of the station that it almost seems inappropriate that it’s not reflected in the name!

MacEwan LRT Station
MacEwan LRT Station

This station we had previously explored as it’s just a short walk from home. Thinking about it now, it would have been much faster to walk and catch the train there than waiting for a Metro Line train to take us from Bay/Enterprise Square.

MacEwan LRT Station
Future walkway to Rogers Place (and 104 Street) from MacEwan Station

MacEwan Station is just a short walk across 105 Street to MacEwan University. The landscaping and park around the station is quite attractive, though it can be a little confusing at first where to enter and exit the platform (at least from the west side).

MacEwan LRT Station
MacEwan Station

Upon leaving MacEwan Station you immediately notice the reduced speed of the train. It feels comically slow at times. Still, riding the train to NAIT or Kingsway is certainly convenient, even if it takes a few minutes longer than expected.

Kingsway/Royal Alex LRT Station

Aside from being close to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the Kingsway/Royal Alex station is also adjacent to the relatively new bus terminal. If you’re a transit rider, the new station is going to be great. If you’re a driver though, be prepared to wait.

Kingsway/Royal Alex LRT Station

The longest wait seemed to be for cars turning east onto 111 Avenue from 106 Street. There wasn’t much traffic today, so the waits probably weren’t too bad, but during rush hour I could see a 10 minute or longer wait being very realistic. The rumor flying around this weekend is that waits will last 16 minutes or more, but the City says this won’t be the case. “To be clear — the City does not expect the Metro Line to cause 16 minute traffic delays at these intersections all the time,” they wrote.

Kingsway/Royal Alex LRT Station
Trains pass each other at Kingsway/Royal Alex Station

I really like the design of the station, with its enclosed, heated waiting areas and very attractive wood features. Oddly though, it’s probably faster to walk to Kingsway Mall from NAIT Station than it is from Kingsway/Royal Alex Station. That’s because you have to cross two roads to get to Kingsway Mall, not to mention waiting for trains to go by (which are slower than normal, remember). So this will probably be the station I use least, unless I need to make a bus transfer.

NAIT LRT Station

Once the train very slowly makes its way up 106 Street and across Princess Elizabeth Avenue, you arrive at NAIT Station. This is going to be a big win for students and means that all of our major education institutions are now more or less connected via LRT (with NorQuest getting even better connectivity when the Valley Line LRT opens).

NAIT LRT Station
NAIT Station with Kingsway Mall to the left

As mentioned it’s just a short walk across Princess Elizabeth Avenue to the Sears side of Kingsway Mall. Unfortunately the sidewalk ends almost as soon as you get to the south side of the street, and you’re left dodging vehicles racing in and out of the parkade. That’s one improvement that could definitely be made.

NAIT LRT Station
The current end of the line at NAIT

NAIT Station is currently the end of the line, but if you look northwest you can see what will eventually become Blatchford (which will have its own LRT station).

At NAIT Station
Selfie at NAIT Station!

Even though this “staged approach” is not ideal, it’s very exciting to have the Metro Line open at long last. Our experience today was very positive, but the real test will come Tuesday morning as students are back to school and everyone else is back to work. You can learn more about the Metro Line opening at the Transforming Edmonton blog.

Lincoln Ho of Yegventures rode the very first train this morning – watch his YouTube feed for the video. You can see more photos from our trip today here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Meet the new West Edmonton Local

Last week a new media organization launched here in Edmonton, one that is quite unlike any of the others. West Edmonton Local is a project of Grant MacEwan University’s journalism program focusing on news in the west end of our city. It’s a website, an experiment in hyperlocal news, and a fantastic learning tool for MacEwan students. I talked to the new site’s editor-in-chief Archie McLean and two of its journalists about the project.

“As much as possible, we want to be an authoritative voice for the west end,” Archie told me. I think that statement says a lot about the new project – it might be easy to dismiss it as just thing for students, but to do so would be a mistake. West Edmonton Local is the real deal. “There’s a market for local news,” he declared. Chelsey Smith, one of the site’s contributors, agreed saying “there’s definitely a need for something like West Edmonton Local.”

Archie became the chair of the program back in August, and even then he was thinking about the idea of a local news site. “What’s the best way to channel the output and collective interest of 20 journalism students?” Traditionally, students would have had to write a couple of big articles during the term, giving them limited opportunity to work with editors. For Archie, that would mean 20 big articles all coming in at the same time. “It doesn’t reflect the media reality,” he told me. West Edmonton Local changes the approach – instead of learning to do journalism, students are doing journalism and learning from that experience.

