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Toronto Mini Maker Faire

by on May.05, 2011, under Uncategorized

Hacklab is going to have an awesome booth at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire, a celebration of maker culture:

Toronto Mini Maker Faire is the ultimate celebration of making, crafting, DIY-ing, tinkering, hacking and sharing. It’s a weekend where makers of all kinds will show off their projects and hold how-to workshops, with hands-on activities for all ages. Exhibits on display will include robots, laser cutting, letterpress printing, a 3D print gallery and kinetic sculptures.

At hacklab’s booth, you’ll be able to meet our members, and see some of our various projects including:

  • 3D printers: Maker Bot, RepRap, Hacklab RepRap, lots of printed objects
  • Soldering workshop! We have blinky LED kits available, learn how to solder!
  • Train Overlord, our robot on rails (now with laser!)
  • Buttons, stickers, fliers: get your Hacklab swag!
  • Laser poster – information about our laser cutter
  • Sensebridge: North Paw compass anklet, Heart Spark pendant, conductive thread
  • HUGE Capacitor bank, good for making HDD platters jump (can crushing demo!)
  • Slide show of Hacklab activities
  • Some members have their own booths: GoodRobot (Alan) and Strich Labs (Sarah & Lisa)

Come visit us and support making stuff in Toronto!  The Mini Maker Faire is Saturday and Sunday this weekend, 10am-6pm, at the Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto.

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Robot hackathon: meet our Train Overlord

by on Apr.11, 2011, under Projects, Uncategorized

This weekend’s robot hackathon was a huge success. Not only did everyone who participated have a blast, but we actually ended up with a nifty little robot too. You can also check out Eric’s blog post on the event as well as this fantastic set of flickr photos. Here’s a clip of the robot in action in one of our early tests:

The robot in the video runs on a set of powered train track rails. Power is drawn from the rails into the Arduino and the motor shield atop the carriage (photo: motorizing the carriage). The arduino is our robot “brain” (photo: coding the brain) that issues all the movement and LED blink commands (yes, any robot worth its salt MUST have blinking LEDs). While we now have several feet of track installed, this turned out to be a difficult job since hacklab apparently has  a 4″ thick concrete ceiling. But thanks to a lot of hard work (photo: drilling the ceiling) it’s now rock solid and looks awesome. The idea is to lay additional track that will eventually allow the robot to drive along the ceiling all over the lab. Our “use case” is a robot that can be commanded to head over to the desks, pick up empty pop cans and ferry them over to the recycling bin (more about that in a moment).

After the above video was taken, we started to outfit the robot with additional capabilities and sensors. The first was a Sharp IR distance sensor that we’d like to use for robot positioning along the track. The second was this little contraption (see if you can guess what it is before scrolling further):

 

This little gadget is actually a winch that can raise or lower a bucket from the robot. In our proposed  pop can pickup “use case” the winch is what will enable the robot to pick up and deliver pop cans to the recycling bin. …what? “ugly” you say?  Not to us. What it lacks in sleek lines and striking curves is overshadowed by character and performance. As an example, if you look carefully, on the left side of the spool we have a heart shaped piece of acrylic that serves as our motor hub (yes, every self respecting robot needs a heart)! And equally cool is that just above it we have a limit switch with a roller on it that tracks along the edges of the heart as the spool turns, sending our robot three electronic “clicks” each rotation (two at the top of the heart and one at the bottom) that help us encode/track the position of the winch. It also has a homing switch at the top to allow the robot to figure out where the bucket is after a reboot.  So will it lift a pop can? You bet!  The heaviest object we tested with it was the fire extinguisher …which it lifted without a problem!

And of course, this is just the beginning. We have lots of code left to write, track to lay, and sensors to add. We also plan to give the robot a xbee wireless connection so we can issue it commands from within the lab as well. Adding a pan/tilt laser pointer atop the robot is also on our to-do list.

Thanks to everyone for an awesomely fun weekend, and feel free to roll up your sleeves and join us on this project as Hacklab’s Train Overlord continues to evolve!

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Robot Hackathon Update

by on Apr.08, 2011, under Uncategorized

Eight people met tonight and we decided on a plan for hacklab’s new robot overlord. Some of us will be meeting at 9am to start the shopping expedition (first stop: George’s Trains). We’ll be reconvening at or before 1pm tomorrow (Saturday) in order to start construction.

The robot will be a gondola robot, hanging from train track suspended from the ceiling. It’ll have a winch, enabling it to raise and lower a load up and down. We envision an ultimate application being to carry empty pop cans from the desk to the recycling bins :-)

At least four different teams will work in parallel:
– suspended track construction
– gondola train mechanism
– motor control electronics & programming
– winch mechanism

Once the robot is moving, we have a super long list of cool features to add such as responding to light & sound, wireless control via ZigBee, pan & tilt laser “eye”, eyebrows for expression, R2D2 sound effects, etc. Hopefully we will get to some of that fun stuff tomorrow!

If you’re keen to learn about robotics or get put to work in any way on a robot, please show, we can totally find something for you to do! 1pm tomorrow, Saturday April 8th, 2011.

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Integral Transform Workshop

by on Apr.03, 2011, under Uncategorized

On April 25th, at 7pm/1900, I will be doing an integral transform workshop. This workshop will introduce ideas like convolution and the Fourier Transform (and possibly L² Spaces, the Laplace transforms or Fourier Series). Examples of applications will include solving PDEs.

Integral Transforms and the Fourier transform in particular are very powerful ideas. The Fourier transform changes from looking at functions in terms of amplitudes at points in time to amplitudes at frequencies. It has applications to audio and image processing; see examples of what it does to these images (though note that the author is using discrete 2D Fourier transforms, which are a little different from what I’ll be showing).

