Exciting #BCTECH Summit Launch: SMRT1 Technologies Brain STEM Toolbox

This is definitely MIDAS Fab Lab Director Brad Pommen’s week!  First, the announcement of his featured speaking gig and now the exciting unveiling of a project dear to his heart and one that has been much anticipated by Brad, his company, SMRT1 Technologies Ltd., and anyone who has had the privelege to witness the idea’s evolution over these many months.

Eight years ago, having initiated his first tech club, the Nelson Tech Club, Brad found himself in search of an effective way to provide the growing local maker community a way to not only find the tech products and equipment they needed but also how to use it.  In one efficient step.

While a huge ask, he looked to the traditional vending kiosk system for his answer.  The idea simmered, and the concepts were pondered and explored for the next six years.  It wasn’t until shortly into his tenure as Director of MIDAS that the idea started take physical form.  He purchased his first vending machine directly from the factory and began the long and iterative journey of prototyping.

At the same time, his new business, SMRT1, also began taking shape.  His entrepreneurial journey was assisted when he registered with the BC Venture Accelerator Program under the expert guidance of entrepreneur-in-residence and current Executive Director of KAST, Don Freschi.

From basic vending machine to state-of-the-art touchscreen technology, SMRT1 Technologies is taking a pretty brilliant stab at revolutionizing what is a very conventional industry.  Vending machines have been slow to change and the Brain STEM Toolbox technology gives brand new life to the traditional vending machine with incredible touchscreen capabilities that go well beyond simply choosing your desired item off a rack behind glass.

MadeAtMIDAS SMRT1 BrainSTEM vending machine.

A very early iteration of what is now the clean and efficient touchscreen technology in the final version of the SMRT1 Brain STEM vending machine.

Education is a huge driver behind the Brain STEM Toolbox.  It isn’t simply about the purchase.  Rather, SMRT1 Technologies  has created a learning system designed to be easy and fun.  The touchscreen allows for full specs, details and the ability to rotate and zoom on the image of the product to allow for a far more educated purchase.

SMRT1 has been enthusiastically received by local education institutions.  There are currently six Brain STEM Toolboxes set to roll out to BC schools in September.  Teachers who are already using the learning modules and projects are excited to have in-school access.

The Brain STEM Toolbox takes the vending machine as we have always known it to a whole new level: this is an interactive and educational shopping experience.  It’s perfect for schools, technology retail, or any other pop-up retail location. Payments are easy and secure with cash, bank card or digital wallets.

“Snack vending machines are retro-fitted with our custom hardware which uses machine learning to interact with the student to help them choose the right project.  It also allows cash, credit or a digital wallet to pay for the project which is then dispensed.  It was the best way I could think of to get the projects that pair with the online learning modules close to the students and the teachers,” said Brad Pommen CEO of SMRT1 Technologies.

“The Brain STEM Toolbox can shape-shift to have application to a wide variety of micro-niche retail sectors.”

SMRT1 BrainSTEM Toolbox #BCTECH Summit launch

SMRT1 Technologies bridges the physical shopping experience with that of e-commerce. Not only does this technology revolutionize what is possible through a vending machine, it’s a completely custom experience available for less than $10,000!

This high-tech touchscreen tech vending machine will be on display at the MIDAS Fab Lab booth at the upcoming #BCTECH Summit in Vancouver next week, May 14-16,

If you want more information on the Brain STEM and SMRT1, do visit: www.smrt1.ca.

#madeatMIDAS #makersgonnamake











Fun Friday: DIY Raspberry Pi Photo Booth

A DIY photo booth for your next party

Looking for a cool way to amp up your next party?  This DIY Raspberry Pi Photo Booth should do the trick!

If your in need of a cool addition to your next party, check out this cool little DIY project.  Forget renting a photo booth to document your friends and loved ones, with a little techie elbow grease, a DSLR and the magic of a Raspberry Pi, you can set up your own rig for simply pennies.

There’s two parts to this project. You may find that connecting all the components is the least challenging part of this project with the slightly harder part the wrangling of the software.  While there’s a lot of similar projects out there on the ol’ interwebs, this one from developer Phillip Trenz, with a useful local Wi-Fi feature for downloading photos, seemed to be pretty good.

