After 2 years, a chance for the voices of 138 changemakers to matter

After 2 years, a chance for the voices of 138 changemakers to matter

Calling on all the fellow 138 competitors from a widely popularised national competition 2 years ago (the one where there were only 6 winners (which was supposed to be only 5)). Our voices have the chance to matter now. There’s a survey (audit) about that program. Maybe we can influence change for the future.

Although they might call us the losers – I think we’re more like the champions. We had to continue, with zero support from this program and in face of the knowledge that only 6 are good enough for Canada to support. For most of us our efforts are unrecognised. Unlike all 6 selected, most of us weren’t already successful to start, and most of us were “screened out”, if we were a tiny bit different than the panel’s view of success.

They could have recognised the work that we’ve done. Maybe a short article, or something, anything, really. No cost to them. Instead, they chose to completely ignore all 138 of us. Were we even humans to them? It seems odd, their marketing says they wanted to change representation in the entire sector in Canada. They were given 144 amazing changemakers. And yet, did they? They only cared about the winners, everyone else was discarded. For some of us, it felt like we were let down by our own country.

Let’s all fill out the survey. Let them know, the amount of impact it could have had – had they chosen to not destroy more dreams than they lifted up. Had they chosen to support hundreds of our necessary ideas, ventures, and projects, with smaller amounts.

Allowing a few decision makers think it’s permissible to support only 6 projects for the future of our planet and country … it’s just scary to be honest. We’re going to need a lot more than 6 projects. There’s no need for a program from Canada to emulate how things work in the private sector. Their duty is to support, and be equitable in their support.

So let’s all fill out the survey, and see if we can affect change. This is all just my personal opinion (an unpopular one, I bet) and not reflective of any groups, people, or anything like that that I’m affiliated with.

Photo by Patryk Sobczak on Unsplash

Project Roster – Autumn 2020

Here are the variety of projects I have in mind to work on next. Their purposes vary in their degrees of practicality, potential monetization, and skills learning. The reason why there are multiple projects is to avoid stagnation, and this is based on one of the major learnings from Robot Missions Bowie v1. The project roster will be updated each season. Projects that are no longer of use will be replaced with new ones, and the ones that stay will be updated. Also, the list does not mean every single one of these projects has to be accomplished for that season.

My hypothesis is that this time limit will encourage working on different projects if they are no longer serving a purpose or no longer show any resemblance to future success. Each project has objectives, learning goals, and users & applications (hypothetically) sections. Here I’ll share the first two sections, which will give an outline of what the projects are. Updates will be shared as progress logs – though currently unsure about the proper location for each. All the updates will be syndicated at my Patreon page. Thanks to my Patreon patrons who are helping to support this work!


Terra Pulse


  • Display data from environmental and conservation IoT devices, like robots or the buoys on a map
  • Have a ‘league’ feature where the devices can ‘battle’ each other, and we will see which category ‘wins’ for that week
  • Server side, log the data to a text file or some sort of store
  • Version of the buoy that connects via cellular and sends data to the map
  • Come up with a different name (Terra Pulse is already taken)

Learning Goals:

  • AWS
  • MQTT
  • Web app, Javascript development
  • Involving people with other devices to be part of the platform
  • Involving people who could find the platform useful to test it



Mobile Brachiation Robot


  • Mainly an outlandish project to be used as a platform for learning
  • Learn inverse kinematics
  • Learn control systems
  • Keep iterating on it

Learning Goals:

  • Control systems
  • Inverse kinematics



In-Situ Terram Ignota


  • Detect natural and non-natural objects on the ground
  • Generate a report / count and with locations of the objects
  • Be battery operated and withstand significant vibrations

Learning Goals:

  • Tensorflow Object Detection
  • NVIDIA Jetson hardware
  • Light strobing / flashing to capture sharp images



