The Hornby Spark – A New Life for the Old Fire Hall

The Hornby Spark Society has been successfully operating a satellite Makerspace on Hornby Island since 2017. We have sold over 70 memberships and held dozens of workshops. We have been working hard to acquire the Old Firehall for use as our permanent community space. The Old Firehall started in 1969, which makes this year it’s 50th anniversary! The Hall was built by the community for the community and we look forward to continuing its legacy as a valuable asset for Hornby Islanders. As of June 1, The Hornby Spark Society is the proud owner and operator of this amazing community resource!

What is a Makerspace? A makerspace is a place where people with shared interest, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, skills, knowledge & equipment. The main objective is to create a community-operated physical place, where people learn and share innovative creative skills, education, and collaborate on projects. A main focus of The Spark is skills development and access to tools. We provide facilities for people to create their own work, varying from creating small crafts for sale at local markets to larger industrial projects. The space also functions as a “product incubator” for residents to create new products and business ventures. The space will foster community resilience for changing economic times.

We are now seeking new members who want to show support for this newly acquired community asset. To purchase a membership or for more information visit our website.

We look forward to seeing our community that has supported us on this adventure at the Open House, we thank you for your support.


The Spark needs your Support!

In the summer of 2015 the idea of a Makerspace on Hornby was born. In case you missed it a Makerspace (also called a Hackerspace) is a term for a space where people come together to share knowledge and tools, work on projects together, learn new skills, a community shared resource or workspace. For the last 2.5 years many volunteers have come together to try and make a space like this a reality for Hornby Islanders. Where? At the Old Firehall! A group of passionate individuals created The Hornby Spark Society at the end of 2016 and have been hosting workshops, writing articles, fundraising and working with the CVRD to make this transition possible.

We have been lucky enough to receive $6000 in grant funding from HICEEC and $2000 from the Community Fund. We have ploughed through bureaucracy and politics and managed to get a government official to think outside the box and come up with a plan for the CVRD to transfer the building to the Hornby Spark Society. The CVRD hired the services of MHA Architects to draft a report on what renovations and upgrades are required to bring the building up to health and safety standards for the proposed usage. And the results look good! We can’t officially share the details of the report until it has been approved by the CVRD Board, but there were optimistic remarks like “healthy building” and comments about much of the work able to be done by volunteers and with salvaged materials. While we know that Hornby Islanders have a can-do attitude, we recognize that some fundraising for materials and labour will be required. That’s where you come in, our fellow colleagues and community members. We are seeking donations to make this dream a reality for all residents of this Island. No donation is too big or too small. We are selling $20 annual memberships which gives you access to one free workshop per year. We are also looking for some founding sponsors, who might like to have their name laser engraved into a plaque on the wall, or a custom made brick in their honour.

The Fire Department has officially moved into their new Hall, and the old Firehall is mostly vacant. It is a few short steps away from being a reality for us, and this is so exciting. If you are as excited about this project as we are, or if you just like our enthusiasm, please consider making a donation, there are several ways you can do so:

  • leave us a Cheque in our new Box at the Free Post “Hornby Spark”
  • Send an email transfer to
  • Make a deposit directly into our account at the Union Bay Credit Union Account
  • Coming soon: A donation button on our website

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Fall News

Hornby Island was an inspiring place this summer. People everywhere were busy growing, building, making and creating. The Hornby Spark Society held some workshops where people learned about arduinos, sensors, programming ultra-sonic range finders, wearable LEDs, lily pads, conductive thread, disassembling machines, identifying mechanical parts, hot glue gun safety and making robots.

The Spark hosted a Repair Cafe hosting 20+ participants including some repair experts and some needing items repaired. The group worked together with willingness and enthusiasm to fix 2 bikes, a paper shredder, 2 chainsaws and a weed-wacker. This event was supported by the Repair Cafe Foundation. To learn more visit

This Fall The Spark will host another bigger brighter LED workshop (think Halloween costumes!), another Repair Cafe, Robot Camp at the Hornby Island Community School as an after-school program, and a presentation from the consultant preparing a report on the building requirements for the old Firehall.

We will also resume regular meetings, the next being held Wednesday, October 25 at 7:30pm at the Firehall.

We would like to give special thanks to all the participants and volunteers that made the summer workshop series a great success.

In other good news, we received a grant from the Community Fund for $2000 to help start a tool library, contingent on receiving the old Firehall as a workshop space. We thanks all the donors and Board for their assistance on this project.

