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

A dozen programmers came in to learn the language.

A dozen programmers came out to learn the language.

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.YLab Code PythonAttendees 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.
When we say challenge, we mean challenge.

When we say challenge, we mean challenge.

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.
Sometimes, even the volunteer is puzzled.

Sometimes, even the volunteer is puzzled.

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.
Caution. Heavy thinking in progress.

Caution. Heavy thinking in progress.

YLab Robotics LogoAccompanied 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 direrobotycs2ction. 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.robotycs1Show-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.
Filling the boardroom with makers and networking equipment.

Filling the boardroom with makers and networking equipment.

It was an amazing turnout at our September 16th event centred around securing your home router. After going through some background information on routers and how their firmware is developed, YLab makers eagerly started reflashing their router’s with open source alternatives such as dd-wrt, OpenWRT, and Tomato. And the best part was managing not to brick them! The iconic blue and black Linksys WRT54G routers of course made an appearance as well as many common open-source friendly alternatives.
Flashing a router with DD-WRT.

It’s always nice when everything works perfectly while explaining the process.

We also did some penetration testing with Router Check‘s founder who went through the basic Dos and Don’ts of securing your home network and showed off their Android app (a great way to quickly check if your network is secure). Some basic tips we learned: never use WEP, turn off the easy setup, and check against all the common vulnerabilities (because once a hacker gets access to your router your computers are next)!
Group shots of the makers in attendance .

Group shots of some of the YLab makers in attendance.

We’ve also got two great free events coming up that still have some space for new makers:YLab Robotics LogoThe inaugural YLab Robotics Group monthly meeting is on September 30th. At last count there was only 4 available spaces left. To register click here.

YLab Code Python

Looking to get a basic footing in Python? We’re hosting a crash course for experienced programmers at the Markham Public Library, click here to register.

Robot Ross (known to humans as Ross Lunan) is breaking out the high-voltage cables and jump starting Ylab’s first regular monthly meeting – the Ylab Robotycs group. First meeting is Wednesday September 30th from 7 PM to 10 PM, and every 4th Wednesday of the month starting in October. Apparently we didn’t do enough damage at last week’s Arduino class, so Ramy has somehow agreed to again let is in to Logics Academy for this first event. You’ve seen Ross’ and other volunteers’ creations at our Kick-Off event and at the Maker Festival.
Potentially dangerous robots. Well, not really.

Potential YLab robotics mayhem. Not necessarily as illustrated.

Registration is open on Eventbrite and space is limited. Come out and join us for fun, a chance to share and gain experience, and hopefully not too much mayhem.
At Wednesday’s Arduino class, YLab regulars were talking about how hard it is to believe that it’s only been a month since our Kick-Off event. That was way back on July 25, and the Arduino class was on August 26. OK, a month and a day. It’s been a challenge, an inspiration, and most of all, a whole lot of fun for the growing group of volunteers, makers, techies, geeks and just plain enthusiastic people who’ve been showing up. All ages. All skill levels. All having a great time. Our planning is best described as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”. Much to our amazement, it all worked out. We’ve been growing in numbers as more and more York Region makers are discovering us. We’re always happy for those curious to check us out or contact us on social media if you have any questions at all (Facebook or Twitter) So what’s next? Watch this space for the announcements – we’re working on some new amazing events and updates! They’ll be up soon we promise. In the meantime I bet you’re wondering what we’ve learned in our first month?

Top 10 Things Learned in YLab’s First Month:

YLab Outside The Markham Library

10. Libraries Love Geeks

YLab at DDO 3D Printing

9. People love lightsabers and 3D Printing, but they really love lightsabers.

Building a Telescope Presentation

8. Amateur astronomers are also uber-makers? Who knew???

YLab at Markham Library OBD Reader

7. Embarrassed yourself because your car diagnostics demo isn’t working? No problem. The attendees will figure it out for you.

YLab at Logics Academy

6. How do you get two robotics shops, a library and a giant telescope to let themselves be invaded by a bunch of makers? Just ask!