They’re also very useful in ODEs and PDEs, making them invaluable in physics, including electronics.

NOTE: You should know what derivatives and integrals are if you intend to come to this workshop. I’m really sorry, but I simply won’t have time to teach introductory calculus and cover this material. And it isn’t nice for people who do know calculus if I try to do so.

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Hacklab Toronto Video

by on Apr.03, 2011, under Uncategorized

Check out our new Hacklab Toronto video! See inside the lab, meet a few of our members and check out some of the cool stuff we do. Hacklab Toronto is open to the public every Tuesday night starting at 1800h. Come down and meet us sometime!

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Robot Hackathon

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Uncategorized

Come one, come all and help build a robotic denizen for hacklab! Announcing the first ever robot hackathon at hacklab. We’ll be gathering on Friday April 8th 7pm-onward to brainstorm and discuss what to do, and then all day Saturday April 9th to hack on our robot! Alan and I will be running the session, thanks also to Rob and Geordie who will hopefully be there as well.

The plan is basically to make a robot of some sort that will be a permanent resident of hacklab. A possible idea is to make a “spider bot” that would live above the bar area, roving back and forth on a clothes-line type of thing. It would be able to raise and lower itself from the line, and could have light and sound sensors to enable it to respond to it’s environment. It would be Arduino based in order to make it easily hackable. Bonus points if it can lower itself into a charging port when needed! But this is just one idea, if we can come up with something better that would awesome! We’re keen to have something fun to show off at the hacklab party later that month.

If you’re at all interested in robotics, please come! No experience necessary, we will be forming small teams so that more experienced people can help less experienced people learn, in the true spirit of hacklab. Stay for as little or as long as you like. If you’ve got stuff to donate to our cause (motors, batteries, electronics, etc.) that would be super awesome as well. The more stuff we get the less we will have to buy and the more things our robot will be able to do!

So mark your calendars for April 8th and 9th and prepare for your new hacklab robot overlords :-)

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Soldering RSVP Links

by on Mar.12, 2011, under Uncategorized

The soldering workshops are coming up real soon! The women’s workshop is coming up this Monday. The general audience workshop is a week from Monday, on March 21st. Please RVSP today, space is limited and the last soldering workshop was filled to capacity!

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Get yer Tickets for Arduino Workshop II

by on Feb.11, 2011, under Uncategorized

Tickets are on sale at eventbright: Hacklab Arduino Workshop II. Tickets are $20, there are only 10 spaces available. Text from the event (copied here for your reference):

We’ll be using Arduino to do an edge-lit acrylic lighting project. This will involve:
– bread-boarding, placing a number of circuit elements unto a solderless breadboard and connecting the bread-board to your Arduino pins.
– attaching a super bright RGB (Red Green Blue) LED (Light Emitting Diode) to the acrylic and wiring it into the bread-board.
– writing code to make the RGB LED do pretty things. A momentary switch on the breadboard will allow the use of multiple modes without changing the program. Your imagination will be the only limit to how colorful or complicated it will be. Properly controlled an RBG LED can make any color that the human eye can perceive – and it can fade between them!

I will prepare small kits for each attendee, consisting of a small bread-board, the RGB LED, a bunch of wires, the mom-switch, and a laser-cut, laser-rastered piece of acrylic. The $20 charge is for these materials, you’ll get to keep them all at the end of the night (repurpose and use them for your next project!). Bring your own Arduino – any Arduino will do, including clones. Arduino’s can be purchased at Creatron.

This class is a follow up to the previous Arduino workshop, but is still suitable for near-beginners. You should have your Arduino working, software installed, and understand the Examples->Basics->Blink example.

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Arduino Workshop II

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Uncategorized

I’ll be hosting a follow-up to the previous Arduino workshop, since it was so popular. I’ve scheduled it for Monday Feb 21st at 7pm, which is two weeks from tomorrow.

This workshop will be a little more advanced than the last one, and there will be a materials fee, so that we can have a little more to work with than some surplus LEDs, and you’ll get to take stuff home with you. I’m not sure exactly what that cost will be (gotta go to Creatron and see how much the stuff I am thinking of will cost), but we’ll be learning some bread boarding skills (laying out a more complicated circuit), and writing a moderate sized program. I expect the class to take about 2 hours total. It will be helpful if you’ve already done at least the Blink tutorial (as we did the last time), but total beginners are welcome as always. Hacklab-membership not required, but RSVP will be – attendance will be capped so that I know how many kits of stuff to buy, and we have room to work. Watch this blog for RSVP link to follow sometime in the next week.

Also, quick reminder: this Monday’s workshop is LaTeX, the widely used text markup language, it’s open to beginners and non-members, hope to see you there! Note also that there will be no workshop on Feb 14th – rumors of “kissing for geeks” are just that, rumors!

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LaTeX Workshop

by on Jan.20, 2011, under Uncategorized

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be running an introduction to LaTeX workshop on February 7th. What is LaTeX? LaTeX is a text markup language; instead of typing in word processor like MS Word or Open Office, you type in plain text and then compile it to a format of you choice, such as PDF. Unlike HTML, LaTeX is not terribly cumbersome to type by hand.

LaTeX is the industry standard for math and science publication. Look at a random math paper or book, at you can be very confident it was written in LaTeX. But LaTeX is also capable of doing many things other than writing papers, including slideshows and posters. Here’s an example, a sideshow I made in grade 11. As another example, I made this image in LaTeX for digimer.

This workshop is only an introduction. By the end you will be able to create simple documents and typeset equations. If there is time and interest, I will go into how to make slideshows and the basics of diagrams.

This workshop is open to everyone — that includes non-members. It will start at 7pm.

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