To install it, follow Trenz’s instructions from the Github page for the project. Essentially, what you’re doing here is installing the various pieces of software the program needs to run — including gphoto2, which is a super comprehensive piece of open-source image capture software that works with almost every camera ever made.

Next step:  install the app, and you’re good to go.

What you need:

  • A Raspberry Pi 3, or an older Raspberry Pi with a Wi-Fi adapter.
  • A monitor with HDMI-in, to be the screen of the photo booth.
  • A DLSR or other camera that can connect to the Pi over USB, along with whatever weird cable your camera needs to do it.
  • A mouse and keyboard, which you’ll need to get things set up on the Pi.
  • A tripod, ideally one that’s taller than your screen so that you don’t block the camera.
  • Patience for messing around with network settings.
  • Props!

Tips to putting it together:

A few hints: once you connect the camera, you need to eject it from the local filesystem, since it can’t be mounted as a folder and used as a camera at the same time. Similarly, I’d recommend setting the camera to shoot in JPEG — not RAW — if you’re using a DSLR. This is because the Pi has trouble handling the larger images.

There’s also a config.json file where you can edit some settings, like whether or not the app will run in fullscreen or if you want the camera to save pictures or simply store them directly on the Pi.

Trenz’s app also includes a local webapp for viewing and displaying pictures. The trick here, though, is to get the Raspberry Pi to broadcast a local Wi-Fi network, which is kind of complicated. This guide from developer Phil Martin over at Frillip is a good place to start.  When you get everything setup correctly, you’ll have a local network. You’ll just need an IP address to share with guests for access to the photos. If you’re really clever, you can use DNS mapping to make an actual simple address for your local network, like photo.booth, to make it easier to get to.

Now, all you need are the fake moustaches, feather boas and some crazy hats!





Selkirk College RoboGames: The Best in Youth Innovation Fun!

Selkirk College RoboGames and MIDAS Lab Director Brad Pommen

There was much fun and some serious gladiator-ship to be had this past weekend at the Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames on Saturday, April 28 at the Castlegar Campus.

Technology-fueled fun and free-spirited youth innovation was the name of the game.  With a simple robot kit and some big imagination, 55 participants in 39 teams designed and built competitors for events such as Obstacle Course, Robot Soccer and Balloon Popping.  It was a day full of excitement and camaraderie.

Selkirk College GLOWS 2018 Robogames

As the doors opened upon RoboGames 2018, youth from around the region brought their robotics A-game having prepped for weeks, building and training their various creations.

Brian Malito, a Grade 12 student from J L Crowe Secondary School in Trail, has competed in four RoboGames including the first one held in Nelson in 2010.

“I got interested in robotics because of the idea that people could make non-living objects move,” Malito says, looking back to his early days of robotics. “I found it so fascinating and I also had an interest in programming and wanted to know more.”

Selkirk College GLOWS 2018 Robogames with MIDAS Lab Director Brad Pommen

Brad Pommen, MIDAS Fab Lab Director and Nelson Tech Club founder who enthusiastically brought RoboGames to the Kootenay-Boundary region directed events.  As in years past, he offered support and guidance in preparation for the games, providing online sessions kids were able to follow at their own pace.

“RoboGames is designed to promote science and technology learning among our young community members by making science and technology fun, accessible and non-intimidating,” Pommen says. “It’s been incredibly fun for me as well. Seeing youth enthusiasm for robotics, something I’ve been interested in for so long, grow is completely rewarding. I also love seeing new ideas come forward every year.”

RoboGames is designed to promote science and technology learning among youth by making it accessible and fun, using robotics to help to minimize the intimidation factor.

“Technology surrounds us every day, and understanding how it works—that it is not simply magic—can be very empowering and influence everyone, but most especially youth, in amazing ways.” states Pommen.  “When you make technology fun, accessible and non-intimidating, we are enhancing community vitality and sustainability to everyone with a curiosity and presenting it in a way that traditional educational models cannot address. ”

This was the sixth annual event. Learn more at selkirk.ca/robogames

Photos courtesy Selkirk College GLOWS.










Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames 2018 – Cheer On Your Favourite Robot!

RoboGames GLOWS Selkirk College 2018

 Imagination meets technology at the Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames!