Students are tasked with writing articles every week, and they also need to include a multimedia component. They’ll also do a few feature pieces throughout the term. They’re using Flickr for photos, and might also include Google Maps, video, slideshows, and other rich content. Chelsey told me “it’s a major time commitment, but everyone is so excited about it.” I also talked with Pamela Di Pinto, who highlighted the big head start the project is giving students career-wise. “It’s not often that my work gets published anywhere, so to actually have my name online is pretty cool.” Archie echoed that, saying that the skills students are gaining with West Edmonton Local will be valuable when they move to other organizations.

In addition to Archie wearing the editor-in-chief hat, the site has two student editors that alternate every two weeks. The Managing Editor helps with the articles and content, and the Community Engagement Editor (apparently the title has changed a few times now) focuses on Twitter, Facebook, and other aspects of the project. Chelsey is the Community Engagement Editor until Wednesday, and said she has focused on tweeting links and posting stories to Facebook, so that more than just the feature articles are read. “We want people commenting on our stories on the website, so it’s important to spread the news.”

The site officially went live on February 7. Archie and the team decided to focus on the west end partly because that’s where the MacEwan program exists, but also because the community seemed like it might be receptive to the idea. “It has a distinctive feel, it was Jasper Place until really not that long ago,” Archie told me. The project’s “boundaries” are west of 124 Street, and south of 111 Avenue to the river. There’s lots of potential news stories in the area, such as the Stony Plain revitalization, the LRT extension, etc. The boundaries are just guidelines, however. If there’s news that is relevant to the west end communities, West Edmonton Local will cover it.

While hyperlocal sites are nothing new, there aren’t many of them here in Canada, and certainly not from journalism schools. One of the sites Archie looked at was Mission Local, a hyperlocal site focused on the Mission district in San Francisco. The “trouble” section was borrowed from that site. Crime is one aspect, but there are other things covered in the trouble section, such as noise bylaw complaints, graffiti, etc. Stuff that is relevant to people in the community, but which might not meet the threshold to be covered in something like the Edmonton Journal.

Archie told me that the biggest challenges the project has faced so far are quality control and workflow. “It’s an ongoing challenge to keep a consistent voice.” The journalists are students of course, so they’re learning as they go, and they all have different abilities and experience. Workflow has also been a challenge, partially because the site is running on WordPress. Students pitch their own story ideas, and post the article in draft form. An editor comes in and checks things over, making any necessary adjustments (Chelsey commented that one of things she has learned so far is the importance of editing). Final approval is given from either Archie or Lucas Timmons, the production editor, and then the article goes live. Multimedia follows a slightly different workflow.

One of the most obvious questions about West Edmonton Local is what happens after school is over. “Worst case scenario is that it lives for a few months and then goes away, but ideally we want to keep it going over the summer,” Archie told me. He has applied for some grant money that would allow a student to work over the summer, carrying it through until the next term. Eventually advertising revenue could cover the operational costs, which at this point are quite small. Partnerships is another aspect of the site that Archie and the team are exploring. They’ve focused primarily on getting everything up and running so far, but are eager to speak with organizations in the community about how to work together.

The team sounded happy with the launch and the attention the site has received thus far. Pamela said the experience has been great, and that she’s excited to see the site grow. She also praised the work Archie and Lucas have put into the site. “They really are helping us out, getting our names out there.” Archie, perhaps unsurprisingly, said it is the students that should get the credit. “They’re putting the content up, and content is king.”

For now the site seems to be running fairly smoothly, but discussions about how to improve it are ongoing. “It’s so young, it could go anywhere,” Chesley remarked. Archie stressed that the team is looking for feedback at this stage. “We genuinely want suggestions from people on what we can do better.” If you have a comment or suggestion, tweet @westedlocal, leave a comment on Facebook, or get in touch with Archie.

For Archie, seeing West Edmonton Local come to life has been a great experience. “It was an opportunity to try building a news site from the ground up,” Archie told me. “It’s potentially an infinite amount of work.” His passion for the project definitely showed during our conversation however, so he seems up to challenge. He also knows this is a unique opportunity. “We don’t have any baggage, so we have the freedom to take chances.”

Congratulations to everyone involved in West Edmonton Local on what you have accomplished so far. I look forward to seeing the project grow and evolve!

