On March 8 we signed our agreement with the Town of Richmond Hill to get the Ylab Maker Space back up and running in the basement of the administration building of the David Dunlap Observatory.
For ylab, it’s been over a year of paperwork, waiting, negotiating, board meetings and calls, getting insurance, and still taking care of tax and related filings to maintain our corporate non-profit status. For the Town’s Parks and Recreation department, it’s been far more arduous – the negotiations to take ownership of the facility; the inspections, engineering and safety work for a building and telescope that opened in 1935; and all the organisational planning required to deal with groups like ylab that applied for access. The Town also has a master plan for the entire DDO site.
So what are the next steps?
There will be more formal communication with members. As promised, we put memberships on hold when we lost access. We are reactivating everything effective April 1. We have more space and more flexibility. There are fire and safety rules that may require some amendment to membership agreements. Then there’s all that formal organisation stuff, like an annual member meeting that we’re a little behind on.
We’ll get our gear back in and set things up. Our laser cutter gets another trip down the building back stairs after its winter in the undisclosed secret location (a.k.a. Richard’s garage). We thank Richard for his generosity in storing and maintaining it, and giving access to any member who asked. There are some member offices and garages around town that will be happy to get some free space back. Expect some news around 3D printing.
Once we’re in, our initial focus will be on existing members and getting some unfinished, dormant projects reactivated.
A huge thank you to the board members who worked through this, to the non-member volunteers who help out in so many ways, to Phil the insurance guy for coming through for us once again, and to all the members for your support, incredible patience and understanding during the prolonged hiatus. As the song goes… “never was heard a discouraging word”.
We all felt it was worth the wait to be in this magnificent facility.
Here’s to making it really worth it.
We have (hopefully temporarily) retrieved our laser cutter and some other gear from our lair at the DDO so we can use it over the summer. After we get re-calibrated and back in operation, we’ll be scheduling some get-togethers.
It will take a couple of weeks as many of us are completing our own transitions – kids from school to camps, work to vacation and back, and generally getting adapted again to the long summer evenings.
Richmond Green Library held their maker event on Saturday afternoon, March 11, and might not have been prepared for the ylab mayhem. Other exhibitors might have been content with a display table. We kind of… expanded. Out of control.
People coming in through the entrance rotunda for a quiet read were surprised by hovercraft scooting by.
What’s normally a children’s reading area was taken over by sumo bots and some nifty book-making. The paper and cover kind, not the covering bets kind.
We weren’t just showing stuff. Light sabre repairs, modifications and software upgrades were happening right there. We left with more working light sabres than we came in with.
And the children’s program room? Our Jacob’s ladder and some interesting audio demos made light and sound waves visible and understandable, with bonus ear-piercing sounds.
Big thanks to the ylab volunteers who brought all their creations, and to all the Richmond Green Library staff who were so helpful in so many ways putting on a great maker event. And not throwing us out.
Where can we find an alligator clip to ground out a screwdriver?
If you’re going to remove a fly-back transformer from an old TV, as shown here (we’re giving them credit because we took their picture), you first need to safely discharge what could be up to 30,000 volts in the tube. Hook up an alligator clip to the screwdriver, and ground it, they say.
We have the TV, but we’re meeting outside of our normal lair at the DDO. We want to do it now. Besides, old 32 inch TVs are too heavy to lug down to the basement.
At ylab, our sense of scale may be a little warped by being so close to the big giant telescope. Because someone said “Wait, I have a Canadian alligator clip in my car.”
30,000 volts? Ha! With this kind of wire gauge, we could take a lightning strike.
After a safe and honourable discharge, we got all the components we wanted.
No Peks were harmed in the making of this post.
It’s a family event – ages 6 and up, according to the RHPL event listing. While you’re in the area, bring out your skates and hit the beautiful Richmond Green Skating Trail. It’s beautifully lit in the evening.
No registration required, but we’ve created a meetup.com event to help publicise it. Registration not required, but it’s nice to let us know you’re coming.
Anyone who’s watched an old Frankenstein movie – or almost any old black-and-white sci-fi movie – knows you can’t have a decent science lab without a Jacob’s ladder and its noisy, sparky electric arcs crawling up between two wires.
Since we call ourselves ylab, member Craig felt we had to do something about this and kicked off the project.
Now if you look up how-to sites on the web, you’ll see a lot of recommendations on how to make one using a tube TV fly-back transformer, and maybe a fluorescent light ballast as an power source. But nooooo, not us.
At ylab, we have the benefit of having some … ahem… experienced members. Some retired. They have some amazing knowledge. They have some crazy old stuff in their basements. And sometimes, they bring out that stuff.
Member Craig brought a transformer box that looks like it came from a World War 2 radar station. It kicks off some serious spark.
We took a break the following week after someone said there was a gas smell from the furnace room. As in holy-stuff we’re not coming in until that’s cleared up.
Once we got the all-clear…
Member Gilles of radio restoration fame brought in an electronic ignition thing from an old car. Probably a very old car. Looks like the first generation after points and condensers. That and a PC power supply would do the trick. But it would not be cool enough.
Gilles knows that we have a few jurassic audio oscillators. That’s the thing with the big dial in the background. How many? Enough that we could risk one.
Wire that in, and now the sparks fly with different tones as you turn the giant knob.
We’re officially a real science lab!
Correction from original post: we originally said the big transformer was from Ross. It’s Craig’s. And Craig is not retired.
What-seems-like-an-eternity ago (it was the beginning of October), we kicked off a
light sabre(1) big shiny stick thing making class, using a new circuit board design engineered by ylab member Richard. It’s designed to handle the latest 5V, 144 LED per meter, multi-color light strips for lowest power and maximum brightness. It features great power management, accelerometer to detect motion and vibration, dual channel sound, capacitive discharge contacts (so buttons don’t wear out) and an SD card slot for loading your own sounds.
It was supposed to be a two-evening class.
It’s been a learning and ongoing experience.
We started with the circuit boards, adding epoxy to stiffen the battery holders to increase reliability. Drilling the aluminum hilt. Soldering – a new skill for many. Re-drilling later because the capacitance discharge contacts were too close to the hilt and unreliable.
Then the 3D printer we were using to make the speaker caps for the end of the hilt went squirrely… and back to the manufacturer… for weeks.
Being the kind of people we are (insert something complimentary or derogatory here), we’ve allowed all class participants to keep coming in for updates as we’ve improved the design. Software updates are ongoing.
They’re working, they’re bright, they have colours.
But we’ll be doing a bit more work on the software before we kick off another class.
And we’ll keep contacting the makers to come in as we keep improving the design.
(1) We can’t call it that.