OBD Presentation at Markham Library

5. The owner’s manual says you don’t have to change those spark plugs for 160,000 km? With our road salt, they might rust in place by then.

Making an Arduino Blink

4. If we build it, they will come. They’ll even come from Toronto to York Region. You know who you are. We have pictures.

YLab Volunteers at the DDO

3. Amazing how a bunch of uncoordinated volunteers can make a website and social media come together.

DDO Telescope Closeup

2. Need a 70 inch mirror re-coated by aluminum vapour deposition? No problem. We got yer’ big honkin’ vacuum chamber right here. In Richmond Hill.

And the number one thing we learned:

YLab Member Group Shot

1. York Region has AMAZING makers!

Thanks to Pek, Markham Library, and Uncle D for the pictures.
It’s no joke. Attendees for YLab’s first formal training class ranged from beginners to experienced hardware hackers with enough experience to teach the class themselves. And how did it all work out? Unbelievably well. Attendees helped each other out, and everyone got their circuits and programs working.
Arduino Lightup

Its Alive! The first project was to make the LED light blink.

The class was generously hosted by Logics Academy . Ramy and his team did an amazing job setting up the class, projector, wifi and anything else we could think of. They let everyone hang out until I-can’t-remember-how-late to talk shop and compare notes.
Arduino Class Overview

After everyone got their bugs sorted out, the challenges began.

Ramy and instructor Brett Hagman amazed us with some of the contraptions they’ve built using the Arduino controllers. Logics Academy uses it in their facility for [Shut up! That might be confidential!] and in their robotics and electronics courses.
RJ from YLabs and Remy from Logics Academy

Discussing fun uses for robotics with Remy from Logics Academy.

Big thanks instructor Brett, Logics Academy, the growing cast of YLab volunteers, and most of all to everyone who attended to make it another successful YLab maker evening.
00-onsite

DDO. WOW.

We sold out and filled every seat available for Makers at the David Dunlap Observatory: Old Tech Meets New Tech. Arriving visitors who had never seen the site were slack-jawed at the beautiful telescope and administration building.YLab outside the DDOThe David Dunlap Observatory, sitting right smack in the middle or Richmond Hill, is Canada’s largest optical telescope. It’s operated by an all-volunteer force of members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Toronto Centre.Starting The TourWho knew that the RASC-TC members are uber-makers? The session featured presentations and equipment demos by Jim Chung, author of Astro Imaging Projects for Amateur Astronomers , and Lance Clarke and Allard Schipper of the Southern Ontario Telescope Makers Group. We were astounded at the variety and complexity of amateur-built telescopes. We heard how Allard built much of his equipment using facilities and tools from the Toronto Tool Library. The Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan libraries may be hearing from us.YLab DDO PresentationWe had the special privilege of seeing and hearing how the volunteers maintain the main telescope. Who knew that mirror resurfacing by aluminum vapor deposition in a vacuum chamber could be done on site? Who knew what the preceding sentence meant before their patient explanations? Where else do you get to see huge 110V DC (not AC!) systems?YLab Inspecting The Homemade TelescopesAlong with the telescopes, YLab makers Jack, Jay and Richard brought out a 3D printer, robots, light sabers and other creations. Richard drew up a 3D model of the DDO dome and had it printed out by the end of the evening.Printing the DDOWe’d like to thank:
  • The RASC-TC’s Diane, Karen, Paul, Nicole, Gilles, Eric (those are the names we remember) and other members who so generously took the time to show us this gem of a facility and explain its workings.
  • The DDO’s volunteer high-school students for helping the RASC-TC members
  • YLab’s high school volunteers Katrina and Maxine for handling welcome and registration duties.
  • Pek and Uncle D for taking the awesome photos you see above and on our Facebook page
Last note: we owe someone with initials AB a $5 refund because the registration desk didn’t have enough change. The volunteers did try looking around for you. We have your name but no other info. Contact us through the ylab.ca web site.