What’s new at Grant MacEwan University?

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend the MacEwan President’s Reception held at the Robbins Health Learning Centre. Hosted by retiring president Dr. Paul Byrne, the event was an opportunity for the roughly 50 people in attendance to get an update on what the university has been up to. One of the things that Dr. Byrne was very excited to talk about was MacEwan’s positive showing in The Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report. We were reminded that John Day became Chair of MacEwan’s Board of Governors in July, and Dr. Byrne shared some of the achievements from the last year. Aside from that, the evening had three main areas of focus – new programs, the Bachelor of Music, and the Single Sustainable Campus Project.

One of MacEwan’s newest degrees is the Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS):

“The BCS prepares graduates for strategic roles in business, traditional and new media, not-for-profit and public sector organizations. Graduates of the BCS program will have a variety of career opportunities to choose from, including communications advisor, consultant, producer, writer, editor, journalist, reporter, or commentator.”

The BCS starts in September 2011 along with a new Accounting major in the Bachelor of Commerce program, and a new Arts and Cultural Management diploma. New programs have been a major area of focus for MacEwan lately, as evidenced by the broad array of “We have a [program] for that.” advertisements that have appeared around the city. They now offer around 70 programs.

Another new program is the Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music, one of the few music programs in Canada to focus on jazz and contemporary music. When the full program is up and running, it will have 350 students. MacEwan will continue to offer its Music Diploma program as well. Music students from the school kept us entertained throughout the evening!

MacEwan President's ReceptionMacEwan President's Reception

Though officials in attendance didn’t spend much time talking about it, the Single Sustainable Campus Project was definitely a focus, with information displays and a looping video available for everyone to look at. This video is a great introduction to and overview of the project:

The project will occur in three phases over the course of 20 years. The Centre for the Arts and Communications, currently located in the west end, will move downtown first, to a new home at the corner of 112 Street and 104 Avenue. The programs at South Campus will move next, followed by Alberta College Campus programs. One of the driving forces behind the project is enrollment. MacEwan currently has around 32,000 students, and that number is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. Sustainability, student satisfaction, and the LRT expansion are some of the other key factors. MacEwan received a $1 million Knowledge and Infrastructure Program (KIP) grant last year to kickstart the project, and is continuing to explore logistics and additional funding opportunities.

MacEwan President's ReceptionMacEwan President's Reception

Grant MacEwan University is an important part of Edmonton’s strong slate of education options, so it’s great to see the school growing and succeeding.  You can follow MacEwan on Twitter and on Facebook.

U-Pass Facts & Figures for 2008

Last month, the City of Edmonton’s Office of the City Auditor completed a review of the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) pilot program (PDF). They found that although costs for the program rose, ridership has increased. I took a look at the report, and thought I’d share some of the more interesting facts and figures from it.

For those of you new to U-Pass: it’s a partnership between Edmonton Transit (ETS), St. Albert Transit (StAT), and Strathcona County Transit to provide a universal transit pass to eligible students at the University of Alberta and MacEwan. The current pilot started in the fall of 2007 and will finish up in the fall of 2010.

A total of 84,954 students were eligible in 2008 (counting both the Fall & Winter terms). Here’s the breakdown:

Here’s the revenue that each municipality received in 2008 (the City of Edmonton receives 84%, and the other two each receive 8%):

As the report was created by and for the City of Edmonton, it’s not known what, if any, service changes were made by St. Albert Transit or Strathcona County Transit (unless they too have a report somewhere). ETS made the following changes:

  • 437 service hours were added
  • 3 new routes were added
  • 19 more buses were put into service

Again, we only know the costs for the City of Edmonton. Here are the key figures for 2008:

  • U-Pass Sticker Production costs were $14,500
  • U-Pass Advertising and Promotion costs were $2,928
  • The opportunity cost of the U-Pass program, which is the loss of other ETS fare revenue, was estimated at $10,480,846
  • The cost of providing extra bus service hours was $2,571,221

Add it all up, and you get a total cost of $13,069,495. For the U-Pass program to break even, a fee of $155 per student per term would be required (up from the current $94.50).

