The End… ?

Hello Team Terror!

Hard to believe, but this was the last official Tech Terrors session…doesn’t it feel like we just started!? Either I’m in some kind of time loop… or maybe we’ve just been having the BEST time!?

Our Robo Disco was a roaring success… we had a dance-crew of 5 EZ-Robots networked together so that they could do suitably robotic and synchronized gyrations!

I then turned the programming over to our terrors. Some opted to knock their robots off our TerrorHQ network and take the reins themselves, using a tablet app to control them by hand… others were curious about how the programming worked and so I walked them through the basics (there’s a scratch drag and drop, and a text based programming interface for EZ-builder.) The kids skipped the Scratch and dove straight into the code… quickly teaching the robots some new moves of their own… as their friends called out requests… handstands were popular!

Nobody wanted to give up on the Tech Autopsies, so a number of terrors were elbow deep in dissections before the robots had finished their first dance number! One of the more popular victims… an old Playstation 3!

Rest in pieces dear Playstation 3

The PS3 includes something called a cell processor…this baby is so powerful that one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, the IBM Roadrunner, uses it as well! In fact, the US Airforce connected 1700 playstations together and built their own super computer! Here’s a link to the brochure they made for the ribbon cutting ceremony of what they called their Condor Supercomputer!:

We’re going to need a few more Playstation 3’s!

The Terrors have been very eager to bring some salvaged parts home with them, so I’ve been letting them take anything that didn’t look too spiky or injury inducing… if you see odd bits and pieces coming home with them, ask them what they’ve got and what they are… if they don’t know, I’ll be happy to remind them!

Our Rainbow, electric-pump-activated-cloud-and-tree-planter-irrigation-system went into build mode… two bags of cotton balls were hot glued to a nice white round, cloudish, ramen bowl that I dug out of the kitchen recycling…much to my wife’s chagrin…but the Terrors have transformed it into the cuddliest cloud a tree could ever wish for!

It’s so FLUFFY!

The ladies spent quite some time discussing the very best dimensions for the rainbow …made out of “perfectly good” cardboard that someone had “just thrown in the recycling bin!”… it seems my geek trash adventures are catching on with the Terrors…sorry folks!

Geek Trash… it’s completely natural!

We’re hoping for at least one more Tech Terrors when we get back from the Break… and I will be filming a series of Tech Terror inspired videos if any of the kids have an interest in being a part of that, please let me know!

Thank you all so much for having the best Tech Terrors a geek like me could wish for… and have an amazing March Break!

Perfect Terrors

Hello Team Terror!

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As squirrels frolic on the roof above me, I wanted to let you know about this week’s Tech Terror’s adventures…sadly we were missing 3D Mike at this session…  but a small car entertainment system was sacrificed in his honor. 😉
I focused primarily on Tech Autopsies this week (it’s just not the same without Mike, so wanted to keep it simple and make him feel as guilty as possible…we miss you Mike!) and it got messy fast…colored toner, laptop keys and screws galore…we even had a couple of autopsy related cuts and bruises…I have to say, I’ve got so many nicks and cuts from doing this stuff that I think I’m immune, but I do want to make sure nobody gets hurt… so, I’ve reminded the Terrors that there are gloves and glasses available amongst the Tools of Terror if things get hairy…speaking of which:
A number of our intrepid Terrors were “grossed-out” by the amount of dust that accumulates in a lot of these old electronics and so I started wondering…Why do electronics get so dusty?  Why do they seem to attract more dust than other things around the place.  The answer is either, “because nobody ever cleans them” or… it’s a great excuse to go atomic!

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Everything in the world is made up of atoms.  Atoms are themselves made up of even tinier things, called electrons, protons and neutrons.  If an atom has more protons than electrons the atom is said to be positively charged, if it has more electrons than protons then it’s called negatively charged… finally, if all the protons and electrons are equal, they cancel each other out and the atom is called neutral.  Once an atom or a group of atoms (a molecule) has a positive or negative charge you can call them an ion… and  sound like a real scientist!
Like everything else, dust is made up of negative and positively charged particles.  Negatively charged particles attract positively charged particles and vice versa.  Negatively charged particles repel (push away) negatively charged particles and positive ions repel positive ions… simply put opposites attract & likes repel…just like the North and South poles of a magnet.

