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

It’s ylab’s first week back with the DDO now being run by the Town of Richmond Hill, and there are lots of improvements to our space and the entire facility.

While progress appears slow, in the background, the Town’s staff are accomplishing great things.

We mentioned a lot of clean-up in earlier posts.

Invisible, but most apparent: this is our first post written from the DDO since our return. That means Internet access, with a new high speed fibre connection and Wi-Fi throughout.. Yeah, it’s kind of an anachronism in this place.  We’ll live with that. We’ve roamed around the building and it’s excellent everywhere.

Invisible and not so apparent: the building is now hooked up to a better water supply connection and to the municipal sewer system. It was previously on its own septic system.

Invisible and apparent to some of us: a lot of behind-the-scenes reorganisation and clean-up. There are equipment rooms that the public doesn’t get to see. With ylab’s early access while a lot of the work is still happening, we see a huge difference.

All cleaned up and ready for lectures and classes.

With two rooms dedicated to ylab, we’ve reorganised things a bit. Our main room is now set up to double as a seminar room. We can run lectures and classes in there for smaller groups.

The opposite end of the main room. Tools back up on the rack soon. Yes, that’s an upside down monitor on the floor. It’s gone now.

It’s practical to do this without affecting member project work because we now have a separate workshop dedicated to ylab. We’ve cleaned up and reorganised things for the return of our laser cutter next week. We have lots of workbench space at one end, and more storage.

The workbench in the workshop. Table and chair all ready for laser cutter control.

We can work there while the seminar happens in the other room, and vice versa. We will be keeping the messier stuff in the workshop and the main room should not have anything dirtier than soldering.

And all those historic machine tools. So cool even when not used.

At the other end, we find the historical machine tools. We can’t use them, but they look awesome. They inspire us.

Another benefit of ylab’s early access is getting to hear about everyone else’s plans. There are lots of announcements coming soon from the Town and from the astronomy groups coming into the building. But that’s for them to talk about when they are ready.

You can feel the pride in the Town staff and everyone involved. The excitement is building for the DDO to be better than ever with more public access than ever.

Having a maker space in a historical building is so cool.

After many months absence, our first night back at the DDO was dedicated to some clean-up. A new part of ylab is  the DDO’s basement workshop, so we decided to attack it first.

Knows what these are, and can tell some parts are missing.

Getting into some of the old tool cabinets proved… interesting. Years of crud? Par for the course. Mysterious machine tools? Not to some of our members who are skilled with that kind of equipment.

First aid kit. No expiry dates. Guess it’s safe to use.

Then we started finding some pretty nifty old artifacts. Like an ancient first aid kit that still contains ether and castor oil. We found a saw in the same cabinet. Maybe they were prepared for amputations. The DDO was pretty remote in those days.

Wait a minute – those are the missing parts!

Some interesting documents had fallen under the cabinet drawers. Things like blueprints that are actually blue for an old water system. Income tax papers from the War Department, from back when income tax was originated to pay for the war. And some missing parts for some of the machine tools.

Keep going. Maybe we’ll find some other cool stuff. And that big vac needs to be emptied. Again.

We’re logging all this stuff and we’ll be passing it on to the appropriate Town of Richmond Hill staff.

Great to see members Art, Craig, Nick, Richard and Ross again and big thanks for all their clean-up work.

NOTE: use of the DDO machine tools is not permitted for ylab. Doesn’t mean we can’t clean things up. No metal or members were harmed.

We had a great group show up for the Wed Oct 12 Arduino: What’s It All About? open house. Big thanks to members Jack, Richard, Pek, Ross and Paul for bringing in and sharing their creations, and as always, to Jay for loaning his light sabres. We’re caving to popular demand and finally scheduling an Arduino hands-on class. It will be taught by ylab member and robotics guru Paul. Registration is open on Eventbrite, and seats are limited. You have the option of bringing your own board, or we’ll provide one. We had some excellent feedback and comments from last night’s talk.If you’re interested in using LED strips: check out this interesting tutorial on  YouTube. This applies to the APA102-type LED strips. It’s different for APA104.LED and  powertail in parallel: our presenter mentioned that when linking the 120V powertail and LED in parallel, there wasn’t enough current to run both. Comment 1: this wasn’t required. It was out of laziness. There are lots of other outputs on the Arduino board. Comment 2: Paul advised that it’s probably not a current issue. The D in LED is for diode, and the diode typically limits the voltage across its terminals to something under 2 volts. This is not enough to trigger the powertail’s relay. We’re breaking out the voltmeter to test that.Pull-up resistor for switch control: check out this excellent video explaining why you need a pull-up or pull-down resistor when using a push-button switch on Arduino digital pins.
Don’t forget to register for our next open house – the great 3D Printing vs Laser Cutting debate on Wed Oct 26. Comments? Feedback? Post it on facebook.         
Ten minutes ago, these were potatoes.

Ten minutes ago, these were potatoes.

Ylab held its first member’s Annual General Meeting on June 20 at the DDO. How do you get a bunch of makers to actually show up for a boring meeting? Hold a BBQ!
Can we be any clearer that it's a ylab BBQ event?

Can we be any clearer that it’s a ylab BBQ event?

July 25 is the anniversary of our first event, so it’s not quite a full year. Fiscal year end is March 31 because our volunteering accounting people have the time now to do all the book closing and reporting stuff  Big thanks to Jenn, Murray, Joel and Wendy for all their work that nobody else wants to do.
Shady characters did the cooking.

Shady characters did the cooking.

