The First Maker Space and Tech Community For Markham, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, & Vaughan.

Not a creature was stirring.

Not a creature was stirring.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the DDOme, Not a creature was stirring in the maker’s new home; The basement room floor has been painted with care, In hopes that equipment soon would be there;

The paperwork done, agreements written and read, As plans for new robots danced in their heads;Maker nights on break, ’til the old year is done, But working new projects, new ideas, new fun.

Just in case you were not able to make it through that horrible verse…

We’re taking a break from maker nights for the rest of the year, and we’ll be off and running in 2016 starting on Monday January 4  with member-only nights (Mondays, and another weeknight TBD), and weekly open house for visitors on Wednesdays.

Until then, there’s lots happening behind the scenes. Now that so much of the administrative stuff for getting the space started is done, we’re putting some effort back into planning new events and projects.

Some of the things in the works:

  •  A ham radio class, to be run jointly with the DDO and the York Region Amateur Radio Club.
  • Light sabre making project and classes. Our first 3D printing class will include the option of designing your own light sabre hilt.
  • Our first ylab corporate event, featuring some great tech company leaders from the area. Hint: keep your calendar free for the evening of Monday, January 25.
  • Our Robotycs team is looking for a group project.
  • Getting a team together to work with the DDO on more cool stuff for their 2016 Halloween Haunted House. Hear that, Robotycs people?

Lots more possibilities, so please give us your feedback… and preferably by joining the discussion on our group.

On that note… and to all a good night.

Before. Yuck.

Before. Yuck.

Monday December 14 was our first members’ only night. Since ylab is an all-volunteer effort, that of course means we got down to some hard work cleaning up the space.
Thank you for your membership payment. Now get to work.

Thank you for your membership payment. Now get to work.

Our call for equipment donations produced some very timely results. Big thanks to Eric for the compressor and ShopVac. There’s more stuff coming in, so cleaning up and painting the floor became the top priority.
This ShopVac gained 12 pounds over the evening.

This ShopVac gained 12 pounds over the evening.

  With all the care due to the historic facility, we cleared the room and scraped, sanded, swept, vacuumed and painted.
The artists get to do the fine trim work.

The artists get to do the fine trim work.

Some serious anti-gravity physics were deployed to move the behemoths – those two big metal folding machines that were living in the space before we took it over (ylab regulars know what I’m talking about).
The Behemoth. Because the DDO can no longer call it the Immoveable Object.

The Behemoth. Because the DDO can no longer call it the Immoveable Object.

Remind me... who let these wingnuts in here?

Remind me… who let these wingnuts in here?

The gloriously warm December weather allowed us to open the windows to clear the dust and keep our cool.
It’s OK. She signed the liability waiver.

It’s OK. She signed the liability waiver.

Big thanks to Avery, Lucian, Pek, Richard and Ross for all the hard work and to the DDO for providing us the odd painting thing we forgot .
Stand over there to watch paint dry.

After. Stand over there to watch paint dry.

"ME 401 QuickJob" by Nina Paley - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“ME 401 QuickJob” by Nina Paley – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. We’re  making progress, but not there yet. The good news is that a lot of the heavy lifting is pretty much done – formal incorporation as a non-profit; liability insurance; formal board (required for non-profits), finding a space and getting that agreement in place.

Membership has its privileges… and problems.