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Now… back to our dusty electronics equipment!  All that electricity running through electronics creates negative and positively charged areas which as we know, become very attractive to their opposites… in this case oppositely charged dust particles!
Electricity creates heat…especially when forced through the tiny paths in electronics, and that heat can literally cause them to melt down and stop working…so we need them to chill out!  For some electronics, just designing cases to have good air flow and using vents, is enough to keep them cool.  But in other cases… certainly in the case of the super cool gaming PC our PC modders have just re-built, they need a more active cooling system.  They need fans to draw the cool air in and blow out the heat…if that air has dust… which air generally does… it’s going to stick around!

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Back to our session!  I had the Terrors focus on their Autopsy victims:

Our giant 3 color laser printer is still offering up it’s tech treasures… and a ton of colored toner… and the hunt is on for the laser hidden deep within!
A multi-CD and tape deck system, which initiated the discussion about dusty electronics has been reduced to few electronics boards and some cool looking motors.
An old in-car entertainment system has been taken apart and it’s little monitor was last seen heading for the library.
Video Vida was also back at his fabulous game recording… I’m assuming that vast amounts of YouTube money is going to start flying in any second now! 😉
And we’ve had a breakthrough with our Plant Drive initiative….I planted a few clippings in used nespresso pods for the plant drive and figured I’d get the Terrors to design a basic 3d printed plant holder for them…

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Nespresso pods as planters!

Turns out I was thinking WAY too small!? I’ll let the Terrors walk you through their diabolical schemes!


(The video is public, but I made sure to crop out faces in order to protect the perpetrators! 😉
I believe that next week may be the end of this Tech Terrors season, but I’d love to do at least one more after that… if only to make up for the snow day… will have to see how that works with the Frankland schedule.
Next week, for our (hopefully NOT) final Terrors session…. we’ll be having a Robo Disco!
As always, any questions, concerns suggestions about The Tech Terrors and their evil deeds, or advice on squirrel care and feeding (don’t)…feel free to get in touch…and I’ll continue to look out for more cool things like this laser-wielding Snake Robot that can cut a nuclear reactor to ribbons!

We’re back!

Not quite what any of us had in mind for Tech Terrors last week but I do have to say I was rather pleased to hear how many Terrors actually voiced their regrets at missing it!
I spent some time digging up (after digging out)  a few, fun, Winter Tech related things I’ll share as I’m currently in the process of making another of my STEAM inspiration vids…the first was on Fire Fighting Tech if you want to see that:
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There was a surprisingly interesting article in Wired about the crazy amount of work and organization required to keep airports running in our miserable snowy weather… something that concerned me as my wife was flying back from Berlin.

Wired: It takes crazy effort to clear snow from airport runways!


https://www.wired.com/2015/03/takes-crazy-effort-clear-snow-airport-runways/


I had always assumed that runways were heated…but it turns out that the vast majority aren’t…but that may be changing:

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And we may need more heated landings by the sound of it…given all the new air traffic companies like Uber may be creating:h

And when you start looking you’ll find there’s are more than one way to shovel a drive with robots…in fact they have a competition!:
https://youtu.be/njW7mBH0ORQ

Robo-Snowplow…Now there’s a project for the Terrors…and a great way to save my back!


But I digress…Now, it’s this week!

I staggered into the Terror’s lair with a simpler plan…Tech Autopsies and Robots…while the Mad Modders PC crew finished up the rebuild of their complete PC teardown…yep, these kids were born to mod (modding computers is like customizing cars…only with computers…so WAY cooler! 😉 They have one more fan to install and they’re up and running…I even saw the system boot…looking forward to hearing more about that!
YouTube Gaming Guru “Video” Vida was down two of his Terrors but he’s looking forward to some actual game and commentary recording next week, I believe?


