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 Hacklab.to… 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. The ylab team.“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.
York Region Amateur Radio Club came out to the David Dunlap Observatory to give us a presentation on how they’ve moved on from vacuum tubes to the Internet age. The presentation was a real eye-opener. Amateur radio has dropped in cost, and they use Arduiono, Raspberry Pi and all the other things we’re used to in robotics other maker stuff. Computer technology is now central to it. Even the full radio sets have serial and USB interfaces to provide PC interfaces, as there are only so many buttons you can cram on to the front of the set. Software defined radio has revolutionised the technology, with a full receiver now down to a USB stick. Their members have created GPS transmitters, hooked them up to small helium balloons, and tracked the signal all the way across the Atlantic! Big thanks to YRARC members Chris, John and Geoff for the excellent presentation and for all the demo gear they brought out. We wrapped up the evening with tours of the DDO telescope, and visits to our maker space in the DDO basement. Ylab volunteers brought out a great assortment of demo equipment, and Nathan from Vanguard showed of a VR headset that uses an Android phone as the screens. Final thanks to the DDO volunteers for hosting the event and the telescope tours, and to Albert from Keating Technologies for the loan of the MakerBot Replicator to print an improved model of the telescope dome. We’ll be back to the regular Robotycs toy hacking next week – and you can register here.Volunteers from the
Volunteers brought in a variety of equipment to help things along, and Robot Ross gave a quick presentation on taking the Arduino controls up another notch for remote communication. Some of the participants found out the hard way that as you add more capabilities, you need more power. Some developments were postponed to the next get-together for lack of batteries. The next Robotycs night will be on Nov 25. Next week, we’ll see what mischief the local ham radio people get into.We held our second Robotycs hands-on night on Nov 11 to continue the toy hacks. It’s great to see new faces coming out to every event, and to see others become regulars.
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 theme of the evening: Arduino Robotic Car Hacks. No, not the kind of cars from our August Car Hacks/OBD-2 Event. 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. 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. Formerly-abandoned toys started coming to life. What were previously single-speed cars were now controllable to run at different speeds. 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.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
- 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.
- 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!
Attendees arrived ready to go with Python already loaded on their laptops. They worked their way through the hands-on overview of the general structure and features of the language. Then they got down to some serious coding with the help of ylab’s Pythonista volunteers. The participants got over the biggest hurdles, figuring out how to load additional libraries and get all the necessary pieces together. In the three hours available, they got the hang of it, and many were up to the challenges of retrieving data from web sites and reading and writing database records. There was a lot of surprise that in Python, these tasks are as easy – if not easier! – that writing to files in other languages. Big thanks to ylab volunteers Arjun, Craig, Michael and Pek for mentoring, setting up the servers for the class, and preparing the challenges; and to Simon’s Coffee and Code York Region Meetup Group for helping to get the word out. An extra special thanks to Markham Public Library for hosting the event and going the extra mile in allowing us to stay for a hour after closing.Programmers came out on October 7 2015 for ylab’s Python Constricted – a crash course in the Python Language for people who already know how to program.
Accompanied by their builders and a bunch of budding and accomplished roboticists, a menagerie of robots crowded into Logics Academy for ylab’s inaugural Robotycs meeting. The all-too-human Robot Ross gave an intro to the group’ and some potential direction. A big part of it will be participants bringing in their creations (or is that the other way around?). Goals are to meet other robotics fans, share expertise and help set direction for the meetings. Ross provided some perspective on and why “robotics technology today” and what we thought comprised a “Robot”, and finally some examples of movie robot mayhem. Show-and-Tell was a highlight of the evening. One creative builder demonstrated the motivator part of his underwater robot. Unfortunately, Ramy’s shop doesn’t feature a swimming pool, so the key feature was not demonstrated (note to Ramy: can you add one for a future meeting?). Jack showed his smart phone controlled 4-wheeled floor bot, and Rami showed an example of a Logics Academy educational device -a tone activated drawing pencil suitable for younger roboticists. After a vigorous open discussion, we agreed that for the next meeting, everyone should bring back suggestions on specific topics activities they’d like to see in subsequent meetings. A popular point was for the group to show the specific steps to build a working robot from scratch, i.e. where to start, how to set behavior and functional objectives, what choices of hardware, and what software to select. A group build project might serve us well. Jack and Paul concluded the meeting with a demonstration of How to build a Robot in 10 Minutes, using a precut laser cut base, 2 motors and an Arduino controller equipped with a Carobotx motor shield. Slowed down by lots of descriptions and explanations, it took them 22 minutes until the “It’s alive!” moment when it was able to explore the floor on its own. Big thanks to Rami and Logics Academy for once again hosting a ylab event, Jack and Paul for all their help, and Robot Ross for initiating the whole thing. And, of course, to all the new people who came out for their first ylab event. Robotycs meetings are being scheduled for the 4th Wednesday of every month. The next one is on Wednesday, October 28, once again at Logics Academy. Stay tuned for registration information.