Next Workshop: Wearable LEDs – Sunday, October 22 from 2:00-4:00pm at Room to Grow. In this workshop you will learn to make things that light up! (Google wearable LED projects). We will be using conductive thread and making a small circuit to attach a LED light. This workshop includes: instruction, LEDs, battery, conductive thread and felt. If you want to work with a pillow or old t-shirt to experiment with, please bring that with you.  All other supplies provided including the LED lights. This is an easy, basic workshop that will be fun for everyone from ages 10 and up. It will expand on knowledge learned in the summer workshop but no previous experience is required.

Cost for the workshop is $20 to cover the cost of materials.

Summer Workshop Series

July 16 – Arduino Workshop: 1-3pm @ Room to Grow 


What is an Arduino? An introduction and demonstration into the world of microcontrollers. This beginner level workshop will give an overview of the technology and explore how arduinos can benefit anyone. How can an Arduino improve your life? There are endless possibilities here, and only your mind (or the internet) is the limit… An arduino to open and close the chicken coop door at dawn and dusk. You could make a night lamp for kids that lights up when it’s dark and changes colour automatically. A telephone ringer tailored for the hard-of-hearing. Become a master brewer with your own malt kiln. Soil moisture measurement, light and temperature sensors in a greenhouse. Build a robot that makes you a sandwich. Bring your ideas, enthusiasm and an open mind. Cost is $20*


July 29 – Wearable LED projects: 1pm-3pm @ New Horizons


In this workshop you will learn to make a small item that lights up: examples include a bracelet, broach, or a pillow that lights up when you sit on it, a small stuffed animal, or some other creative idea you might have (Google wearable LED projects). We will be using conductive thread and making a small circuit to attach a LED light. This workshop includes: instruction, LED, battery, conductive thread and felt. If you want to work with a pillow or old t-shirt to experiment with, please bring that with you.  All other supplies provided including one LED light. This is an easy, very basic workshop that will be fun for everyone from ages 10 and up. Cost is $20*


August 27 – Robot Camp: 11am-3pm @ Room to Grow


Learn about what it takes to build robots. This course will introduce you to the world of hardware and software in a fun, seamless way. This robotics summer class is ideal for students who enjoy problem-solving and want to develop interpersonal skills through working in a collaborative team setting. Do you like the mechanics and engineering of making things work? How about the thought of designing robots? Are you a “hands-on” learner? Join us for part 1 of an ongoing robotics series, this first class will introduce you to a simple robot build. Suitable for all ages and abilities. Cost is $20*


September 17 – Repair Cafe: 12pm-4pm @ Joe King


Bring your items in need of repair and learn how to fix them! Items could be small appliances, bicycles, electronics, kids’ toys, small furniture, small engines, power tools, clothing and other household items. Repair cafes are trending all over the world right now as consumers become more aware of how unsustainable our current throw-away culture is. The concept of “perennial philosophy” is to try and keep the material objects in your life for as long as possible. The repair café concept appears to have originated in Amsterdam and has a much larger presence in Europe. It’s a great way to do something fun, useful, and educational in our community. So stop by to check it out, with or without something to fix. FREE event*
* All workshops are fundraising events for The Hornby Spark Society, however no one will be turned away for lack of funds.


For more information or to register for any of these workshops please email or call Quana at 250-335-2613

Introduction to Arduinos

What is an arduino?

“Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. You can tell your board what to do by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board.”

Wait what is a microcontroller? A microcontroller is the brain in your washing machine, microwave or thermostat.  A little computer with a really simple task so it needs just enough computer power to do that task and nothing more. As such they are really cheap $2-$5 bucks delivered to your door.

What can you do with an arduino?

There are endless possibilities here, and only your mind (or the internet) is the limit… One thing I’ve been considering is using an arduino to open and close the chicken coop door at dawn and dusk. You could make a Smart Night Lamp for Kids that lights up when it’s dark and changes color automatically. A Telephone Ringer tailored for the hard-of-hearing. Become a master brewer with your own malt kiln. Arduino + vineyard = Vinduino. Soil moisture measurement, light and temperature sensors in a greenhouse. Build a robot that makes you a sandwich… The sky is the limit.

Where can you learn more about arduinos?

The arduino site has a ton of information, and a simple google search will lead you to countless open-sourced projects, you tube videos and blog posts. There is also everyone’s favourite quirky robot builder Simone, be sure to click here to check out some of her you tube videos.

Arduinos have been around for over a decade and have tons of programs and code out there that is all open source, so you can cut and paste to your hearts content, and the programming language is simple, so if you need to tweak it a little to fit your problem, it is easy to do!

