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

YLab Code Python


Ylab member Lucian has been running the Artificial Intelligence North meetups for the last couple of years at Markham Public Libraries’ Angus Glen branch. He’s had an incredible variety of quality speakers and topics  – machine learning, neural networks and more. Click on the link to see for yourself.

The meetups have been managed from ylab’s account. To allow us to do even more, we’re decided to bring it all to ylab’s home at the David Dunlap Observatory.

Hosting the events in our maker space will give us more flexibility on duration of events, as the library closes at 9 PM.

To prove it, we’re kicking off A.I. North’s fall season with our Python crash course for programmers. It will run from 7 PM to 10 PM on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Python has become a dominant language for A.I. development and we want to get everyone interested through the basics. We’re hoping to do a lot more with it and some of the major A.I. toolkits in future sessions.

This is not a beginner’s programming course. We are targeting people who already know how to program, so we’ll be going quickly in to the features of the language. It’s a lot to do in 3 hours, but we’ve done it before and everyone got through it.

A dozen programmers came out to learn the language.

It’s a hands-on course, where everyone should come with the language pre-loaded on their laptop. We’ll be covering:

  • Basic structure for both procedural and object oriented usage of the language
  • Structure and use of libraries
  • The major data structures
  • Basic database access libraries – with a Postgres server to test!
  • Basic web access

It’s a lot to cover in three hours – but that’s the beauty of Python. If you already have some programming skills, you can move fast. 

As always at ylab, we’ll be putting up the sample code and any slides on the web after the class.

We are charging a small fee for this event, and you can register here. Because, like, we pay rent for our space. We’ll have some cookies and beverages for the break. Spots are limited. Breaking news: we just listed the event, and it’s already half sold out before we finished writing this post! Our last class also sold out.

Big thanks from both A.I. North and ylab to  Markham Public Libraries. They generously hosted events to help both groups get started, and we’ve co-operated on maker days and their excellent PechaKucha series. We look forward to working with them in the future.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been performing surgery on the light sabres people made in our class several months ago.

All our light sabres can do single or multiple colours. Those multiple colours are way more impressive than the picture shows.

Our light sabres were designed by ylab member Richard. We have  a custom circuit board with low-power ARM processor; multi-colour, 5V high-density LED strips; dual-channel sound generation with  mini-SD card to load sounds; efficient power management; accelerometer to detect movement and collisions, and more.

Upgrading the firmware. Requires a PC and an Arduino board. Because it’s not a maker project if there isn’t an Arduino somewhere in the process.

Our class  included basic soldering for connecting the LED strips; drilling and tapping screw and contact holes for the aluminum hilts; laser cutting the support strips; and all manner of required assembly work.

That first class was a true maker project, with a fair bit of experimentation and lots of learning.

As the first generation design, there were some problems, and we’ve had some repair and rework sessions. Our latest  was on Monday August 20. Repairs included some soldering, taping, software updates and making a splint for a broken support piece. All light sabres brought in left in working condition.

A splice for a broken LED support. Custom made and carved out of Plexiglas on our laser cutter. Most appropriate for a light sabre.

With the oscilloscopes and other equipment we have on-site, we diagnosed a previously unknown power leak that would result in battery drain in 27 days. While that doesn’t sound bad, it’s still a bug. The design expectation was for a year on stand-by. We’re working on a fix. Fortunately, it’s just a software issue.

Testing, testing… with a nice DC power supply that shows current draw.

For those interested in making their own, it will still be a while before we fire up another class. We’re working on  some re-design to make battery changing easier. But we hear you. We’re working on it.

We didn’t finish until late, which is a good thing. Because light sabres look even better in the dark.

Impressive. Most impressive.

Great to see many new faces at our amateur radio open house on Monday, June 25. In addition to the presentation and discussion around the various aspects of amateur radio, we had a great group of people from Toronto Mesh.  

Directional antenna for mesh networks.

They are active in several areas of distributed mesh networks, and are putting a lot of effort into getting people educated. Some of them are playing a part in the our networks conference from July 13-18 that includes 2 days of seminars and 3 days of code sprints.

In addition to some classic ham radio decks, we showed off some really inexpensive technology like SDR (software-defined radio) USB sticks. Originally designed for terrestrial digital television, they can scan a full 6 MHz band, and are available with antenna and accessories for around $25.


Cheapo RTL-SDR USB wideband radio scanner. See the difference between CBC and Virgin Radio?

