Like a ninja: N++ video game takes N to a whole new level (make that 2,360 levels)

A project that began as an experiment while attending the University of Toronto more than a decade ago has landed Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns a worldwide distribution deal with Sony’s Playstation.

Sheppard and Burns are the creators of N++, a video game in which ninja players must avoid deadly traps and enemies, including an evil ninja twin, as they race to find an exit from each increasingly difficult screen.

According to Burns, the first version of the game, N, released as freeware in 2004, was inspired by the same kind of graphically simple games they enjoyed themselves. “We took bits of different games that we liked and combined that with our own ideas about physics and movement.”

They posted their creation at freeware sites and shared it with friends. “We didn’t know if it would be a success until we got feedback from other people,” says Sheppard. “It started snowballing from there.”

Toronto unlocks its inner maker spirit at U of T-sponsored Maker Festival

showroomfloorCreative displays, innovative projects and interactive workshops ignited the imaginations of children and adults alike this weekend at Maker Festival, the largest maker event in Canadian history.

The two day extravaganza featured over 100 maker displays and attracted more than 10,000 curious attendees to the Toronto Reference Library’s maker-friendly space. An additional 1,000 people participated in the 45 satellite events taking place across the city in the week leading up to the festival.

“It was thrilling to see such a great crowd at both the main event as well as the satellite events this year,” said Jen Dodd, Executive Director at Maker Festival. “With such a large number of makers and maker organizations in the city, it is great to have a strong level of interest from the public. And with so much going on, we knew that there would be something for everyone!”

A celebration of imagination

The library’s first and second floors housed booths showcasing Toronto makers’ 3D printers, wearables, robots, electronics and much more. Attendees also had the opportunity to sign up for hands-on workshops where they could make 3D printed jewelry, decorate robot cupcakes, assemble a Rube Goldberg machine or even solder a rocket ship.

Meanwhile, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the showroom floor, University of Toronto’s Glowatorium offered a peaceful and enchanting getaway. The dimly lit room was adorned in LED lanterns and was home to makers booths with glow-inspired creations.

“This is one of the most interactive and creative events Toronto has to offer,” said Cheryl Stone, Maker Festival attendee. “It’s amazing to see all the interest and support there is for makers out there. This weekend has truly been a testament to the city’s maker spirit.”

Fun for all ages 

tory empathy toy

Ilana Ben-Ari (left) and Mayor John Tory (right) play with Twenty One Toys’ Empathy Toy at Maker Festival 2015

The family friendly event had not only the kids entranced, but the parents as well. Even Mayor John Tory came out and got into the maker spirit, building a rocket ship, playing with Empathy Toys and hanging out with a giant cardboard praying mantis.

“[Maker Festival] inspires young minds to think and invent outside of the box,” tweeted Tory. “[It’s] key to our city’s future prosperity.”

After two successful years of running Mini Maker Faires, Dodd and her team realized that Toronto’s exploding maker scene was ready for its very own full blown festival. The event lived up to the expectations of the Maker Festival team and attendees, securing the title of Canada’s largest maker event to date.

“This is our 3rd year participating and we always look forward to this event. It’s kind of like our ‘business conference’ except it’s not like any other business conference you can think of,” said Lisa Carrie Goldberg, Founder and Lab Director at Action Potential Lab. “We catch up with other makers from the community and some makers from out of town. We meet tons of incredible volunteers who help out with the event. And we get the chance to see totally new, innovative ideas from the fellow exhibitors.”

The festival is an annual event so if you weren’t able to make it out this weekend, be sure to keep your eyes open for Maker Festival 2016! Until then, live vicariously through some of this year’s photos:

Photos by provided by Maker Festival (view more here).

IC-IMPACTS Summer Institute: Not your usual summer camp

Indian and Canadian grad students explore entrepreneurship, technology at U of T.

When people think of summer camp, they tend to think of children paddling canoes, playing soccer or learning arts and crafts. But the 47 graduate students from India and Canada who attended the IC-IMPACTS Summer Institute earlier this summer had a very different experience.

The summer institute, which took place at U of T’s Bahen Centre, brought together students and faculty members from 18 science and engineering disciplines and 29 different Canadian and Indian academic institutions for a week-long event devoted to sensing technologies to monitor infrastructure, clean water and infectious diseases. During the week, students presented posters, participated in panel discussions and worked in teams to present proposals for sensing technologies.