Underwater Sampler and Fish Traffic Monitor


  • Develop a submersible ‘buoy’ to record footage underwater
  • Obtain a water sample from underwater
  • Detect fish on board
  • Determine what illumination settings work best for visibility
  • Train a model to detect fish
  • Operate in colder temperatures
  • Have a bubbler to protect the water sampler intake
  • Simplify and minify the release mechanism
  • Art with the interaction of water and lights (just for fun)

Learning Goals:

  • Tensorflow Object Detection
  • Lighting underwater
  • Underwater sampling
  • Valve for not letting the sampled water escape



Terrestrial Rover Improvements


  • Improve the sub-systems of Bowie v1.0 to be better
  • Make the sub-systems be an educational kit to sell in the store

Learning Goals:

  • Enhancing knowledge about circuit board design
  • Motor power function and formulas
  • Programming and quality assurance process for making small batch products
  • Preparing products to sell on store
  • Generating revenue



Knowledge Sharing & Documentation


  • Document and share the pieces of tech that I developed for Bowie v1.0 that have not been shared yet
  • For example: the augmented reality navigation, and the system architecture
  • Share what I have learned, so it can be helpful to other robot builders

Learning Goals:

  • Communicating complex technical parts of a project
  • Video placement setup when I’m speaking





  • Structure in the water to hold water above it (like a water tank), outer walls are a rigid structure holding plants – like a mangrove
  • Model the idea with custom simulations and maze generators
  • Figure out how the idea would be constructed with concrete 3D printing
  • Illustrate the idea with renderings and artworks
  • Understand the path that it would need to be fully realised

Learning Goals:

  • Maze generator
  • Particle simulation
  • Conditions required for mangrove plants
  • Concrete 3D printing
  • Best types of concrete
  • Building mega-structures for harsh conditions and forces



Custom Eagle Symbol + Footprint / Package (without the fluff)

symbol (schematic)
1. find your library, right click and select open
2. library -> manage symbols
3. enter name of symbol in the new field, press ok
4. select yes on the dialog
5. now you’re in the symbol editor window
6. select pin on the left hand tool bar, add your pins
7. select name icon on left hand tool bar, rename your pins
8. select line icon on left hand toolbar, draw the outline
9. select text icon on left hand toolbar
change layer to 95 names, and 96 values
enter >NAME and >VALUE


package (board)
1. find your library, right click and selectopen
2. library -> manage packages
3. enter name of package in the new field, press ok
4. select yes on the dialog
5. change your grid size if needed
6. place pads
7. change the pad names (select and type info, enter) and change the name
8. add silkscreen lines etc (layer 21 tPlace)
9. select text icon in toolbar to add name and value placeholders
change layer to 25 names, and 27 values
enter >NAME and >VALUE


1. find your library, right click and selectopen
2. library -> manage devices
3. enter generic name (can have multiple packages for 1 symbol) of device in the new field, press ok
4. select yes on the dialog
5. edit -> add -> select the symbol
6. press new on bottom right -> add local package
7. press connect on bottom right
connect the pins
8. press prefix on bottom right, add the letter for refdes
9. add a description
10. save
Defeat “should”s with the Frivolous Project Matrix

Defeat “should”s with the Frivolous Project Matrix

Sometimes there are moments in my personal projects when all across the board it is (what I call) ‘boring’ work. A task is considered boring when it does not involve any creativity, technical, or learning. This type of work does not help keep my soul alive. The problem is that the activation energy to accomplish boring tasks is significantly more. This is relevant when working on long-term projects which require pacing to endure throughout all the work that needs to get done. Also, I should mention, this probably only applies to projects that you aren’t making a wage from yet. I think a lot of things change when it goes from a project to a paying role, it becomes more important and you are (finally) being rewarded for years of work and training. One can dream, I guess. Until that dream is achieved, here’s a solution I’m going to try.

Weekend recharging for me (after sleep is covered) means engaging in boundless curiosity and … MAKING STUFF! Make whatever! Learn something new while making! Try making different things! What happens if this attaches to this and does that? Who knows, just try it! For me, this is much more fun and inspiring than, say, consuming more content and videogames, as well as being forced into social situations because that’s what society expects you to do to have fun. Bah! No way!

