School Kids Build Ontario Power Generation System Model

The STEAMLabs community makerspace teamed up with a grade 6 class from Vocal Music Academy, a public elementary school in downtown Toronto, to create a working model of the Ontario Power System. It pulls XML files and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains.

The kids learned HTML, CSS and Javascript to build a web interface to send commands to the Spark and explain how the system works. Their project was accepted as an exhibition at the TIFF DigiPlaySpace. The kids presented their project to adults and other kids at the event. STEAMLabs has also published a free, open source Internet of Things teaching kit to enable other educators to make projects with Internet brains.

STEAMLabs is currently crowd-funding a new makerspace in Toronto. They’re almost there, a few hundred dollars short of their target, with a couple of days to go. Help them help kids and adults make amazing things! When Hackaday visited Toronto recently, [Andy Forest] dropped in to show off this project. Projects like these which let kids become creators of technology, rather than mere consumers, is one of the best ways to get them hooked to hacking from an early age.

Continue reading “School Kids Build Ontario Power Generation System Model”

Hackaday visits Toronto, Canada

Canada! Just in time for Spring to hit. I went to Toronto to speak at FITC, an arts and technology conference, co-host a Hackaday meetup with HackLab TO, visit the DigiPlaySpace at TIFF, and to check out Globacore’s new digs.

FITC is a conference which celebrates the creativity in technology. Pictured above is Diorama Rama designed by [Christopher Lewis] and [Creative Technologists of Toronto] and built over 4 days by participants at FITC. The buildings are laser cut paper, and participants create a simple circuit using an ATtiny. A message is coded into the chip in ASCII and the buildings blink an individual message back in Morse code, each building blinking a different message. It’s pretty interesting to use a Morse –> ASCII phone app (Morse Tools) to read the messages.

dioramaRama_MorseTools_02
Looking at Diorama Rama with Morse Tools

Hackaday Prize judge [Micah Elizabeth Scott] gave a talk about her work. [Jessica Rosenkrantz] of Nervous System spoke about her company’s process when designing mathematically based objects. She spoke about her 3D printed dress pictured below and how it was made. Amazing! I also got to show off my newly minted Breathe project at FITC.

Kinematics by Nervous System
Kinematics by Nervous System

After FITC ended, HackLab co-hosted a meetup with us. A team from HackLab was a 2014 Hackaday Prize Semifinalist and won $1000 in components with their Retro Populator, a Pick and Place machine retrofit onto a 3D printer. We had beer as well as almond-cream flavored non-alcoholic drinks from the Luma Droid, a drink mixing robot. HackLab is a good-sized hackerspace, with a huge room for a meetup, a full kitchen and vegan dinner served frequently, plus a shop tools room all by itself.

Among the lightning talks, [Pearl Chen] brought her Intel Edison-powered alarm clock that has but one function — to tell her when she is running late. [Johannes van der Horst] brought a USB current monitor that had many of us fascinated for about an hour at the end of the evening, plugging in a phone or a battery just to see the numbers climb. [Eric Boyd] talked about the DIY Bio projects that are going on at HackLab. They are testing meat using PCR to see if it is indeed, beef. Ew.

[Andrew Kilpatrick] of Kilpatrick Audio showed us an older version of his synthesizer before showing us his newest revision, Phenol, which looks pretty slick.

[Hugh Elliot] spoke about a light-photography project. [Leif Bloomquist] spoke about a gaming glove project that Hackaday had previously covered. Leif had a Commodore 64 with him and all the games on it fit into 1 GB! [Nadine Lessio] discussed how many programs claim that you can become an expert in a few hours, but in fact, things are not easy. [Jay Vaidya] showed us an IFTTT hack which controls heaters and AC. [Andy Forest] showed us an impressive interactive model of Ontario’s power system that kids at Steam Labs created.

That was a super fun meetup! Thanks HackLab for hosting. We’ve got a bunch of upcoming meetups and larger events in LA, NYC, Bangalore, San Francisco and Shenzhen. Check our events page for what, where, and when, We’d love to see you.

I stopped by TIFF’s Bell Lightbox to see the DigiPlaySpace exhibit. [Micah Scott] did a collaboration with Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media which welcomes you as you walk in. Note: all photos are lifted directly from TIFF.net’s website.