Prepare to enjoy a robot competition like no other!  Everyone is welcome to attend this Saturday, April 28th at the Castlegar Campus Gymnasium, the 2018 RoboGames, where Kootenay – Boundary youth aged 6 to 18 bring their robotics a-game to compete in this fun and exciting competition in local innovation.

Get there early as the games begin at 10am!

Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames

RoboGames is a unique opportunity where, experimentation and mentoring, youth from throughout the region learn how to design, build and program robots that they will enter into RoboGames, a fun and free-spirited event full of prizes.

Look forward to teams competing their robot in up to two specialty events.  Each event is approximately 45 minutes and the schedule of events is as follows:

  • Line following – This event utilizes the obstacle course, except the robots must follow the line from end to end. There may be crossed or intersected lines, as well as obstacles to create havoc. Speed and accuracy will be highly praised. The line will be about the thickness of electrical tape.
  • Obstacle course – Robots maneuver the obstacle course as quickly and carefully as possible. Navigate walls and obstacles to reach the end of maze.
  • Robot battles – Robot gladiators in the ultimate destruction event!
  • Robot soccer: One on one, head-to-head, mano-a-mano! Robots grab the most robot soccer balls to their side in two minutes.
  • Special tricks – The crazier the better! Dance, tell a joke, fetch an object… it could be anything! A creative and fun event challenging the kids’ innovation.
  • Balloon popping – Which robot will pop the balloon first?! Robots enter the ring prepared to burst the balloon before their competitor.

Judges will be looking for design and assembly; programming and logic; the robot’s ability to problem solve as well as its ability to adapt to challenging situations.

Awards will take place between 3-3:30pm.

Find out more HERE!








Fun Friday: Highlights From the West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair 2018

West Kootenay Boundary Regional Science fair recipient accepting MIDAS prize!

It was another great day spent with young innovators this past weekend at the West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair 2018!  An inspirational day seeing what approximately 200 local students from around the region are showcasing in science experiments, studies, and research & innovation projects.

There is so much to be gained for these young participants through the Science Fair experience:  research skills, problem solving, thinking scientifically, public speaking and connecting with other participants, sharing ideas and process.

We were there in full force to help celebrate the incredible ideas, skill and talent while sharing the innovative possibilities available through the MIDAS Fab Lab.

MIDAS Lab Director was so pleased to present the MIDAS Innovation Award to student Dylan Peil for his fabulous BioMechanical Arm:  4 hours Custom Training at MIDAS at a value of $600.

MIDAS Innovation Award winner for Mechanical Arm

It was a celebration of local innovation and MIDAS & KAST were there to offer plenty of information about what goes on here in the Fab Lab.

And check this out…. in the spirit of all the fun of the Science Fair, a bit of a twist on MONOPOLY:  MIDASOPOLY!  3D printing at it’s most fun!












Fun Friday: West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair 2018 This Weekend!

Selkirk College Regional Science Fair

This is the weekend!  If you want to see some incredible local youth innovation make sure you add the West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair to your weekend’s activities.  Hosted by GLOWS and Selkirk College, the event takes place tomorrow, April 14th 11:00AM to 4:00PM at the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus Gymnasium.

This ever-growing event offers students from around the region a fun opportunity to showcase their science experiments, studies, research or innovation projects; judged by our committed volunteers from a variety of science professions.

More than 100 youth are selected at the school level to enter in the annual West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair.

Admittance is free and everyone is welcome!  We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Meantime, here’s a little fun inspiration – 10 unique 1st place ideas just for kicks or to help offer ideas as you make plans for next year!

Schedule of Events

9 – 11 am  ––  Science Fair Projects – Judging (student projects are closed to the public/parents at this time)

9:30 – 4 pm ––   Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest – Testing will be ongoing throughout the day

11 – 4 pm ––  Community Science Celebration – Science World, Selkirk College and other community organizations will have exciting science-based activities, demo’s and displays set up around the gym.

11 am  ––  Science World Main Stage Show

11:30 am – 1 pm –– Science Fair Projects: Open To The Public

12:00 pm –– Science World Main Stage Show

1 pm –– Science Fair Awards Ceremony – Main Stage

2pm  –– Science World Main Stage Show

3 pm –– Science World Main Stage Show

Learn more about GLOWS at Selkirk College and follow GLOWS on Facebook.

This year, the West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair is excited to welcome Science World’s Community Science Celebration.