We all wanted see the school tour video that will be showing off Frankland to another school in Africa, so we got that running on the magic whiteboard…nice work ladies…filming, hosting, editing and all!
I started the class by asking if anyone had any interest in figuring out something Tech Terror-y to do with the Frankland plant drive…I had brought in a few clippings that I planted in old Nespresso capsules (the coffee grounds have made a great starter soil for seeds in the past…plus I hate wasting all those little aluminium things.) A few of the Terrors really ran with it…designing a tree with 3d printed holders and a series of straws to water them…I even got a list of required supplies! I’m going to try to decipher the plans and have something for them to work with next week!  
I also had a little gaggle of Terrors who were quite captivated by the CO2 sensor setup I brought in…and how the levels had jumped since before they’d arrived and filled the room with their collective lunch breath…they were also surprised that breathing on the sensor had such a small effect on the readings.  The sensor is a neat little kit from my favourite Canadian charity, Let’s Talk Science which they created for their LivingSpace action project in conjunction with the Canadian Space Agency and the International Space Station…Frankland may already be using some of these…but if not they should be!:

The Tech autopsies stole the show this week with just about every terror having torn something to pieces by the end of our session. Surprise to me was that I didn’t have a single taker on wiring up the Tech Terror robot army?!  So, I’m going to take a different approach and have them wired up and ready for the Terrors next week…see if the they are more interested once they can make them walk, talk, do push ups, sing and dance…via some simple scratch programming!

Late Edition

Great session this week…one of the highlights for me was being told that the Tech Autopsy ladies had uncovered “a whole new world” inside the laser printer that they wanted me to see.  They have also begun taking  home some of the circuit boards that they salvaged…salvaged with as little  actual breaking or cutting as possible, I might add…such a great group of Tech Examiners!

Baz working on his own Xbox assistive controller setup!


Xbox adaptive controller was a huge hit…so much so that the battles weren’t just on Fortnite! 😉 . Too many terrors too few Xboxes…so the plan next week is to divide them into teams and have them work together on some assistive controller Fortnite competitions…or possibly Forza car racing as Xbox sent me a free copy of the legendary edition and it might be a good “in” for discussions about car tech!


Alma and her Video Splinter team recorded a school walk through for one of the teachers who will be showing it to another school in Africa apparently!

Robot building was thwarted by cabling confusion so I will be providing some old-fashioned printouts for that process next week as the instructions were all on the app which was on the phone filming for Africa! 😉
The Mad PC Modders are nearing completion of the stormtrooper PC build…I’m told just a few cables to the case to figure out and so I’m hoping to see it booting up next session!


Not sure how our intrepid YouTube gaming VFX crew are doing as VFX Vida wisely took them off to quieter parts of the school to work in the Open Broadcasting System software used to do screen capture…Gabe says he’s having fun, so I can’t wait to hear about what’s up with that!

The Terrors who have put in the time to 3d printing have had their efforts rewarded by Mike-the-muscle presenting them with their own orange Flexi-Rexi’s…in case you’re wondering what that dinosaur is doing in your house.

The Gory Details – Thermostat Tech Autopsy

I started worrying about what on Earth kind of things our Coroner Terrors would get from their Tech Autopsy of a thermostat?! It’s just a bunch of cheap plastic and electronics…so I did some digging and here’s what I’ve found…

I started off with the screen…I knew it was an LCD screen, but what exactly does that mean…how does an LCD screen even work?

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display and it’s actually a really cool state of matter that was discovered a billion years ago…well, back in 1888, at least.

You’ve probably learned about the states of matter…solid, liquid, gas and plasma…well liquid crystals are liquids but with some really cool solid-like behaviour.

When teamed up with polarizing filters (a filter that blocks light reflected off any non-metal surface) and a little electricity they can be used to change how much light they allow through…a feat that is used in the laptops, TVs…and Thermostats you use every day!

This is a bit advanced…but is the best basic description of Polarization in action. Plus I LOVE Khan Academy…you can learn anything about anything here and they’re fabulous!

The next thing I found was that most of these modern Thermostats are controlled by a tiny electronic component called, a thermistor. This little baby resists the amount of electricity that can flow through it depending on its temperature…so the thermostat is set up to equate temperature to the how much of an electrical jolt it’s receiving.

So the LCD is using electricity to control how much light can get through it…while the Thermostat is controlling how much electricity gets through by the changing temperature.

