The Tech Terrors

Here be robots! 

This is the official site for Tech Terrors…a makerspace/breakerspace, drone building, assistive tech teaching, 3d printing, robot ruling, YouTubing chaotic adventure in Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics, STEAM inspiration.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
― Socrates

David Hewlett and his EZ Robotlett, Marvin…fuelling up for another Tech Terrors club meeting!

Tech Bandits 2020!

Hello All!

Next year’s Bandits?!…This year’s Bandits? We start our Tech Banditry in January, so I’m going 2020 with it ’cause it sounds cool and futuristic!?

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I’m trying a new experiment this time around. I’ve set up a Tech Bandits Patreon page in order to raise donations, rather than just hit up parents, to cover the cost of materials and such. It may be a complete and utter disaster and cost me an arm and a leg, but I really want to see if there’s enough interest out there to expand our Tech Bandits offerings and spread the word! Here’s what I’ve sent out to the school to describe my hopes for this year:


Break Stuff…Make stuff…For fun and for the future!

Change the world for the better…with an exciting mix of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Play minecraft with assistive tech, using only your eyes, or Fortnite with no hands…navigate a room blindfolded.  Listen to sounds your ears can’t hear and tell robots to do your bidding!

The Tech Bandits are a kid-driven tech club that promotes analytical thinking, team building, empathy and understanding…and we’re not afraid to make a mess along the way!

This year, the Tech Bandits are hoping to team up with a local school, for kids with developmental and physical disabilities, in order to learn about life with disabilities and how we can make a difference, by creating amazing, assistive, tech solutions with the kids who need them!  

The club is free, but we’re always looking for people to give us old tech and donations!  In the hopes of raising money for materials, supplies and cool new tech and tools, I’ve set up a Patreon account and would ask parents to consider a 2 month @ $60 donation for having their kids in the mix:

I’ll also start sharing fun Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math things I find in my Internet-ing once again. Here’s a few things that I’m hoping to put to nefarious use throughout the coming season of the Tech Bandits:

I’ve got to start with one of my favourite robots and robot companies, Boston Dynamics. They are light years ahead of just about every other humanoid, and now dogoid?!? robot out there…I actually got the chance to pilot one of these a couple of years ago at the Robotics Conference in Boston and let me tell you…they had to chase me down and pry the controllers from my sweaty little hands!

Robot Operating System

Training is important for dogs and roboticists. And if you want to talk robot this is “language” you’ll need to make sure your robots to do your bidding… is a treasure trove of robot programming expertise and resources:

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And speaking of robots… if you’re having a hard time finding good renovation help for your home renovations…why not put this tireless drywalling fellow to good use?:

And skip all those pesky ladders by having these drones handle the cleaning for you…

Oh, and they can also handle giant wind turbines if you happen to have a couple of those gathering bugs!

And of course you’ll need to get those robot parts delivered…so check this crazy mail sorting dance number out!

Not dead yet!

Hello Team Terror!

I’m sending this from downtown St. John’s Newfoundland… where I’m currently matching wits with a great hairy detective…  so pardon the grammar, spelling and general confusion! 😉

So, we snuck in a little extra session this week… I wanted to let any eager tech examiners, who might have wanted more tech autopsy-ing time to finish up taking their tech victims apart, before they returned to sports or Harry Potter clubs… now that’s a club!

In case you don’t get to the end of this update… PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOUR TERROR, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW’S TERROR, IS INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN SOME YOUTUBE SCIENCE VIDEOS WITH ME.. got some cool, new and returning favourite Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math projects I’d like to produce!

Massive thanks to the amazing Mike ‘Muscles’ V. for all his help carting stuff around, his cleaning and packing skills and for putting up with my own last minute salvaging of parts as we did our session end clean up…though for some reason, Mike didn’t want the laser printer in his car? 😉 

 Art and technology combined… our savaged colour laser printer!  I made a bit of a mess in the “clean up” phase admittedly, but the technology and precision behind these things is just incredible… managed to explain the basics to a few of the kids… I’ve discovered it helps to say “laser” loudly and a lot!

And of course huge thanks to the unstoppable Ron ‘Video’ V.!  Once again Mr V. has gone above and beyond his many roles and his crazy near-lunch-less schedule to add gaming videos to the mix and make all this Tech Terrors happen…again… thank you sir!

Many terrors were very eager to leave with some salvaged tech parts to play with…I think I managed to chat with just about everyone who did and I let them know what they were and what they did… but feel free to send me photos or questions if any of your terrors want to know more about what they’ve brought home with them!

Ladies tackling the last of the PS3 game console while the lads work on the laptops!

We figured this must be the controls for our multi-CD changing stereo!

Some cool new Science Technology, Engineering arts and Math finds to share:

Don’t Eat Your Spinach?!Spinach plants are being modified using carbon nano-tubes to detect chemicals… including toxic gases and chemicals found in explosives… check out these plant detectives:

Not the first time I’ve seen plants communicating thanks to the amazing Neuroscientist Greg Gage … check out this Ted Talk to learn how a Venus fly trap counts… and how it can be hacked and tricked into controlling the movement of other plants through electrical impulses, like the ones that make our hearts beat!:

Another Call for Terrors!
I’m going to be filming a series of experiments and Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math related YouTube videos and I’d love to have some of the kids, in smaller groups of 2 or 3, come and work with me on them and appear in the videos.  If anyone is interested or knows someone else who might be interested, please, please do get in touch!

It has been such a pleasure working with your Terrors.  There is nothing like seeing the kids get excited about something I’d never have thought of or taking things in some crazy new and entirely different directions… It’s a struggle not to have more fun than they do! 

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!


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!


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.


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!


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…

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:

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!

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


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!:

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?