Science World is a charitable organization that engages British Columbians in science and inspires future science and technology leadership throughout our province. Attend the Regional Science Fair and discover the science all around you with Science World’s Community Science Celebration! Fun and entertaining science experiments, displays and demos and science experts on scene will make this a fun event for the entire family.







Fun Friday: DIY Life-sized Phone Controlled BB8 Droid

DIY phone controlled BB8 Droid

We’re on the fast approach to the Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames and with robotics on the brain, this little (complicated?!) project caught our eye!

Angelo, an incredibly innovative and talented young man, and the brains behind the YouTube channel, TechBuilder, has incorporated the magic of various technologies, including a smartphone and an Arduino micro-controller to bring what has become an iconic character from a favourite movie franchise: a life-sized BB8!

Limited to only the materials he had on hand such as the balls from roll-on deodorant, beach balls & paper mache, canvas, and Christmas balls, he brought this lovable little droid to life in the most simple yet innovative ways!

making a DIY BB8 Droid

While the construction is pretty old school, the robotics end of the project are totally 21st Century.  A phone app sends characters via Bluetooth with every press of a button. The Bluetooth module receives the data while the Arduino interprets and processes these data. The Arduino sends signals to the Motor Driver shield to give a go signal for the switching of the motors.  And, voila!

No, not really!

There’s a lot more to it!  So, if you’d like to see ALL that’s gone into making this, the ultimate DIY droid, come to life check it out HERE!  For inspiration, check out the video below.





Fun Friday: STEM Summer Camps!

Engineering for Kids Calgary AB

It’s already Easter this weekend and, while we may only be getting our first glimpse of spring across the region, many of us are already well into planning mode for the kids summer activities.

MIDAS is all about encouraging, promoting and fostering youth interest and participation in all things Science, Technology, Engineering, Art (Design) and Maths!  In that spirit, we thought it helpful to put together a list of possible STEM summer camps specializing in fun science and innovation for kids of all ages.

First off, though, as these programs tend to be in larger centres, we do want to encourage you to take a tour of MIDAS (weekly tours every Thursday, 6-7pm) for you and your older children to see all that’s possible right here in your own backyard!  While we don’t have any formal youth programming, we are happy to show you a little of the magic that goes on inside our doors helping local folk with great ideas bring them to fruition.

Anything is possible here at MIDAS and inspiration abounds!  Contact us for more information.

Meantime, below we’ve compiled a list of summer camps and programming throughout the province as well as into Alberta to help you find a fun and innovative program that fits with your summer travel plans:

Engineering for Kids – Victoria and Calgary:  a series of fun engineering camps designed to supplement and enhance your child’s existing curriculum. These programs build upon what your child already knows in order to consolidate his or her knowledge, learning through discovery in a fun and engaging environment.

At Engineering For Kids, the camps are carefully structured to provide your child with the enrichment he or she needs to expand their knowledge and experience in innovation and technology, but also to learn valuable skills that translate to real life.

In addition to their longer programs, holiday break camps are available.  Contact Engineering for Kids for more information.

Geering Up Engineering & Science for Kids – UBC (various locations):  For the past 20 years, Geering Up has brought STEM (science, engineering, technology & math) camps to youth across B.C. These hands-on camps offer an exciting and engaging mix of exploration, demonstrations, tours, mentorship, and design challenges.  Conducted by experienced university students with a passion for their field of study, these camps offer up terrific opportunities for inquiry-based learning.

These week long camps run 9:00 am – 3:00 pm and are offered in Vancouver, Surrey and UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.

If you have a daughter interested in getting more involved in STEAM, Geering Up offers a Girls Only! Week, July 23-27, in Vancouver.  Geering Up makes part of it’s mission to bring science and engineering to groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM and this Girls Only! is a terrific opportunity for girls, grades 2-12, to enjoy discovering and exploring their love of science and engineering in a safe, non-threatening environment with like-minded innovators.

STEM Learning Lab – Calgary & Kelowna:  If you’re spending time in Calgary or Kelowna this summer consider one of the camps in this incredible range of programs offering hands-on, creative exploration opportunities enabling a lot of tinkering, technology and fun!

From design and robotics to app development and drones, making and coding and a whole lot more, there is a huge selection of inspirational and engaging courses to choose from at a variety of locations.