A copy of our presentation can be found here, and it includes links to the cheap radio sources and ylab Canadian ham certification material we covered in the presentation.

Repent from your unlicensed radio usage! (Actually, just a home-made Yagi-Uda antenna. Yes, that’s a cut-up tape measure.)

We’re looking forward to more radio nights – and our next open house – Drone night – on Monday July 9.

On Wed June 20, we had our first maker space open house since the re-opening – and this week we’re doing it again with an amateur radio technology night.

  It was great to see some new faces last week with interest in satellite communications, traditional printing, robotics and other tech. Much to our surprise, all the demos went off flawlessly – laser cutter;  3D printing a new thinner-wall model of the DDO telescope dome; Craig’s infamous electric chair and more.

Much more than talking on the radio

We’re doing it again on Monday this week with our Modern Amateur Radio Open House (register here).  Amateur radio encompasses  the full breadth of maker technology and skills – from making physical components to Arduino and Raspberry Pi controllers to drone, robotics and satellite communications. We’ll have a lot of old and new gear to show off and  some friends from Toronto Mesh networks and from York Region Amateur Radio Club. This is no longer your father’s – or grandfather’s – old ham radio stuff.

We’ll go over a lot of the safety issues and rules, and why licensing is a legal requirement for many activities.

We’ll also be announcing some new monthly events for programming, radio technology and more.

And besides all that… it’s a great summer night to come and see our home – the David Dunlap Observatory.


No posts for a while because we were busier than expected with the planning for the Town of Richmond Hill’s David Dunlap Observatory  re-opening on Saturday June 9. It was a mad scramble after the two-week closure of the DDO facility for a movie/series shoot.

Ylab members and volunteers were there with an info booth outside and all our gear and creations up and running during tours of our maker space in the basement of the administration building.

In a weird twist of fate… everything worked. Nothing broke. That’s not supposed to happen during demos.

The sparks were flying. Reliably.

Even the 3D printers co-operated. We cranked out about 10 miniature telescope domes.

It’s big. It’s slow. But its 3D print quality is excellent.

Big thanks to Craig for the electric chair; Ross and Jack for the robots; Pek for her light sabre and keeping the 3D printers going all day; Lucian for the AI demo; Art for running tours; Peter and non-members Connie and Chhing for coming out to help in so many ways spending all that time at our info booth outside. Many hands made the work light… especially at startup and teardown time. 

Our helpful members and volunteers at the info booth.

@myRichmondHill staff did a stupendous job getting the site spruced up and set up with everything needed to handle a large crowd. Life is a lot easier when tours are managed, pop-ups with tables and chairs are ready and waiting for you and so many other things are taken care of. We got to see some of the advanced preparation work. A monumental effort.

Electric chair for senior Richmond Hill staff nothing compared to the torture of planning this event .

Our next post – coming Real Soon Now – our first ylab open houses since the re-opening.

The DDO’s official re-opening has been announced for Saturday June 9 from 1 PM to 4 PM – but you need to register here if you want to tour the facilities and ylab’s space. Space is going fast!

We are expecting a lot of people, and fire/safety code limits the number of people going into the building and the telescope dome.

Parking will be at the two churches and the school on Hillsview Drive, with shuttle buses moving people back and forth. Or have a nice walk up the hill and get those fitness tracker points.

Ylab will  have an information tent outside, where we’ll be announcing our own slate of open houses, classes and seminars.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there – and don’t forget to register.


We’re settling in and things and getting back to as normal as normal gets for ylab.

The laser cutter is back in operation and better than ever. We spent a lot of time calibrating, and the precision is better than it was when new. We are having to re-set some of the cutting settings for less power or time.

It’s a maker space. What else would we name it?

We proved it out by making out door signs. Our original room is now known as the ylab maker room.

It’s still the DDO workshop. Now featuring our logo.

The DDO workshop… well, it should always be known as the workshop. Inside, we mounted a board with the laser cutter certification plaques that every class graduate makes up for themselves.

More gear back from storage in members’ garages.

The tool board is back up. If you look at the top right corner, that’s the Founding Members plaque we promised so long ago. We finally got around to it. Names blurry in the picture to protect the guilty.

Members are starting to bring their equipment back in. We have a drill press, the oscilloscopes and a new 3D printer by the end of the week.

And best of all, members are coming back in to work on their projects.

First seminars will be announced next week!