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

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!

Operating a maker space in the basement of the  David Dunlap Observatory means taking special care to respect the heritage and history of the facilities.

We posted earlier about the incredible old workbench we cleaned out in the workshop.

The new workbench overlay. Nothing short of a nuclear event can harm that vise.

Without putting in any screws, drilling holes or making any other changes, we dropped a layer of plywood on top, allowing us to hammer, solder and do whatever else we need to do without risk of harming the surface. The mounting screws for the old vise were long enough to get through the new layer and hold it in place.

Old-school waxing of the sliders. Cheap solution and works great.

The cabinet drawers are a little sticky, and that can lead to damage if people aren’t careful. A little research into heritage carpentry shows that rubbing down the slide surfaces with a block of paraffin wax is the best solution. We have more to treat, but the drawers we started with are sliding like new.


Our laser cutter. Back in its home sweet dome.

On Wednesday night, the weather gods shone down on us and stopped the downpour just in time to get the our laser cutter loaded up at from the undisclosed location (a.k.a Richard’s garage).

After we got it loaded. Because you really, really don’t want to see inside Richard’s garage.

All it took was a trailer, a tow vehicle,  a tarp, some ratchet straps and a minivan to hold all the parts and accessories.

ylab gets a lot of mileage out of our laser cutter.

No elevator at the DDO, so we build our own ramps to get it down the service stairs.

Nice weather. Just in time.

That’s our ramp. Not an optical illusion at the bottom. We made it crooked to round the corner.

Big thanks to ylab members Richard, Craig, Jack, Jay and Peter for getting this done.


Tug-of-war against the machine.

Safely in the basement with the delivery team.

Checking it out and cleaning it up.

We cleaned it up but we still need to check it out and  recalibrate it.  There were a few potholes along the way, but not on Hillsview Drive or the DDO driveway. We should have that done by next week.

This is what you look like when you get your garage back and can park your car inside again.

Special thanks to the guy who loaned us the trailer. We won’t mention his name in order to prevent a flood of requests from people wanting to borrow trailers. Like, for instance, us.

Disclaimer: no sacrifices, human or animal, were made to appease the weather gods.  They did it of their own volition. Or maybe because of the prayers of that lady who gets her parking space back.

Ylab has run some amateur radio events and classes with our friends from the York Region Amateur Radio Club (YRARC). We like radio stuff because there’s a history of it at the DDO, and there’s some fascinating new activity and technology that’s clearly not your grandfather’s old ham rig. Some ylab members are also Scout leaders, and we’ve been helping out with a new technology-focused Venturer Scout troop. Combine the two, and great things happen.

For training and education purposes. we’ve acquired a couple of radio sets. One is an older analog Yaesu 707 unit donated by YRARC member Ion when he heard that we would be using for training new users and Scouts. The other is a used ICOM 718 purchased with the registration fees from the ham radio class we held  with YRARC at the DDO. They told us we could keep the change if we used it for acquiring radio equipment.

During our absence from the DDO, we put that gear to good use at some at last fall’s Scouts world-wide ham radio JOTA and some other events.

With the maker space on hiatus, we had some extra time to burn. So we worked on some new ham radio training material to help people get through the Canadian amateur radio certification process.

Check out how it all worked out here.

Now that we’re back at the DDO, we’re planning more radio events. Watch this space for more announcements, or, (groan) stay tuned.