Wait! There’s a caveat: Even if you’re MAKING STUFF, you’ll still be confused about what project to make, and most importantly you’ll be haunted with the “should be doing XYZ” thoughts. The “should” thoughts are not very productive because they discount the entire purpose – to recharge. Here’s a way I’m going to combat this, and I call it:


As the name suggests, the frivolous project matrix is comprised of a set of criteria to grade a project idea on, and 3 project ideas. If you have more project ideas going in to the weekend, then you need to cut it down to just 3. Then it is time to figure out the criteria. For me, this is the criteria list and the description as a prompt:

Costcan i use supplies already available for this? or are new components needed for it?
Unstructuredis there any structure needed to complete the project? does this project have elements that are ‘out of the box’?
Unlockabilitywould doing this project make some other future project ideas possible?
Playfulnessis there an element of unknown in this project that will involve seeing how a part turns out, and then building on that result? seeing how things change if something different is added to the mix? eg, just playing!
Adventurousdoes this touch on a different area? is it new? will it give a different perspective?
Creativityare there artistic elements involved? eg, interactivity, positioning shapes in different ways, colours, blinking leds, sounds, re-arranging blocks, etc.
Challengingis this project technically challenging? new frontiers of my skillset?
Achievabilityis this project an easy win? will feel good from accomplishing it? is this project achievable? (it’s ok if not, sometimes the end goal isn’t the purpose for trying)
Learning new skillwill there be learning involved?
Content creationcould there be a piece created from this? eg, a video, tutorial, or blog post
Monetizationcould it lead to something that could be a product, offering, or service?
Timeis it achievable within the finite time of a weekend? (*note, if it still sounds interesting but is not, could investigate slicing the problem down even more)

The criteria is derived from immediate aspects in the project idea, and from possible future outcomes from the project. The weighting of the criteria can change, each week or whatever periodicity you want. That’s the fun and adaptable part, sometimes the weight of each of these may change depending on what’s on my mind. With the weights, it can capture this with regards to each project idea.

After that, it’s time to rate the projects and see the scores. The scores don’t make the decision of course – they are a number that can assist you in making the final choice on whether or not to embark on the project or not. Finally, once complete, go forth and MAKE STUFF and recharge! The Frivolous Project Matrix assists in defeating the “should”s that usually flood one’s mind when taking a break.

Any pre-requisites or post-requisites for frivolous projects? At the start: closing all existing browser tabs (bookmark if need be) to start with a fresh computer view. At the end: document and blog what was learned! Tidy up workbench and organize tools & parts. Close everything to start the week with a fresh computer view. And remember, during the whole frivolous project there is no pressure to succeed at all, and if there is any portion of it that is boring for more than 5 mins, then move on to something else!

Alright, that’s all for now. Anyway, thanks to the frivolous project matrix, it’s time to go MAKE STUFF!

Glowing Space Egg

Glowing Space Egg

Side project to experiment diffusing addressable rgb leds with 3D prints. The shell was 1.5mm thick, from translucent PLA material. If you curve the strip of leds opposite to the profile created by the shell, it helps diffuse it a bit better since it’s further away, and the curvature can make some of the elements closer / farther apart – this way it doesn’t look like a straight line. No interactivity in this project, it’s just the lights. Played and learned about ways to position the leds to cause minimal shadow effects, and diffusing evenly (as possible).

Here’s what it looks like glowing!

Two halves are joined by an inner disk. The inner disk holds two pieces that form the interior shape for the led strips. The microcontroller sits in between. The power cable exits through a slot in the back. There are two mounting points at the top where fishing line is strung to hang it up.

This is the interior shape

Another way of going about it could have been making a pillar in the centre, and wrapping the led strip around it (like a candy cane).

Another approach may also be to have two shells to diffuse the light. The inner shell could be a thin wall (0.4mm) with a variety of faces to make an interesting light pattern. The outer shell would then be a bit thicker, and help to evenly diffuse the light across the shape.

This was a very easy project with a fun result!