We should perform a delicate autopsy on our thermostat corpse, locate and remove the Thermistor. We can then rig it up to a multimeter (which can measure electrical current…and electrical resistance) and then play with heating or cooling the thermistor component to different temperatures and see if we can figure out which readings correspond to which temperatures!

Something like this:


So…we’ve got a way of talking about?

STATES OF MATTER

OPTICS

ELECTRICITY and RESISTANCE

Frozen Snow Tech Terrors

It was hard to live up to last week’s laser spiders…but we certainly did our best! Thanks again Andrew for blowing my tiny arachnophobic mind…can’t wait to play again!


Started yesterday’s session by introducing the terrors to the new XBox adaptive controller.  Wanted to get them thinking about how they’re going to customize these brilliant beasts to play video games, with more than one terror at the controls and some non-standard disability related buttons, switches and foot pedals that Xbox has kindly provided us…I think we’ll start with a driving game and then progress to Fortnite to really push their limits!


Our robot army has arrived from the frozen North… so we had five brave robo Terrors start working on assembling our new EZ-Robot JD Humanoids…I’ve been assured that they’re going to figure out the wiring without the instructions…so while skeptical…I’m curious to see how they turn out…and what crawling limping robo-horrors emerge!? 😉


We had the Hallway Tech Autopsies up and running on two printers and also on a thermostat that one of our inspired Examiner Terrors brought in to dive into.  I’m going to have the Terrors help me out with some “best practices” and “autopsy guidelines” to help get the most out of these tech corpses.  Really want to take that infectious curiosity and desire to get into this dead tech and focus it on all possible disassembly options before we resort to cutting and forcing things…I’ve been stressing the idea of autopsies over breakerspace this week…as I’m noticing it’s easier to get carried away with the breaking and forget the potential making tech that could be extracted!


Our printing Terrors were walked through their first print…a pink Flexi Rexi… by Mad Maker Mike!  Bratlett and I went back a few hours later to retrieve it and it looks beautiful!  Given the interest in these amazing first prints, it looks like we’ll need to print a few more flexi rexies for the printer Terrors…I’m thinking the Terrors could perhaps be tasked with printing their own Flexi Rexi’s in order to show their mastery of the process!  You can check Rexi…and a billion other cool print files on Thingiverse.com:https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2738211

Oh Boy does this really makes me want to upgrade our amazing Prusa to multi-filament…thus allowing us to print colors!

Finally, VidaFX and his Youtube gamer Terrors learned about the Open Broadcasting Software, OBS which is a screen capture software for windows.  They also collaborated  on some design elements pulled from Google images and started exploring Panzoid…an amazing opening titles website sourced by our very own savvy gaming Terrors!https://panzoid.com/
https://obsproject.com/

Here’s the latest Tutorial I could find…I highly recommend that you make sure to give a shout out to any designers and music you’re using in your videos! Helps them out and in turn helps you out too!



And speaking of savvy gamers….all the while…Our Elite PC Mod crew were hard at work on their Stormtrooper PC tear down and rebuild…Jack even brought his own thermal paste for connecting the CPU to its epic looking finned cooler!


I continue to add things to http://www.techterrors.com as I go…and will, of course, be including a version of this, along with pictures, shortly!
Have a great week…and feel free to get in touch with any questions, concerns, suggestions, or orphaned tech in desperate need of autopsy!

T dot O Spiders

I don’t know about you, but Andrew’s amazing Black Widow and Laser Doppler Vibrometer show and tell last week, really has me a-buzz about Spiders (sorry, couldn’t resist it)! I’m now a little obsessed with the whole idea of spiders and technology and how we might be able to integrate the two together ourselves…with our own, less painfully venomous local arachnid friends! Toronto, it turns out, has a amazing selection of spiders and the City Of Toronto and The wonderful Royal Ontario Museum (http:/www.rom.com) has a great guide that covers everything you’d want to know about them:

I had no idea we had so many spiders running around…extraordinary guide to a whole world of local spiders!
Here’s a great way to turn old plastic food containers in to web weaving spider habitats…really like the simple, yet ingenious, cotton ball moisture system!