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

Yeah, we know, we’re a little late on this for some people… Chanukah is done for this year… but we all know Santa is for everyone. We also know the type of people we’re dealing with don’t need a holiday as an excuse to pick up some new toys and technology. And some are  on on the naughty list and will have to buy for themselves.

Great memberships!

Top of the list, of course, are memberships in the  Ylab Maker Space or Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Toronto Centre! The two organisations are separate… but there’s lots to do with both groups at the David Dunlap Observatory. We’ve peeked at Santa’s delivery list, so we know that several ylab regulars have both memberships.

Amateur radio stuff

If you enjoyed the Ham Radio night,  our friend John from the York Region Amateur Radio Club gave us this  list of items to get into amateur radio for under $100. All of the links are to suppliers that YRARC members have used in the past and recommend. These are the fun items they talked about and demonstrated in the presentation. The first one is the USB-based software-defined radio receiver. No license required, since it’s not a transmitter. The page is a little tricky, since it doesn’t link directly to the item. Get the full $24.95 set with the two antennas. The rest of the items can transmit, so they require a ham radio license to use. We’ll be announcing a plan to help with that in early 2016. So you will of course need this  Ham radio Basic Qualification Study Guide, which includes unlimited on-line practice tests. Again, the link doesn’t go directly to the item. It’s the first one on the page.This two-way handheld HAM radio is a great deal. And finally, if you want to add radio to a project, this  low-power transceiver project board runs on a 9V battery.

Light saber update: the elves have been slacking

Finally, like any kids who’s passed the age of 12, ask for money. Ylab elves are busy in their workshop designing and building a next-generation light sabre control circuit. Details are still secret, because tests are still ongoing, and we have to get final quotes for production. This is going to be a level or two up in features from Jay’s light sabres that you’ve seen at the ylab events. Start saving those pennies. Stay tuned for announcements in 2016 where we’ll be doing great things with all of this stuff.
Before. Yuck.

Before. Yuck.

Monday December 14 was our first members’ only night. Since ylab is an all-volunteer effort, that of course means we got down to some hard work cleaning up the space.
Thank you for your membership payment. Now get to work.

Thank you for your membership payment. Now get to work.

Our call for equipment donations produced some very timely results. Big thanks to Eric for the compressor and ShopVac. There’s more stuff coming in, so cleaning up and painting the floor became the top priority.
This ShopVac gained 12 pounds over the evening.

This ShopVac gained 12 pounds over the evening.

  With all the care due to the historic facility, we cleared the room and scraped, sanded, swept, vacuumed and painted.
The artists get to do the fine trim work.

The artists get to do the fine trim work.

Some serious anti-gravity physics were deployed to move the behemoths – those two big metal folding machines that were living in the space before we took it over (ylab regulars know what I’m talking about).
The Behemoth. Because the DDO can no longer call it the Immoveable Object.

The Behemoth. Because the DDO can no longer call it the Immoveable Object.

Remind me... who let these wingnuts in here?

Remind me… who let these wingnuts in here?

The gloriously warm December weather allowed us to open the windows to clear the dust and keep our cool.
It’s OK. She signed the liability waiver.

It’s OK. She signed the liability waiver.

Big thanks to Avery, Lucian, Pek, Richard and Ross for all the hard work and to the DDO for providing us the odd painting thing we forgot .
Stand over there to watch paint dry.

After. Stand over there to watch paint dry.

 
Sign here. Press hard. (Photo by stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net)

Sign here. Press hard.  (Photo by stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net)

We  announced our membership structure and fees on our maker night at the DDO on Wednesday, December 9 – and we have our first sign-ups!Ylab board member Ruby is the first ylab maker space member.  When ylab was just a notion of a concept,  she volunteered to be on the board –  and immediately asked to buy a membership. She beat everyone else to the punch. Her chequebook has been open and waiting ever since. We’re offering three types of membership:
  • Class A / Full Membership, available on an annual basis
  • Class B/ Associate Membership, available on a 3-month basis
  • A University/College Associate Membership, available on  4-month school term basis
Full details are documented in the Ylab Meetup.com group. You need to join the group to see the files, with the details on each level in the main agreement and pricing in Schedule D. Go the the More tab and select Files to see the agreement. We’ll be putting the documents on github shortly… we think… after some eager volunteer sets it up for us. Wednesday nights will be our open house evenings to visit and find out more if you have any questions. We will be open this Wednesday, December 16, and we’ll determine shortly if we will taking a break for the holidays. Questions or comments? Ask away in our membership discussion forum (join up to access).
"ME 401 QuickJob" by Nina Paley - http://mimiandeunice.com/2011/07/25/paperwork/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ME_401_QuickJob.png#/media/File:ME_401_QuickJob.png

“ME 401 QuickJob” by Nina Paley – http://mimiandeunice.com/2011/07/25/paperwork/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. We’re  making progress, but not there yet. The good news is that a lot of the heavy lifting is pretty much done – formal incorporation as a non-profit; liability insurance; formal board (required for non-profits), finding a space and getting that agreement in place.

Membership has its privileges… and problems.

Pre-announcing membership fees and models is just not smart until we have all the details in place. We’re making progress, with mandatory things like codes of conduct and liability waivers  – you know, those things to prevent us from getting sued. We’re fortunate to have other maker spaces leading the way and providing us great examples. Stay tuned. We want to have everything in place by Jan 1 (yes, 2016) – with a deal for people participating during December.
MarkhamMakersBanerJay’s Markham Makers group on meetup.com has been a big part of ylab from the start. The group was  the initial core, providing a great mailing list for our successful  kick-off event. We’re moving from subtle usurping to all-out takeover. It’s now a formal part of ylab. Some of the recent changes include:
  • Our Robotycs discussion forum
  • It’s where we store our design and tutorial documents
  • Accepting payment for our events, without the service charge you get on Eventbrite.
  • Rebranding to be less Markham-specific. After all, our space at the DDO is in Richmond Hill!
Expect to see more changes soon as we rebrand, re-logo, re-name and generally re-organise it. Some of the work involves changing URLs, so some of the links you use may not work. If you can’t find something, search on meetup.com for ylab – and please let us know if a link is broken. Another part of the work is better links from the web site, and transitioning the event calendar to link to the meetup.com events. Our web site wizard Avery is on the case. Be patient with him. In the interim, we will continue to post events on both meetup.com and Eventbrite. Big thanks to Jay for all his work setting up the group – and all the other things he does for ylab.
“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. 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.ylablogoThe ylab team.
Volunteers from  the  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.
You have to memorise all these frequencies to get your ham radio license. OK, not really.

You have to memorise all these frequencies to get your ham radio license. OK, not really.

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.
You think Arduino is small?

You think Arduino is small?

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.
Now we fit the whole radio on a USB stick!

Now we fit the whole radio on a USB stick!

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!
The radio signal wavelength is this big.

The radio signal wavelength is this big.

Big thanks to YRARC members Chris, John and Geoff for the excellent presentation and for all the demo gear they brought out.
You don't have to learn Morse code to get your ham license. But these old sets are still pretty cool.

You don’t have to learn Morse code to get your ham license. But these old sets are still pretty cool.

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.
Everybody wants their picture with a light sabre.

Everybody wants their picture with a light sabre.

What you see in the headset is virtual. The rest of the picture is a real ylab maker space!

What you see in the headset is virtual. The rest of the picture is a real ylab maker space!

Robot Ross Roomba ROS Robot. Really.

Robot Ross Roomba ROS Robot. Really.

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.
This time, we used white plastic to print it.

This time, we used white plastic to print it.

We’ll be back to the regular Robotycs toy hacking next week – and you can register here.