In the Edmonton Journal, Councillor Krushell said that ridership nearly doubled from 2006 to 2008, from 7.3 million trips to 13.9 million trips. I’m not exactly sure where she got those numbers, because they aren’t in the report. What is in the report are Campus Passenger Boardings:

As you can see, boardings increased by 21,353 or 12.7% from 2006 to 2008. The report notes that some of this increase may have been caused by factors other than the U-Pass. Other non-financial positives include:

  • An 8% decrease in student parking permits at the University of Alberta since 2006
  • A greater than 8% drop in monthly parking passes at MacEwan for 2007 over 2006

And of course, there has likely been a positive impact on the environment with fewer students driving.

What’s next for the U-Pass?

Although NAIT students initially rejected the program in 2007, a recent survey indicated that a majority would now be interested in joining. The NAIT Students Association hopes to hold a referendum on the issue early next year. The expansion of the LRT to NAIT will no doubt have an impact on interest. If approved, NAIT could join the program for the 2010-2011 school year.

I suspect the program will continue after the current agreement ends, though it is likely that U-Pass fees will rise. Watch for news on a new agreement early next year – the U of A will be holding a student referendum in March to approve new fees, according to The Journal.

UXCamp Edmonton – July 18th

Edmonton’s first UXCamp is being held on Saturday! Organized by Cam Linke of BarCamp fame, Jess McMullin from nForm, and Marc Brisbourne, an instructor with MacEwan’s Design Studies program, UXCamp is a free, one-day event taking place at MacEwan downtown. Here’s what it’s all about:

UXCamp is for people who want to learn and share about user experience, design, usability, information architecture, user interfaces, service design, and anything and everything else about creating better products and better experiences.

Edmonton joins a growing list of cities that have hosted UXCamp, DesignCamp, or InteractionCamp events. Like BarCamp, the schedule is open – anyone can sign up to present in a 20 minute time slot. You can read more about what they’re expecting for presentations and how the day will progress here.

Here are the details for UXCamp Edmonton:

Date: Saturday, July 18, 2009
Time: 9am – 5pm
Location: 9-202, Robbins Health Learning Centre (104th Ave, 109th Street – map)
Cost: Free

The event is limited to 100 people by the venue, so make sure you register now. If you’re interested in sponsoring, click here. Should be a great event!

VenturePrize Mentor Breakfast

Post ImageI just got back from the VenturePrize Mentor Breakfast presented by MacEwan, which I mentioned we were attending in my previous post. Fortunately, we called one of our mentors this morning to find out where it was, so we made it on time, and everything worked out okay. Dickson and I were invited to speak at this event by the MacEwan organizers, to share our experience with and thoughts on the mentorship program that comes as part of VenturePrize. To sum up our presentation:

A mentor’s only obligation is to provide honest, altruistic advice regarding the business plan to the business team they work with during the competition. In our experience, the business team ends up receiving much more than just advice in the mentorship program – they essentially gain another team member – making it a truly invaluable resource. As far as we’re concerned, VenturePrize simply wouldn’t be the same without the mentorship process that comes from the business plan screening, judging, and presenting, the seminar series, and of course, the mentors themselves. We’re truly grateful we were able to take part!

The breakfast this morning was quite good, both the food and the people! We sat with and spoke after Grant MacEwan College CEO and President Dr. Paul Byrne, as well as TEC Edmonton CEO Dr. David Cox. Talk about some tough acts to follow! Both of them are excellent speakers, extremely well-versed in what they do. It probably sounds kind of corny, but events like the breakfast today are all part of that mentorship process we talked about, and we keep learning more and more with each event.

Helping Kim Move

Post ImageHaven’t been around much the last couple days as I’ve been busy helping Kimmi move into residence at Grant MacEwan. It’s funny how you don’t realize just how much effort it takes, and just how much stuff you actually have. I don’t think I have ever owned as many clothes as Kim does right now!

The residence itself is very nice – minus the concrete floors that make your feet black. There is room for 900 students total in bachelor, two-bedroom and four-bedroom configurations, and the building is currently home to 600 students. I’d expect it to fill up pretty quickly though. Kim is in a two-bedroom, so she shares a bathroom and kitchenette with a roommate. They don’t have an oven, but they do have a stovetop and a microwave, and let’s be honest, you really only need a microwave anyway! You can see the pictures here.

There are some pretty strict rules about having guests and that sort of thing, so I am not sure how often I’ll actually be there. I also think it’s funny that they are only allowed to have 9 sleepovers per semester. What kind of number is that? Why not just make it an even ten? I don’t get it. At first I thought it was dumb to have such a rule at all, but then I remembered one of those facts of life that I look forward to one day when I am a father – you live under my roof, you live by my rules!

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