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

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.

Some attendees of past ylab events at the DDO approached the site with a healthy amount of fear and trepidation. Not because of us – we’re the happy, friendly kind of crazy – but because of the state of road and driveway during construction and years of wear and tear.

Hillsview Drive. With real curbs. An a distinct lack of mud.

To the relief of local residents and DDO visitors, the Hillsview Drive road work is complete. It’s no longer mistaken for a northern Ontario mining road. During the heavy construction period,  it swallowed a Subaru.

Bottom of driveway. Don’t bother engaging low-range 4WD.

The bottom of the driveway… well, it’s now obvious that it’s a driveway and not a 4X4 test facility. It’s no longer a state secret that the DDO is up there, because… Holy Crap! A sign! That and the removal of the access gate make it much more welcoming.

Straight, uncratered driveway. You can now drive straight.

Driving up, you and your car’s suspension will be relieved to see – and feel –  that the astronomers’ simulation of the lunar surface using road craters has been cleared and paved over.

Parking lot. Enjoy parking anywhere until they paint the lines.

The parking lot now competes with babies’ bottoms for ultimate smoothness. Some of you may remember a huge hole dug in the middle of it by someone with alleged unauthorized use of a backhoe. It looked like a meth-head went digging for that nest of giant spiders.

Access circle. Not a skidpad. Trust us on that one. It’s monitored by hi-res security cameras.

It’s  now much safer to walk on the walkway from the parking lot. Tempting as it is, please don’t park on the circle in front of the building. That’s called a fire route.

Just remember to drive slowly. There seemed to be more people than before out for walks. Heavens forbid the skateboarders finding out about this.

 

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.

And finally…

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. Stay tuned!  
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.

Hovercraft rides. They’re not just for kids.

People coming in through the entrance rotunda for a quiet read were surprised by hovercraft scooting by.

Ylab members Ross and Art demonstrate sumo bots and simple book making.

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.

Light sabre engineering! Software upgrades! Right there! In the library!!!

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.

Safety first when librarians crank up the voltage. The Great Canadian Alligator Clip makes an appearance.

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.Comments? Here on facebook.Can you identify the librarians in the pictures?
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.

What normal people do. Photo by by Invzim.

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.”

The Great Canadian Alligator Clip. Because we all have them in out trunks.

30,000 volts? Ha! With this kind of wire gauge, we could take a lightning strike.

Let no one ever suggest that Pek is not well grounded.

After a safe and honourable discharge, we got all the components we wanted. No Peks were harmed in the making of this post.
Richmond Hill Public Library’s Richmond Green branch near  Leslie and Elgin Mills. is hosting a Maker Event on Saturday, March 11 from noon until 5 PM, and Ylab will be there. 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. Come out and see our latest not-a-light-sabre engineering, Jacob’s ladder, radio toys, laser-cutting artistry, robotics demos and other creations. 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.