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

We held our second Robotycs hands-on night on Nov 11 to continue the toy hacks. It’s great to see new faces coming out to every event, and to see others become regulars.
DC power supply. Works much better than batteries for testing.

DC power supply. Works much better than batteries for testing.

Volunteers brought in a variety of equipment to help things along, and Robot Ross gave a quick presentation on taking the Arduino controls up another notch for remote communication.
If you don't bring enough batteries, you might have to push.

If you don’t bring enough batteries, you might have to push.

Some of the participants found out the hard way that as you add more capabilities, you need more power. Some developments were postponed to the next get-together for lack of batteries.
Always count your fingers to make sure you didn't leave any behind.

Always count your fingers to make sure you didn’t leave any behind.

The next Robotycs night will be on Nov 25. Next week, we’ll see what mischief the local ham radio people get into.
Wed Nov 4, 2015. It was like a whole bunch of ylab events, shaken up, mixed together and served up with everyone wondering how on earth the unholy mess would taste. Our friends at the David Dunlap Observatory somehow agreed to let us in to the darkest recesses of their basement for what was supposed to be a barely-announced Robotycs hands-on night. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the place was still littered with skeletons, corpses and other horrors from the DDO Haunted House . As a test event, we limited the announcement to the fortunate people who attended our two first Robotycs meetings and our Arduino class.
The no-longer secret anti-static handshake.

The no-longer secret anti-static handshake.

The theme of the evening: Arduino Robotic Car Hacks. No, not the kind of cars from our August Car Hacks/OBD-2 Event.
Victims of the evening's activities.

Victims of the evening’s activities.

    Instead of using robotic kits, we asked everyone to bring whatever old wired or R/C cars they had lying around their basements to modify for Arduino control.
There's an oscilloscope. This must be science.

There’s an oscilloscope. This must be science.

Ylab volunteers brought in oscilloscope, voltmeter, tools, soldering irons and other implements of toy destruction. Robot Ross gave the introductory lesson on how to work to work the motors with Arduino. Then the mayhem started.
Higher voltage makes it spin faster.

Higher voltage makes it spin faster.

Looks complicated... and they haven't done the software yet.

Looks complicated… and they haven’t done the software yet.

Arduino hardware transplant successful.

Arduino hardware transplant successful.

Formerly-abandoned toys started coming to life. What were previously single-speed cars were now controllable to run at different speeds.
Isn't this how Frankenstein was brought to life?

Isn’t this how Frankenstein was brought to life?

Some achieved  variable steering  instead of full-right or full-left. Humming, un-moving motors were explained (more power!). Beginners learned a heck of a lot. Our DDO friends looked on in… let’s say puzzled amazement and leave it at that. Big thanks to the regular ylab volunteers (Richard, Ross, Jay, Pek), to Canada Robotix for the discount on the Arduino boards, to the DDO for hosting, and, above all, to all the attendees who came out and made the event a success.BREAKING NEWS: MORE OF THE SAME NEXT WEEK! Look for the booking announcement in the next couple of days on this page (Over there! On the right side!) or by searching on Eventbrite. Same time – 7 PM Wednesday – and same place, which we’ve officially nicknamed the ylab DDOngeon.
 
October 2015 YLab Group Shot

October YLab Meeting Group Shot.

October was a crazy month. YLab is all about tech community, so it’s more than just the events we put on. YLab regulars, volunteers and friends have been all over the place, including:
  • YLab’s Python Constricted class, hosted by the Markham Public Library, where a dozen people were introducted to the Python programming language, and helped along by ylab volunteers.
  • Our second monthly Robotycs meeting, hosted once again by Logics Academy, covered an intro to Arduino and Raspberry Pi. We’re looking for a serious competition project!
  • We have a small offshoot of beginners from Robotycs who are eager to learn and will start some hands-on weekly training by hacking remote control cars. Experienced volunteers will be showing up to help them with soldering irons, oscilloscopes and Arduino gear.
Robot Ross Giving a Presentation and Halloween at the DDO

Robot Ross Giving a Presentation and Halloween at the DDO.

We were busy with our friends at the Markham Public Library, where:
  • YLab’s Robot Ross and Jedi Jay displayed their wares that the Mini Maker Faire.
  • A few ylab regulars’ faces were in the audience for their evening with Cory Doctorow.
  • Their Nov 13 TEDx put out a call for speakers. We introduced a couple of ylab friends from The David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) and Site 3 Maker Space  who have been selected. Our proposal for a  Site 3 flaming demo in the parking lot… well, that  went down in flames. Tickets are going fast!
Halloween at the DDO!

Halloween at the DDO!

Speaking of the DDO… We wrapped up the month with a Halloween eve visit to their Haunted House in full geek-out costume, complete with pocket protectors, taped eyeglasses and white socks. That was after a visit to TAVES Consumer Electronics Show held at the Sheraton at Hwy 7 and Leslie. Big thanks to the TAVES organisers for the free weekend passes. The must see item: the Richmond Hill AMD team’s virtual reality demo.
YLab Visiting TAVES to get an AMD VR Demo

YLab Visiting TAVES and Getting an AMD VR Demo

The DDO’s Haunted House was augmented this year by contributions from YLab friends and robotics experts Eric and Brett Hagman. The sound-activated, full-size crawling skeletons were a nice touch.   Stay tuned for more November announcements!
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.