MakerSpaces in Ottawa

There’s been a veritable explosion of “MakerSpaces” in Ottawa this year. The affordability of prototyping tools and excitement around ‘innovation’ has made it possible to open up all kinds of otherwise unused space as sweet maker labs.
A quick survey of the Ottawa labs I know about:

Centerpointe Imaginespace : Open to the public!

ArtEngine Modlab : Open to the public on Wednesdays, and available to private members throughout the week.

uOttawa Makerspace : Open to the public on Sundays – open to uOttawa students the rest of the week.

Carleton University Discovery Center : 3D Printing on demand.

Gatineau Sustainable Makerspace : Seems focused on building ‘green’ projects.

MakerSpace North : Opening soon – looks like a membership-based shared lab.

Bayview Innovation Center : Huge public maker space coming in 2016.


Some of you may remember this from physics class – but here’s a cool trick. Grab a light source (led and battery in this case), a tiny image, and a magnifying glass.


Line them up just right (the ratio of distances is equal to the magnification of the lens) and SHAZAM! You are a projector! :) I have an idea in mind involving projections – I have to find some affordable super-bright LEDs.

Sand Mandala

Prototype for a sand mandala generator. I finally have an excuse to work a bit more on this! I was really fascinated by some monks who came to Winnipeg ages ago and produced a sand mandala on the floor of a neighbourhood art gallery. Gorgeous, colourful, temporary work.

In this version of the tool, I create a bunch of “Ants” who walk around leaving sand everywhere, each a different colour. I’m working on giving the ants different “personalities”, one ant will love spirals, and the next will be really drunk, some ants will only walk straight lines. Here’s the collective work of a bunch of wibbly-wobbly ants coming back from the pub. ;)

The circular and radially symmetric forms naturally emerge, because I’m cloning the ants in quadrants and they can’t help but sometimes walk radially. (Some of them will preferentially do this in the final version.) This is fun to see in action – there’s a lot going on when you get 40 of them walking around.


Circle Packing

Why is circle packing sooooo hard? I feel like I’d need a PHD in Rocket Math to fully understand this stuff. I get that specialized knowledge requires highly specialized language, but how awesome would it be if Google Translate could convert from Differential Geometry to English. “Discretizations of holomorphic functions.” Auugh!

I figured out enough to do this, though!


Based on a true story

This scene out of “Scorpion”, a new TV show about secret agent hackers foiling terrorist plots, is probably the singularly greatest moment in television. I haven’t seen the show, but the synopsis on IO9 this morning captured my imagination.

The airport software has been compromised – so they need to find a backup copy! Which apparently is stored in airplane firmware. So rationally, the thing to do is pass an ethernet cable down out of a plane, while it’s flying, to a laptop in a supercar.

I love how landing the plane calmly (or finding one already at a gate) and simply walking on board is not even presented as an option. Also good to know that airplanes carry an extra few hundred yards of LAN cable in case of an air-to-ground data transfer emergency. (I imagine cable-crimpers are confiscated by the TSA?)

The stall speed of a 747 with flaps up (according to google) is about 98 knots, (112mph) which is well within the top speed of most stock muscle cars. Minimum safe landing speed is usually pegged around 120knots – I imagine you don’t want to be close to your stall speed over a runway. That works out closer to 140mph which is very fast but still doable.

140mph, times 1:30 of driving (assuming the show is shot in realtime) = ~3.5 miles

The long strip at the Ottawa Airport is only 1.8 miles. So obviously this technique would need to be adapted if we needed to do it here – maybe they could use firewire or a really long eSata cable for faster transfer rates. Or make multiple passes! Or hang down a rope ladder! Or put wings on the car and fly off with it!


Panda Game – 2014

This is what overly confident uOttawa Gee Gees fans (hey that’s me!) look like on their way into the Panda Game – the football competition against our local university rivals, Carleton U.


Year after year we wipe the floor with them – we’ve come home with the Panda some 14 times in a row now, so it was a pretty sure thing we were walking away with it again this year. And sure enough, though we traded the lead back and forth throughout the game, we were up four points with seven seconds left on the clock – a sure thing – when THIS happened. A moment that will go down in school football infamy.

A few points of interest here – We had won. There was no time left, no downs left, there was no way they could cover that distance. We were basically waiting for the timer to run down to start partying. They break, Mills reels back for two seconds, everyone holds their breath, and he fires a Hail Mary at Behar (who covers some 55+ yards!) with basically two seconds on the clock – you can see zeroes on the scoreboard. It’s like physics is somehow bent – Mills threw it past him, Behar’s running full out and I don’t even see him looking over his shoulder. But one of our guys reaches out to knock it down and it somehow ricochets right into Behar’s open hands.

You can hear the commentator describe the shock and awe in the Ottawa stands – the crowd on our side went silent for a good five minutes. I’d be upset about the whole thing, but it was one of the most spectacular endings I’ve ever seen in a football game. So many impossible factors coming together on this play.