Hello Tech Bandit Family and Friendlies,
Welcome to this Techletts special edition...
Counterstrike mission Debriefing!
Last week there was Teacher strike action here in Toronto which meant no school...but it’ll take more than that to stop the Bandits!
I emailed our Bandit keepers Thursday evening...once I was sure that strike action was a sure thing, that is... and let them know that I could host at least some of the bandits, at my FanCave lair... I originally figured that I'd be able to handle up to 5 kids... my wife was there in case a responsible adult was required...Turns out I suck at math and saying 'no'... so we ended up with 7 eager Bandits in attendance! The more the messier...merrier!? ;-)
I gave the kids a quick tour of my Fancave space...and showed them some options for things to work with... robots? the BioBench? 3d Printing? Microscopes?...but it was unanimous... the Bandits were in the mood for TECH AUTOPSIES!
This worked out well, as over the years, kind supporters of Tech Banditry have donated all kinds of cool dead tech to dismantle...plus I venture out on a lot of GeekTrash recons to scavenge interesting items cast aside on garbage day. My wife tells me it is her least favourite of all my many nerdy foibles. The point being, I've amassed a whole horde of printers and PC's in my, (soon-to-be Makerspace) garage...I wrap them in plastic to stop them getting damp or housing wildlife... but that didn't thwart the Bandits, who had them unwrapped in seconds!
I had a few suggested guidelines... let me jump in here and mention that I prefer to call our disassembly adventures "Tech Autopsies" rather than "Breakerspace" as I find it gives the Bandits a better indication of what we're hoping for...careful, respectful exploration, rather than bashing the STEAM out of things. The idea is to think like surgeons... trying not to force or snap components or cut wires... and apart from the odd frustrated plastic shell thumping.... the Bandits were great about that! "Lefty loosey; righty tighty" was the battle cry as the Bandits wielded their screwdrivers.
One of our discoveries was that no matter how many screws you unscrew, there is always one more...hiding somewhere... when it comes to taking things apart...that and judging by the amount of inky hair we found in one of our inkjet autopsies, that cats must love printers!
The Bandits quickly got really good at uncovering and identifying the brains of their tech-autopsy victims...in the form of microprocessors that run the printers and the CPU (central processing unit) of the PC! And, thanks to the law of no cable cutting, they're still working, so we might even be able to use them for our own projects!
We really thought that when it came to taking apart the DVD writer in our PC that we were beat! It took a frustratingly long time to get into that...next time we're googling the manual, as turns out they are like raiding ancient temples...you need to find the secret switches and levers! Once we figured that out it took mere seconds to pull...what I’m told is a worm drive... and the treasure we most wanted...the laser used to read and write onto those ancient disks. But BEWARE! We won’t be firing that up without special safety glasses as many of them can do serious damage to unprotected eyes!
Another amazing tech “sarcophagus" that we trespassed upon, was the PC's hard drive...the Bandits and I couldn’t get over the precision required to control those microscopic little read and write heads... and how weirdly old-fashioned this "high tech" was, with it's multiple spinning mirrored platters and a flimsy little actuator arms.... There were some super powerful magnets discovered hiding inside as well!
The Bandits were quite taken with the gory guts of our hard drive...here's a short video showing the basics of how they work!
How a Hard Drive Works
And what Tech Banditry would be complete without lunch! We ordered a field of cheese pizza and a huge vegetarian wheel of dough to mix it up a bit...thanks to everyone who has donated for feeding us... I think I owe you for a slice or two...or three!? ;-)
I had planned on mixing up some baker’s yeast and flinging those little critters under a microscope so we could see the Yeast Beasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, if you wanna be fancy!) at work. But apparently there were a couple of Bandits that say they can't stand the smell of it… so we just dove back into Tech Autopsies for the duration…but here’s what they missed!
I really do want to get some Biohacking into the Tech Bandit mix… Genes, Bacteria, DNA, CRISPR...there is so much Bioengineering out there to explore...and it's surprisingly accessible! I will certainly be pushing for some Tech Bandit bio bench labwork in the future! But in the meantime have a look at what’s possible with these ancient Yeast beasts:
Spider Beer... The amazing Thought Emporium is putting the yeast beast to work!
Over on the Thought Emporium channel they are in the process of bioengineering yeast to produce spider silk…it’s complicated stuff, but worth wading through, if only to get the general idea!
What else could yeast be biohacked to produce?
What would you do with it?