TechUpKids – Vancouver:   this organization began with the goal to get kids excited about coding. Fundamental to the vision behind the program is helping kids transition from simply being consumers of technology to actually creating it.  In a fun and enriching environment, TechUpKids uses experiential learning to develop code and explore kid friendly programming tools, such as Scratch.

Through hands-on activities and exploration, the program relies on group as well well as individual work expanding children’s understanding of programming and what goes into creating effective code.
Interactive and fun, these week-long programs have been designed to expose the children to concepts of  programming, how instructions flow through a program, understanding the difference between efficient and inefficient code, concept of testing and debugging programs and understanding the importance of a user interface.

EUReKA! – Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops:  A non-profit, student-run organization based out of Thompson Rivers University this program works increase elementary students’ interest in and excitement in science and engineering.  Their summer camps emphasize fun, challenging, hands-on, problem solving activities.

Designed for kids aged 7-13, these week long, fun filled science camps provide an interactive experience that includes demonstrations, hands-on activities, group activities, building projects, university tours, outdoor activities, and games. Areas of science covered include: biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and technology. In addition to the full array of hands-on science activities, there’s also an explosion-filled chemistry magic show and to finish, the added bonus of a mass water fight!

Q Academy – Victoria:  Here’s the perfect camp for your aspiring coder, gaming enthusiast or artist! These programs allow for your child to not only learn hard and fast, real world computer skills, but also work with some of the leading and best within the industry and also come away with an actual Q Academy Camp Certificate.

From Minecraft to coding to Adobe Photoshop to creating a computer with the Raspberry Pi, these week-long courses provide experience and skill that have real-world application.  There are introductory courses as well as programs that further build on initial skills.




Selkirk GLOWS West Kootenay & Boundary Science Fair

Selkirk College Regional Science Fair

Hosted by GLOWS and Selkirk College, the Regional Science Fair taking place Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus Gymnasium is an opportunity for selected students to showcase their exemplary work.

The West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair gives top students from around the region an opportunity to showcase their select science experiments, studies, research or innovation projects to be judged by volunteers from various science professions.

Explore the world around you through inquiry-based learning! All Grade K to 12 students in School Districts 8, 10, 20, and 51 qualify. More than 100 youth are selected at the school level to enter in the annual West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair.

Why Participate in the West Kootenay & Boundary Regional Science Fair?

Science fair participation increases youth understanding and use of scientific inquiry and offers direct feedback on student projects, including research, experimentation and innovation. It also showcases local science education and career opportunities and allows youth to connect with science professionals working in a variety of fields.

Take an in-depth look at topics that are of interest by developing a science project in one of the following categories:

  • Innovation – Design and test new devices, models, theories, or method in any science discipline.
  • Research – Written study of a question of scientific interest.
  • Study – Analyze collections of data using accepted scientific methods.
  • Experiment – Actively test a hypothesis by experimental methods.

Find out all of the information HERE!

GLOWS-Regional Science Fair-2




Fun Friday: Remote Controlled Car With Raspberry Pi & Bluetooth

Remote Controlled Car Using-Raspberry-Pi-and-Bluetooth

Credit card sized and jam packed with capabilities, the Raspberry Pi can function as a proper desktop computer, to build smart devices or to just have fun bringing new life to otherwise everyday items or old toys.

The Pi was originally intended to be a microcomputer to teach children coding. Its scope has since expanded as hobbyists and engineers realized how much could be achieved with the small device, making it one of the most popular technology items in the world.

This easy remote controlled car project, takes advantage of the little computer’s seamless wireless capabilities, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing a smart phone remote control of the driving.

The car selected is an RF toy car with moving left-right steering feature. The original RF circuit has been replaced with that of the Raspberry Pi. You can use any toy car that has two DC Motors to rotate the front and rear wheels.

The Pi is used to receive command wirelessly from an android phone with an Android app (BlueTerm) installed along with a Bluetooth serial adaptor for communicating with the Raspberry Pi to control the car.

Read more about how to make your own HERE!

Wondering where the name Raspberry Pi came from?  The name, Raspberry, is an homage to early computer companies being named after fruit, like Apple, Tangerine Computer Systems, Apricot Computers, and Acorn (which inspired the microcomputer’s design). Pi is derived from the original idea to make a small computer to run only the Python programming language.