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!

Welcome to Tech Terrors Spiderverse – Eight Legs and lasers

Anyone see Into The Spiderverse over the holidays? Well the Tech Terrors are getting in on some crazy new eight-legged discoveries ourselves!

Our Terror’s Session 2 (3 for those non-computers that count from 1) is upon us and we’re hoping to lure our Terrors into an inspiring web of natural science and the physics of lasers and sound…’cause, you know, TECH!

We’ve got our own Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderfan Andrew M. joining us to demonstrate how he uses lasers…well, if you really want to geek-out, a laser doppler vibrometer that compares two reflected lasers to detect vibrations, to “listen” to spiders as they tune and monitor their webs for prey, danger…and even dates!

So excited to see & hear this in action tomorrow and so appreciate Andrew coming by to show it off for us!

Spiders ‘tune’ their webs for good vibrations! -from Reuters

The Doppler Effect

A fantastic description of the Doppler effect in sound, light and ducks…yes, ducks causing ripples in a pond…and the coolest of all effects…Redshift..proving that the universe is expanding and we’re all about to be very alone! 😉

Laser Vibrometry

I’ve set this to start at 1:01 so you can skip some of the cheesy marketing stuff and get to the cool science!

Here’s a little clip of our beautiful Black Widows in action under the watchful eye/ear of the laser Doppler Vibrometer which I believe is a version of this Polytechnic PDV-100 (and 3 grown-ups and I keeping very excited Tech Terrors and interested hallway lurkers behind the “tape of danger”)


OMG! This morning’s Tech Terrors session was a roaring success and mindblowing-ly cool!  Word of “laser wielding deadly Black Widow spiders roaming the halls”  spread like wildfire around the school…Kids from all grades…and even the Chess Club came to see what all the fuss was about!
Andrew “Spider Macguyver” M. fired up his laser vibrometer and hooked it up to Mr. Vida’s superpowered school sound system (manned by DJ Magic Mike) and let me tell you, those spiders made one heck of a racket! Spinning webs; catching crickets; or just clunking around their webs! 😉 

Thank you SO SO much to Andrew for making this happen…you, sir, are a spider superstar!

We made sure to keep the Terrors behind “The Perimeter”, our green tape line of danger… and 3 adults… and I… made sure that everyone stuck to it.  From that safe distance, Terrors got to watch the 3 spiders in action and actually feel the incredible strength and texture of these gorgeous creatures’ webs… by handling a deceased spider’s home.
We learned that while Black Widow spiders are very venomous, they are very rarely deadly…and will only bite when trapped, crushed or you foolishly try to steal their food…kind of like me!
We learned that spiders have a number of glands at the tip of their abdomens that can mix different types of web…much like a 3d printer with multiple filament!
BTW…This same kind of laser doppler vibrometry is used by spies to listen in on conversations in other buildings, by firing the laser at window panes and processing the reflected light into sound!
So much more that I’ve missed, but just a wonderful STEAM inspiring adventure for me and the terrors!
Huge thanks to Andrew “Spider Macguyver” M, Ron “Danger Line” V. and DJ Magic Mike V. for making the whole thing such a treat…and of course, Ms. E. for all her enthusiasm and support!

Here’s Coyote Peterson showing how NOT to handle a Black Widow…anyone who gets bitten by animals and insects on YouTube for a living not necessarily your best source of science!?


Hacking Homework?!

I hear a lot of you talking about hackers and hacking. I’m sure that a number of you have encountered Hackers in your online gaming… Players that had gamed the system to have unlimited life, auto-targeting and all sorts of other unfair advantages.

But what if I told you that you could be Hacking for a living?

There’s a huge demand for talented “penetration testers”…hackers for hire. It’s something I’ve always been intrigued by so whenever I meet anyone in that line of work I ask them what I should be reading or looking at…here’s a great on for you…an entire Cybersecurity game where you can start honing your skills and learning the tricks of the hacking trade!



Tech Autopsies

(I have, up until now, been calling this a breakerspace. However, over the course of the sessions, I’m finding that this title illicits a generally less inquisitive, smash over disassemble response from our Terrors)

I first got into electronics by taking things apart…taking everything apart, that is! Occasionally I even managed to put them back together again…though rarely in the same order! So to avoid getting in trouble (well avoid some trouble, anyway) I restricted my tech autopsies to geek trash finds…junk treasures that I found sitting at the curb or dragged from the dusty corners of basements and garages of friends and relations! It’s a wonderfully satisfying and informative way to find out how things work without worrying about breaking it…because…well, it’s already broken!

We have our roaming Tech Morgue located in the hallway just outside the French Room…lots of room to work…as long as we keep out of the high traffic areas!?

Safety First!