This is why I am excited about arduinos and am hosting a workshop with Ian Emberton this coming Saturday, March 4 from 12:30-4:30 at Room to Grow (2100 Solland Road, HI) so we can share what we have learned and we can all go on being the unique folks that we are and solve our own problems!

Come Join us! If you can bring a lap top please do. Come with an open mind and lets play, it will be fun!

To learn more about this organization and it’s goings on come to our next meeting on March 22 at 7:30pm at the Firehall. Visit our Facebook page “The Hornby Spark” or email us at

By Quana Parker 

One Year later…

So much progress and growth has occurred since our first article one year ago. We have held monthly meetings, garnered support from the community and navigated the process of acquiring the Old Firehall as a space. We now have a very good working relationship with the CVRD and Crown Land. We have come up with a plan to acquire the building that will work for all parties. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

We have been reflecting on how much this project will benefit the Hornby Community. There has been much discussion around housing, and ways to support community members that need stable housing. Between new potential bylaws and the ISLA project, these goals look promising. A local builder has suggested building prefab housing at The Spark, and really anyone could use the space for building part or all of a home. For those living in tiny homes, the Spark space will offer much needed space for building, creating, and making a living the way Hornby Islanders do.

The Spark plans to have a regular car maintenance bay where locals with knowledge can support those who want to DIY oil changes, fluid top ups, change spark plugs etc.

Have you ever had a favourite appliance that lasted years and one day unexpectedly stopped working? Instead of sadly taking it to the Depot, we will offer a series of repair cafes where you could either learn to fix the appliance yourself or for a nominal fee have someone else fix it for you.

Many artists are in need of studio space, especially in the summer months when many people are displaced from their regular rental spaces. The Spark plans to offer individual studio spaces to those who would like to rent a space that they can leave their tools, supplies or art in progress and have full anytime access.

We also had another look at the Hornby Island Community Vision and are pleased to see how well our project fits within what that framework. While it has the potential to support tourism, the arts, building practices, agriculture, energy and the environment, the categories that struck us were Co-operative Ventures & Community Infrastructure: “In the year 2020, co-operative and community-run ventures are flourishing because the community believes that collective initiatives are the most effective ways to meet the needs of the community, maintain local control and create a healthy economy. In order to survive and be able to live the simple, low impact lifestyle we desire, we have developed many effective ways for pooling and sharing our resources, talents and energy. We realize that only through mutual effort and respect will we be able to achieve our goals of self-reliance and self-determination.” We couldn’t have stated a better intention for the creation of The Spark. Under Economy: “There are plenty of skill-building and educational opportunities, co-operative and support mechanisms to assist the creation and success of small businesses.” Exactly. The Spark has potential to create jobs and individual self-reliance. Finally, under Education: “The community has created a life-long learning infrastructure (which could be an actual Centre or a loose network) that is responsive to the needs of all individuals and the community. It is flexible, well-funded and sustainable. Learners and teachers from around the world are welcome and important participants in this educational process.” We’re on track for making this a reality.

If you support the Hornby Island Community Vision then you are a supporter of The Spark initiative. Thank you.

For more information come to our next meeting on November 23 at 7:30pm at the Firehall. Visit our Facebook page “The Hornby Spark” or email us at

By Leanna Killoran and Quana Parker 

The Spark: Next Steps

While we continue to work behind the scenes navigating the bureaucratic process of trying to obtain the old Firehall for use as a Community Workshop/Hackerspace/Makerspace, we are keen to get going with some hands on doing.

We have the back end of a tool library set up on our website, now all we need are some tools. If you have tools that you would be interested in renting or loaning out please be in touch!

In other news: a new Makerspace is popping up in Courtenay, The Shed Tool Library & Makerspace Co-op will be opening in January 2017 at the Habitat Restore. Their idea is quite similar to our own, provide a space for people to make, create, innovate, learn, and share expertise & knowledge. This fall they have teamed up with the Vancouver Island Regional Library (Courtenay branch) to host a series of Repair Cafes. Topics include: Bike Repair, Home Electronics, Small Furniture, Computer equipment, and Clothing/Textiles.

Would you like to see a similar course/workshop/cafe offered on Hornby? Be in touch if you would be willing to offer or participate in such an event.

For more information or to get involved come out to our next meeting at the Firehall on October 26 at 7:00pm or visit our Facebook page “Happy Hornby Hackerspace”

Contact us at

Submitted by Leanna Killoran and Quana Parker on behalf of The Spark, a family friendly community work space and innovation centre.

Will Sparks Fly?