Pre-announcing membership fees and models is just not smart until we have all the details in place. We’re making progress, with mandatory things like codes of conduct and liability waivers  – you know, those things to prevent us from getting sued. We’re fortunate to have other maker spaces leading the way and providing us great examples. Stay tuned. We want to have everything in place by Jan 1 (yes, 2016) – with a deal for people participating during December.
MarkhamMakersBanerJay’s Markham Makers group on has been a big part of ylab from the start. The group was  the initial core, providing a great mailing list for our successful  kick-off event. We’re moving from subtle usurping to all-out takeover. It’s now a formal part of ylab. Some of the recent changes include:
  • Our Robotycs discussion forum
  • It’s where we store our design and tutorial documents
  • Accepting payment for our events, without the service charge you get on Eventbrite.
  • Rebranding to be less Markham-specific. After all, our space at the DDO is in Richmond Hill!
Expect to see more changes soon as we rebrand, re-logo, re-name and generally re-organise it. Some of the work involves changing URLs, so some of the links you use may not work. If you can’t find something, search on for ylab – and please let us know if a link is broken. Another part of the work is better links from the web site, and transitioning the event calendar to link to the events. Our web site wizard Avery is on the case. Be patient with him. In the interim, we will continue to post events on both and Eventbrite. Big thanks to Jay for all his work setting up the group – and all the other things he does for ylab.
“Be careful what you wish for”, they say. ylab is making the transition to become a maker space. ylab started with the goal of  building a real tech community up here in southern York Region – Markham, Richmond Hill, Thornhill and Vaughan. There are scores of technology companies in the area, but outside work, everything seemed to be happening in downtown Toronto. While we thought a maker space would be a great way to do it, we needed to first build up the community. We decided to do it by running a bunch of one-off events.  So we started reaching out to people, and with hardly any notice, we announced our kick-off event on July 25, 2015. And we all know how that turned out!Because it’s all about community, we reached out to others to join in and help out – or, as often as not, they reached out to help us. It might be as simple as spreading the word, giving some advice,  loaning a piece of equipment, or as time consuming as rearranging an office or a schedule to host a ylab event. We’ve mentioned them before – companies  like Canada Robotix, Logics Academy, Proto3000, Keating… organisations like Markham Public Library, Startup York, David Dunlap Observatory, York Region Amateur Radio Club… Toronto maker spaces Site3 and… meetup groups Markham Makers and Coffee and Code York Region… the list goes on and we apologise in advance for any we missed. But most of all, it’s the people. Every time we run an event, we ask ourselves “will this be the one where we fall on our faces?”. It hasn’t happened yet. You’ve shown up as attendees. You’ve shown up as volunteers. We’ve had people jump in to build the web site. To build the social media presence. To volunteer as board members. To do the legal work. To do the accounting. To join in and teach others. To start an amazing robotics group. As we announced here a couple of weeks ago, the community is giving back to us in a most incredible way.We have a maker space.We have it in one of most spectacular and historic sites in all of York Region – the David Dunlap Observatory. This is a big transition. We have a lot of organisational things to take care of. We’ve already covered some  big hurdles – incorporation as a non-profit; creation of a board; liability insurance. We’re working fast (not fast enough!) on the rest of it. Membership types and pricing. Formal agreements. Codes of conduct. Crowdfunding campaign. We’ve come a long way in – wait a minute – is it really just 4 months since July 25???So stay tuned for more announcements. We’re reaching out to more groups. We have more plans for more events. But we’re going to be really focused for a few weeks on crossing all those Ts and dotting all those Is to get the maker space going. In the meantime, your feedback would be appreciated by all the volunteers who’ve worked so hard. Be sure to let us know what you think on those twitter (@ylab_maker) and facebook links on the right side of the page. Or send us a non-public comment on our About Us page.ylablogoThe ylab team.
Wed Nov 4, 2015. It was like a whole bunch of ylab events, shaken up, mixed together and served up with everyone wondering how on earth the unholy mess would taste. Our friends at the David Dunlap Observatory somehow agreed to let us in to the darkest recesses of their basement for what was supposed to be a barely-announced Robotycs hands-on night. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the place was still littered with skeletons, corpses and other horrors from the DDO Haunted House . As a test event, we limited the announcement to the fortunate people who attended our two first Robotycs meetings and our Arduino class.
The no-longer secret anti-static handshake.

The no-longer secret anti-static handshake.