NO POWER!  NOTHING SHOULD BE PLUGGED IN or powered up when you take it apart! So double check that it’s unplugged and that any batteries have be removed before you start your autopsy, please!

If you really have to force or pry things apart…WEAR EYE PROTECTION…little parts can fly up and hit you in the face…I’ve got the scars to prove it!

If you’re working on something sharp…WEAR GLOVES… the insides of technology are meant easy on electricity but not on fingers… they can be very rough and SHARP…USE YOUR BRAIN and wear gloves if you think that might be the case with your autopsy victim.

PLEASE Try to take thing apart carefully rather than just tearing them to pieces….there are some great parts in there that we’ll want to use for cool projects later.  Try not to cut wires unless they’re soldered…if there’s a connector try to disconnect that rather than cutting or ripping the wires….have a look at the secret service manuals and they can tell you all about what’s what…use your Google-fu to find them online and get to know your autopsy victims inside and out!

Let me introduce some of this years’ Tech Autopsy victims:

Canon MP250

This baby was brought in by Ella A.!  Thanks so much for this, Ella!

And here are the disassembly instruction from Ifixit.com


The Beast!

This is the monster 3 colour laser printer that our Terrors started delving into week 2!

Aiwa NSXV20


HP P1102a Laserjet Printer


epson b261a

3D Printing

Our 3D printer is basically just a smart glue gun that uses a computer to carefully drool melted plastic in very precise layers. 
Ours started out as a big box of 3D printed pieces, bolts and motors and assorted parts (and two bags of Gummy Bears!) and was built over the Holidays last year. If you want to sound really nerdy…The technology it uses to build 3D prints is called Fused Deposition Modelling and takes a string of plastic filament, heats it up and squeezes it through a tiny hole called an extruder…here’s the one from our printer.  Notice the big fan on the front to cool the melted filament as it comes out and the white sensor that tells the printer how far from the bed (the heated square plate that whatever you’re printing is printed on).

The extruder is attached to a moving head that lays down layer after layer of the plastic, slowly building the 3D model it’s been given on an SD card or straight from the USB port of a connected computer.

Here it is having printed the Dragon I brought in to show you…of course ours was printed in silver filament and was MUCH cooler! 😉

3d print Flexi Rexi…great simple print that shows how to print one part that has hinges and can move!

Printing Basics


Don’t touch the printer while it’s moving…you can get your fingers caught…I’ve done it and it hurt…both me AND the printer!

Don’t touch the nozzle…that sucker is HOT enough to melt plastic…and BBQ your fingers!


Find and download what you want to print…you’re looking for .STL files…of which you’ll find many at Thingiverse.com

Import the .STL file into PRUSA Control software…it’s icon is an orange 3d printer… printing a dragon.

Set the various print options…


There are all sorts of different types of printer filament (printers use ink 3d printers use filament…it’s like a long strand of glue from a hot glue gun)…but we’re sticking with PLA because it’s cheap and it doesn’t smell horrible when we print it!

AllThat3d.com has a great page on all the different filments and what they’re best for if you want more info…there are some really neat ones too!


Infill density is just how much support your print needs…have a look at this…the more you use the longer the print takes…so think about what the best balance for your print is going to be.


See the puddle around the octopus’ arms below?…that’s a brim or sidewalk…and it just prints extra material to make sure that the actual print sticks to the printing plate properly and doesn’t pop up and screw up your print.


A frozen Minion?!…Nope!  A Model with overhanging parts that need supports

Remember that the 3d Printer just spits out melted plastic…if you don’t have supports it’ll just droop or drop!  Supports are 3d printed scaffolding for any overhanging parts like minion’s arms and fingers and his goggles that stick out from his face.  Don’t leave them hanging! Make sure you click on supports if you’ve got any parts that aren’t supported by the rest of the model.

Support can be from the print plate…like the minions arms and fingers and from the model itself…like parts of his goggles and the strap around his head.

Xbox Assistive Tech

How do people with disabilities play video games?

I spoke to Microsoft XBox and they have, very kindly, sent us a couple of adaptive XBox controllers and inputs… so our mission is to use our Tech Terrors STEAM skills to figure out how people with various disabilities can join us playing video games!  We’ll have to see if it runs on my old Xbox 360S 1439 model!

We’ll have to see if it’ll run on my old Xbox 360

SpecialEffect is a wonderful UK charity at the forefront of this amazing kind of adaptive technology…and if you’re a gamer you should consider signing up for their GameBlast19 charitable event!

Minecraft with your eyes…what other games could you play like this?

They have even created an add-on for Minecraft that allows you play it with your eyes! Check it out:

Here’s the official info from Xbox: https://www.xbox.com/en-CA/xbox-one/accessories/controllers/xbox-adaptive-controller