The last month has been a rollercoaster of navigating the logistics of taking over the old Firehall as a potential community workspace. We have had 2 meetings with members of the CVRD and one with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (Crown Land). We’ve met with building inspectors, engineers, architects, and urban planners. As it turns out, taking over the old Firehall is not a simple endeavor. There are several possible routes to take and ultimately we will need to decide which will be the most cost effective and most likely to be approved by Crown Land. One option is to buy the land (and the building) directly from the Crown. Another is to have CVRD maintain the land and the building and apply to transfer the use from a Firehall to another purpose (such as a Hackerspace). Another option is to find another governmental organization to hold the building such as The Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation. Finally, another option is essentially a real estate transaction that involves charges on the Land Title to good effect in enabling a conveyance of a Crown Grant that was sponsored to a community entity… Head spinning yet? Us too!

We will continue to navigate these muddy waters in hopes that a clear solution will be presented and that this invaluable community space will be saved. It looks like there will be some significants costs to get the building up to health and safety standards. We will be bringing in a code consultant to determine what exactly needs to be done in order for the building to be suitable for our needs. In the mean time we are looking for direct offers of support that we can show both the CVRD and the Crown that this project is supported by the community. If you are interested in supporting this project we are looking for letters of support from community members. You can write to us at These letters will be included in our application to the Crown.

We are also looking for offers of financial support. While we have yet to form an official organization, as the type of organization we form is crucial to the outcome of the type of application we put forth, we are looking to see if/how much financial support might be available to this project. You can email or and let us know if you think you would be able to support this project financially.

Last but not least, check out our new website!

For more information or to get involved come out to our next meeting at the Firehall on September 28 at 7:00pm or visit our Facebook page “Happy Hornby Hackerspace”

By Leanna Killoran and Quana Parker on behalf of The Spark, a family friendly community work space and innovation centre.

Introducing: The Spark

This month the Hornby Hackerspace community has chosen a new name for our collective, calling it The Spark. We have also registered a domain name and a website will be coming soon…

We have had an informal meeting with an engineer regarding the current condition of the Firehall and the results were optimistic. We have reviewed legal structures with an accountant and are still waiting to confirm requirements with a Natural Resource Specialist at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

We have closed our survey and have compiled the results, 66 people responded and here is what the community had to say:

How would you be interested in using a Hackerspace/Makerspace/community workshop on Hornby? (Top 5 responses)
Artistic Uses (29 ppl)
Carpentry (25 ppl)
Crafts (24 ppl)
General place to hang out and visit with friends (24 ppl)
Sewing (23 ppl)

What tools would you like to see available in the space? (Top 5 responses)
Serger (27 ppl)
Drill press (25 ppl)
Sewing machine (22 ppl)
3D Printer (22 ppl)
Table Saw (21ppl)

Would you be interested in taking a workshop/educational course? If so on what topics?
How to build/make specific items, ie kitchen cabinets, picture frames, etc (35 ppl)
How to use specific machines/tools, ie laser cutter, CNC mill, etc (32 ppl)
How to repair things, ie, electronics, computers, bicycles etc (32 ppl)
Food Preservation (26 ppl)
Auto mechanics (14 ppl)

How much would you be willing to pay for a monthly membership? (A membership
would include access to the space and use of most tools)
I would pay an occasional drop in fee (26 ppl)
I would pay for a monthly membership (23 ppl)
I would be interested in a discounted Family Membership (10 ppl)

Are you willing to volunteer your time in some capacity to help establish this organization?
Fundraising (18 ppl)
Public Relations (15 ppl)
Become a Board Member (10 ppl)
Marketing (7 ppl)
Assist with Incorporation or other Legal documents (4 ppl)

Are you willing to give financially to the organization?
I would be willing to donate without retribution (11 ppl)
I have tools I would be willing to donate (11 ppl)
I would make a donation if I could receive a tax receipt (9 ppl)
I would be willing to invest and receive dividends or interest (4 ppl)

Beyond the multiple choice questions, we received overwhelming support for this project:

“I would be pleased to see this building, that was built with VOLUNTEER labour and community DONATIONS for Hornby's use, not just destroyed.”

“It would be wonderful to see the Old Fire Hall turned into a bustling community center for creative and useful projects.”

“Keep up the good work!”

“What a grand idea and totally in keeping with Hornby’s cooperative spirit.”

“I think it is a great idea to save the building and repurpose the space”

“This is an incredible idea, and I hope that it goes forward!”

To learn more about this project come out to our next meeting on August 24 at 7:00pm at the Firehall. For more information visit our Facebook page “Happy Hornby Hackerspace”

By Leanna Killoran and Quana Parker