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My Stuff: Jonathan Moneta

The founder of MakeLab shares the creative tools that make fun happen

Three years ago, Jonathan Moneta merged his background in theatre and his interest in technology to launch MakeLab, which puts professional tech equipment into the hands of amateurs, for fun, interactive pop-up experiences. “I was interested in innovative ways you could engage people with technology,” says Moneta. So, he and a group of designers and technologists took eight 3D printers to a Toronto bar and taught design to the patrons. Pretty innovative. “We loved how the more inebriated people would get the more beautiful their designs would get,” he says.

Moneta and his team bought up more equipment, including laser cutters and a digital graffiti wall, and branched out into museums, art galleries, festivals, trade shows – anywhere they could haul their highly technical equipment and plunk it down in front of an untrained but eager crowd.

Rogers Business Forum asked him to shed some light on some of MakeLab’s key tech and gadgets.

The laser cutter

One of the more popular features of MakeLab’s pop-up studio is the edible selfie booth. The team takes a photo of participants and laser-caramelizes that picture onto a macaron, to eat or not to eat. Or they let the guests design an image themselves and the team lasers it onto a surface, such as a water bottle, book – or cookie. Moneta utilizes two laser cutters, at $30,000 a pop, but prefers to keep the brand name under wraps.

The 3D printers

MakeLab uses eight MakerBot 3D printers. Participants create a design freehand or use custom-themed templates to print their own works of art. “3D printers are amazing and beautiful, and they can create anything you can think of, but they’re very slow, which is why we need a fleet of them,” says Moneta.

The digital graffiti wall

MakeLab customizes its 10-foot wide digital graffiti wall for each event. “We design and 3D print custom controllers, from spray-paint cans to magic wands,” says Moneta. “We also use special cameras, projectors and software, each from a different vendor. It’s really our team who ties all the pieces together to create the experience.”

The tablets

MakeLab uses Microsoft Surface Pro 4s with Adobe Creative Cloud in their studio for workshops and training, as well as at events to teach participants how to design.

The meeting tools

MakeLab’s key communication tool is Slack, which keeps the team organized, says Moneta. “We also use Asana as our task-management software. At any given time, we have 15 to 30 projects going on, and Slack and Asana let us converse and manage our responsibilities and communication within those projects.”