Being makers, frozen patties would just not do. Nothing but fresh ground beef. A charcoal kettle. A big vat of boiling oil and fresh cut fries. Bitten tongue was on the menu for those who thought  we would put breadcrumbs or milk-based substances in our burger patties (you know who you are). The nerve.
Boiling oil. Don't piss us off, or we're taking it to the roof.

Boiling oil. Don’t tick us off, or we’re taking it to the roof.

The BBQ was a most pleasant and relaxed event – a warm summer solstice evening, a perfect venue at the DDO, a good breeze to keep carnivorous bugs away from the carnivorous makers, and good company from the invited RASC-DDO members who open the doors for us on our maker nights and do an all-around amazing job.
Turning away from the camera because they ate TWO burgers.

Turning away from the camera because they ate TWO burgers.

The AGM part was mercifully short. A member vote brought in new board members Pek and Richard. Our eternal gratitude to departing board members Peter and Gary for all their work helping ylab get off the ground. At the end  of the evening, the usually-dark parking lot was lit by a squadron of fireflies. And that’s how ylab does an annual meeting.
Hasn’t been a blog post in a few weeks… because it’s better to be doing than blogging. But once in a while, we need to post something – or people claim nothing is happening! York Region is the y and the why of ylaband this week we had a bunch of firsts in three different cities. At our DDO maker space in Richmond Hill, we had all three 3D printers fired up for the first time. Big thanks to Jay and Richard for making it happen. More gear appears every week, more gears are being printed, and they’ll soon be joined by our new laser cutter.York Region Coffee and Code  kicked off the first PHP user group in Markham on Tuesday night. With Maxxian agreeing to loan their boardroom to kick it off, organisers Glenn and Simon ran out of excuses and just did it. 13 people attended ranging from newbies to some very serious talent to help them. That very same night, Pong Studios hosted the first Unity game development meetup in Vaughan. In our newsletter, we said they were going big by bringing in top Unity evangelist Mark Shoennagel… and they went even bigger! Mark is an excellent speaker, and he provided the world’s first public demo of the new networked, multi-player version of Unity. He took us through a full sequence of game development, explaining all the features and built-in defences against hacks and cheats, all while connected to one of only five operating network servers in existence. We got to see it before everyone else at the upcoming Game Development Conference. Lots  more happening in the background for light sabres, robotics, more coding groups, haunted house, ham radio, hackathons…
Update Jan 30 2016: a photo album has just been posted on facebook, and snapd Markham posted about us here.Our Technology Enablers night was a huge success with almost 80 people in attendance. We went all corporate, and there were enough suits and well-dressed people to make it… well, kinda weird for a ylab event.  
Yes, we really did take over Lenovo's space.

Yes, we really did take over Lenovo’s space.

Nevertheless, it went off without a hitch – if you don’t consider way more registrations than expected and scrambling for more chairs and food a” hitch”. Why so many attendess? #FREEPARKING seemed to be our meme for the night. Our panelists – Mehdi Sharifi from Lumicision, Brett Hagman from Arduino and Rogue Robotics, John Frangella  from Proto3000 and Peter Koster from Qualcomm were phenomenal. We’ve got to know some of them because they’re good friends of ylab, and it was even better to hear their stories and thoughts on so many topics. It was all expertly handled by our panel moderator Karen Mortfield from the DDO. Her experience in crisis communications clearly qualifies her for hosting a ylab event.
Panelists Mehdi, Brett, John and Peter, and moderator Karen

Panelists Mehdi, Brett, John and Peter, and moderator Karen

Big thanks to
  • Lenovo Canada for hosting the event and  letting ylab run amock in their amazing new space. Nothing was too much trouble for  Stefan, Kathleen, Kevin and David.
  • The growing cast of ylab members – Brooke on sound, Pek as announcer, Richard, Lucian, Ross and so many others for setup/teardown, Ruby for the food; and other volunteers like Murray and Andrea for registration duties.
  • Startup York, Coffee and Code and others for helping get the word out.
  • Our good friends at North of 41 for inspiring us and helping us in so many ways to get it organised.
And, most of all, we appreciate everyone who attended. We’re overwhelmed by  the community support.
North of 41's Jeff, some guy who keeps showing up in our pictures, Karen, and Lenovo's Stefan Bockhop.

North of 41’s Jeff Musson, some guy who keeps showing up in our pictures, Karen, and Lenovo’s Stefan Bockhop.

Second Update Jan 30 2016:Thank you attendees for all the positive feedback. The less-technically inclined business people who attended said it was a lot of fun, but some stuff was over their head. So it was perfect! Pictures above in the original post from ylab’s Pek. Pictures below from the facebook album courtesy of photographer Ara Mahda.IMG_4369 (1024x635) IMG_4365 (1024x642)
We kicked off 2016 with our first member-only nights, and the place has been buzzing.  If yesterday evening (Monday Jan 18) is any indication of things to come, it’s going to be an amazing year. The activities going on in all corners of the space were like a microcosm of the events we ran last year. What were we up to?
  •  DDO’s Mike helped sort out some hand-held ham radio configuration
  • Lucian helped reload a home router with open source Gargoyle software to torture kids with parental controls, get free DNS, and and set up remote VPN acces.
  • 3D design course materials being developed by Richard and were tested on human guinea pig and new member Brooke… with a focus on the new light sabre design.
  • Ross worked and demo’d his latest remote-control robot software… now featuring Python code.
  •  Pek and Jay worked the  second 3D printer and its controller PC to augment the persnickety rep-rap printer.
So busy, in fact, that nobody got around to taking pictures. For those who have not been there for a while… the place keeps getting better. Fridge… hand tools… soldering equipment… storage… big workbench you can hammer on… and we’ve ordered a laser cutter!Stay tuned for more details… and come out and join the fun.