The theme of the evening: Arduino Robotic Car Hacks. No, not the kind of cars from our August Car Hacks/OBD-2 Event.
Victims of the evening's activities.

Victims of the evening’s activities.

    Instead of using robotic kits, we asked everyone to bring whatever old wired or R/C cars they had lying around their basements to modify for Arduino control.
There's an oscilloscope. This must be science.

There’s an oscilloscope. This must be science.

Ylab volunteers brought in oscilloscope, voltmeter, tools, soldering irons and other implements of toy destruction. Robot Ross gave the introductory lesson on how to work to work the motors with Arduino. Then the mayhem started.
Higher voltage makes it spin faster.

Higher voltage makes it spin faster.

Looks complicated... and they haven't done the software yet.

Looks complicated… and they haven’t done the software yet.

Arduino hardware transplant successful.

Arduino hardware transplant successful.

Formerly-abandoned toys started coming to life. What were previously single-speed cars were now controllable to run at different speeds.
Isn't this how Frankenstein was brought to life?

Isn’t this how Frankenstein was brought to life?

Some achieved  variable steering  instead of full-right or full-left. Humming, un-moving motors were explained (more power!). Beginners learned a heck of a lot. Our DDO friends looked on in… let’s say puzzled amazement and leave it at that. Big thanks to the regular ylab volunteers (Richard, Ross, Jay, Pek), to Canada Robotix for the discount on the Arduino boards, to the DDO for hosting, and, above all, to all the attendees who came out and made the event a success.BREAKING NEWS: MORE OF THE SAME NEXT WEEK! Look for the booking announcement in the next couple of days on this page (Over there! On the right side!) or by searching on Eventbrite. Same time – 7 PM Wednesday – and same place, which we’ve officially nicknamed the ylab DDOngeon.
October 2015 YLab Group Shot

October YLab Meeting Group Shot.

October was a crazy month. YLab is all about tech community, so it’s more than just the events we put on. YLab regulars, volunteers and friends have been all over the place, including:
  • YLab’s Python Constricted class, hosted by the Markham Public Library, where a dozen people were introducted to the Python programming language, and helped along by ylab volunteers.
  • Our second monthly Robotycs meeting, hosted once again by Logics Academy, covered an intro to Arduino and Raspberry Pi. We’re looking for a serious competition project!
  • We have a small offshoot of beginners from Robotycs who are eager to learn and will start some hands-on weekly training by hacking remote control cars. Experienced volunteers will be showing up to help them with soldering irons, oscilloscopes and Arduino gear.
Robot Ross Giving a Presentation and Halloween at the DDO

Robot Ross Giving a Presentation and Halloween at the DDO.

We were busy with our friends at the Markham Public Library, where:
  • YLab’s Robot Ross and Jedi Jay displayed their wares that the Mini Maker Faire.
  • A few ylab regulars’ faces were in the audience for their evening with Cory Doctorow.
  • Their Nov 13 TEDx put out a call for speakers. We introduced a couple of ylab friends from The David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) and Site 3 Maker Space  who have been selected. Our proposal for a  Site 3 flaming demo in the parking lot… well, that  went down in flames. Tickets are going fast!
Halloween at the DDO!

Halloween at the DDO!

Speaking of the DDO… We wrapped up the month with a Halloween eve visit to their Haunted House in full geek-out costume, complete with pocket protectors, taped eyeglasses and white socks. That was after a visit to TAVES Consumer Electronics Show held at the Sheraton at Hwy 7 and Leslie. Big thanks to the TAVES organisers for the free weekend passes. The must see item: the Richmond Hill AMD team’s virtual reality demo.
YLab Visiting TAVES to get an AMD VR Demo

YLab Visiting TAVES and Getting an AMD VR Demo

The DDO’s Haunted House was augmented this year by contributions from YLab friends and robotics experts Eric and Brett Hagman. The sound-activated, full-size crawling skeletons were a nice touch.   Stay tuned for more November announcements!