My final stop on this tour was to visit Globacore’s new offices. We spent a day or so hacking on a VR controller for their newest game called Power Cube. Power Cube is an Oculus Rift experience with a custom game controller holding an accelerometer, a gyroscope and magnetometer that links into the game directly.

See ya Toronto, I can’t wait to come back!

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Toronto

Tomorrow, April 15th at 7pm, join Hackaday at the Toronto HackLab.

Our own Mythical Creature, [Sophi Kravitz] is headed North of the border to talk about all things hardware hacking! As always, we love to see what people are working on in their labs, basements, garages, and workplaces. Make sure to bring your builds with you to show off to the rest of the crowd. [Sophi] will have her Breathe project on hand. Solenoids, balloons, compressed air, and visualizations are the secret sauce behind this clever interactive build.

Since there will be snacks, hacks, drinks, and swag we’d appreciate a quick RSVP (use the link at the top of this post) just so we know you’re incoming. Apart from seeing a slew of cool builds there will be lightning talks, some information about the 2015 Hackaday Prize, and if you haven’t been to the Hacklab before this is the perfect time for your first tour. We know there’s a lot of awesome to be seen there!


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

1.37″ CRT Restored by Hacklab for Miniature MAME Cabinet

For $5, [William] of Toronto’s Hacklab hackerspace got a hold of one of the smallest CRT screens ever made – about the size of a large coin. Over the course of a couple sessions – including a public hack boothside at their Mini Makerfaire – [William], [Igor], and several other members managed to connect it as a monitor directly off a Raspberry Pi. The end-goal is the world’s smallest MAME cabinet (smaller by almost half than this LCD one).

As Canada followed the US and stopped broadcasting analog back in 2011, it became quite a challenge to feed the screen a video source. They disclosed early that the easiest solution would just be an RF transmitter on the Pi and then tune the micro-set to that channel. Too easy. They wanted something elegant and challenging so they went digging into the circuitry to find a place to insert a composite video signal directly.

The real story here is their persistence at reverse engineering. The PCB was folded like a cardboard box to fit in the original case, making large portions of the circuitboard and wiring inaccessible. Even when they managed to trace the signal to what they thought was the appropriate chip (marked C80580), they could not find any information on the 30 year old chip. Noting that every other chip on the board was Panasonic and started with “AN5″, [Igor] suspected the mystery silicon was just renamed and went through every single datasheet he could find with that prefix. Combined with form factor, pin count and purpose, his sleuthing was rewarded with a guess for a match – the AN5715. His hunch was correct – using that datasheet led him to the answers they required.

Then they just had to figure out how get the composite signal the Pi outputted into something the chip would use to display the correct image. There were no shortage of challenges, failures and dead ends here either, but they had help from the rest of their membership.

Their project log is an interesting narrative through the process and in the end of course, it worked. It is displayed beautifully with a clear acrylic case and ready for a cabinet to be built.

Toronto embraces 4-letter words

This year was not the first in which the City Hall of Toronto was lit up in a unique way. However, it was the first time that the government building was used to project 4-letter words. Brainchild of [D.A. Therrien], the 4LWM represents something that he imagined for a long time. [Therrien] built the huge sign in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he displayed it over the waterfront. He was later commisioned to bring the sign to Toronto for Nuit Blanche after making some adaptations (due to weather differences). The sign is composed of 4 huge 16-segment displays. Each segment is made of many neon light modules. This configuration makes it less noticable if one such module fails. The sign is controlled below from a computer, which allows it to display text and simple animations. It’s the first in a series of installations dubbed “Beautiful Light” by [Therrien]. Despite the name, no inappropriate language was displayed on the sign.

Blinkenlights’ Stereoscope goes live in Toronto

We’re happy to present this guest post from History Hacker’s [Bre Pettis]. Today [Bre] catches up with the Blinkenlights team, who turn entire buildings into displays. Their current project is Stereoscope which goes live in Toronto, Canada today.

Earlier this week, I posted about the beginnings of the blinkenlights project. It started in 2001 in Berlin, but now Seven years later, in May 2008, blinkenlights is back. The City of Toronto asked the blinkenlights team if they would be interested in joining another Nuit Blanche (as they did in Paris in 2002). Short on time and with a lot of ambition, they decided to redesign and push the envelope on the project to make it wireless for The Toronto City Hall since there would be 960 windows split up in two towers. In the above photo, you can see Stereoscope in all its glory. Continue reading “Blinkenlights’ Stereoscope goes live in Toronto”