Doh! More questions!?
Sadly, as there's a PA day this Family Day long weekend, we are without Tech Bandits. But that means I've compiled EVEN more cool Techletts for you to discuss and explore for when we meet again!
And the Academy Award goes to…
Math & Programming!? Darn right it does! Every year they hand out Oscars for the most spectacular Math and programming...in the form of ground-breaking (often literally!) Blockbuster VFX...in fact, thanks to my friend Paul Babb over at Maxon, we have a license for their professional…and Now Academy Award Winning-ly amazing Cinema4d software! This year's Academy award for Technical Achievement went to Per-Anders Edwards who initially designed Cinema4D's Mograph tools, which allows VFX artists to create awesome animated 3D graphics, for title design and all those crazy cool fictional user interfaces you see in Avengers and Spiderman films... there's no reason our bandits couldn't be up on that stage one day themselves...so exciting!
Here's a showreel ... with a peek at a few of the Film and TV things Cinema4D makes possible
Here's some Cinema4D work done by Perception on the Black Panther Movie
And if you’re a fan of VFX tools... especially ones that us lucky Tech Bandits have access to… check out my amazing friends at Red Giant…who gave us access to their whole suite of VFX tools!
What do we want to do with them?
What movie effects do you most want to be able to recreate?
What would you make them do that you haven’t seen yet?!
Why am I asking so many questions!?
There are a lot of amazing tutorials on Red Giant, but I thought the Bandits might enjoy this one by my brilliant filmmaker friend Seth Worley...co-starring a little Star Wars droid called BB8!
To be clear, I’m not trying to sell anyone anything, I received this software because I was cheeky and asked for it… we’re just very lucky to have access to these incredible professional VFX tools and the amazing folks that make them possible. I marvel at what the Bandits could achieve with this stuff if they’re suitably inspired!
A few smart and very Fast Robots!
Every year since 1977 there have been Micromouse competitions... the goal of these competitions is to design and build a robot that can navigate a maze in the quickest time possible. There are two phases; a search phase, where the mouse has to figure out the fastest route through the maze. Then....race time! The race (run) phase is about using what that smart mouse has learned of the maze, to get it to centre in the shortest time possible... if the micromouse touches a wall then it's penalized 2 seconds...it is AMAZING that these little mice can figure out their own way through the maze...let alone how INSANELY fast they can complete these mazes once they've get it...WOW!
What’s even better is that simple versions of these robots can be made yourself…you can even try programming them without a real robot, thanks to available simulation software. The robots use something called a flood fill algorithm to figure out the maze... and it's kinda ingenious! There's a ton of videos out there if you look...in fact look... Here's one now!
Maze solving for robots!
And here's one of a million maze solving robot builds...this one set to funky EDM
What would you need to learn in order to master the maze?
How could you make faster, smarter and more nimble robots?
Why am I asking questions again?!
And now...from our darkened labyrinth... we take to the skies!
Biomimicry (copying from nature...we're such cheaters!) once again allows our imaginations to soar... it’s a bird it’s a plane…it's PigeonBot!?
Why start from scratch when nature has already mastered it... flying with PigeonBot
...Who knew that Bert from Sesame Street was so ahead of his time with his pigeon fandom!?
Doing the Pigeon with Bert
And in case you missed it, the Inouye Solar Telescope has captured the most beautifully detailed images of our Sun ever recorded…try wrapping your head around the reality that each one of those, “tiny little” erupting cells…is about the size of Texas!?
Here's a map to give you an idea of that...in Canadian!
Head on over to the excellent National Solar Observatory (NSO) for more spectacular images, videos and information about how to explore the awesome power of our Sun...and live to tell the tale!
That brings me to the end of this week's EPIC Techletts update! But don't hoard all the knowlege and power... please share this with friends and families far and wide... and remember to stay curious!
As always, all comments, suggestions and especially DONATIONS are welcome!
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Curiosity is contagious. Tech Bandits is about inspiring excitement and passion for Science Technology, Engineering Arts and Math. Our club is a magnificent, mad, mess of curiosity driven exploration that follows random inspiring STEAM connections...often with a focus on assistive tech. Adaptive, and rehabilitative systems, for people with disabilities or the elderly, include a ton of crazy, cool, innovative, inspirations, including robotics, biotech, chemistry, programming, big data, AI, design and so much more... plus the Bandits really respond well to seeing the direct connection between the technologies they're playing with and improving their fellow human's lives.