RSVP number 2 - can you solve this challenge?

RSVP No.2 - The Insulation Challenge

theSTEAMtruck is launching this series of challenges to incentivize out-of-the-box thinking for solutions to the problem in an effort to find practical, clever and innovative ways as a Race to SaVe our Planet.

Challenge No. 2


Every day many fridges and freezers DIE because the heat exchange cooling pipes are NOT made of corrosion proof metals. The one in the picture had rusted steel pipes. So these appliances are supposed to be recycled but ONLY for the CFC gas that is already lost because of the rusty old cooling system.

Here is the challenge: The rigid foam insulation that exists in these appliances has served to reduce energy consumption over ages by providing good insulation and IF separated from the unit is incinerated and the heat generated used to produce electricity. Sadly this produces noxious fumes but as a society we overlook that when compared to the benefit we derived from the thermal insulation.

Can you come up with a better way of recycling or re-using this rigid Polyurethane Foam?

Send in your ideas - feel free to research whats out there already - no matter how crazy you think they are and the judges will select a winner on the Thursday following the Friday launch of the challenge.

Entries in .pdf or .jpg/.png format can be emailed to

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RSVP No. 1 - CAN you solve this challenge?

RSVP No.1 - The CAN Challenge

theSTEAMtruck is launching this series of challenges to incentivize out-of-the-box thinking for solutions to the problem in an effort to find practical, clever and innovative ways as a Race to SaVe our Planet.

Challenge No. 1


Your task is to put on your thinking cap and suggest a process, alternative use or method that can avoid THESE steel metal objects from cluttering up and rusting away in our landfills. Aluminium can be recycled and so can (pun intended) steel even with tin plating and plastic lining for protecting foodstuff. Sadly much ot this is not recycled - so what can you think of to resolve this.

Send in your ideas - feel free to research whats out there already - no matter how crazy you think they are and the judges will select a winner on the Thursday following the Friday launch of the challenge.

Judges decisons of the winning submission(s) shall be final. However theSTEAMtruck social media accounts will encourage constructive comments, suggestions and feedback.

Entries in text, .pdf or .jpg/.png format attachments can be emailed to

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WITF5 Making Sense - New approach (pun intended!)

New Touch Proximity Sensor added to my existing Music Box

This project started at a MakerFaire in Vancouver where we fitted 4 Infra-Red Proximity sensors to the inlets of recycling bins to make suitable sounds whenever a specific item was thown through the hole.

Just for fun a small PIC was added to a 5th input on the Adafruit Soundfx board to every few minutes play a random selection of the programmed sounds to get attention from passersby.

Sounds then included:

Organics = Cow mooing; Glass = Smashing glass sound; Paper = Crunching paper sound etc.

Then came Halloween and the sensors were placed at various spots around a Haunted House with suitable (well lets say scary!) sound effects. Two years running and this is a hit

In earlier 2018 I created a stand-alone sensor to trigger a 1 minute timer and switch a remote relay to control the Xmas train in the Salmo and District Chamber of Commerce window display.

This control is now in regular use at the model train exhibit at Waneta Mall, Trail BC since June 2019

As part of an initiative to modify a “Bop-It” toy earlier in 2019 I obtained some interesting Touch/Proximity sensors from a South Africn Co. - Azoteq Sadly I never used them at the time and resorted to a conductive set of stainless steel contacts to activate the toy on picking it up.

These amazing evaluation devices come in a pack and although I only wanted 2 I ordered 2 packs only to find they ship 3 in each pack so its about time to find other uses for these.

Well they beat I/R, Ultrasound and most other sensors I have found hands-down

They have integrated seperate Touch and Proximity outputs and include tell-tale smd LEDs on board.

So now for the next project - a through the window sensor to activate the soundbox to play Holiday tunes. The pic below shows the comparison of the Azoteq device alongside the traditional I/R sensor.


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What I Fixed Today

What I Fixed Today (WIFT#4)

Speed Control Pedal for a Pottery Wheel

A while back I received a donation of a really cool motorized pottery wheel for the proposed makerspace here in the Koots.

Unfortunately the controller was missing a working speed control and had no foot pedal.

The only pedal I could find was recovered from recycled stuff although it only had an ON/OFF reed switch. There appeared to be enough space below the pedal base to install a potentiometer and with a bit of ingenious actuator design, a 3D printed arm was constructed to ride on a suitably sized ‘pop-rivet’ mounted into a convenient upper endstop of the pedal.

Next to use an Arduino to convert the 30 degree pot rotation to a suitable 0 to 100% PWM signal to control the existing 90 Volt DC motor.


Watch the short video below

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Handy Bag Holder

Recently I was shown a handy device to hook shopping bags onto.

This makes life much easier than having to have small straps bite into ones fingers especially if the bags are loaded and heavy.

The device I was shown consisted of two round lathe turned wooden discs (wheels) screwed to the ends of a short piece of wooden dowel.


To produce these here “in the bush” I decided to 3D print the two ends and fashion a short section of wooden branch suitably sized and cut to length.


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Solar Powered Xmas festive season LEDs

In the snowy outdoors here in the Kootenays Solar energy is all but scarce in the middle of winter - when you need it most it’s not there.


So after having received several inoperative strings of these LED strings I decided to modify them to run off rechargeable 5V USB battery packs. These are nowadays available - even at the Dollar Stores - however they output far in excess of the typical 2.5V generated by the smart 1.2V battery cellboost boost inverter chip in the existing cicuit.

Two problems exist in trying to attempt this solution. 1 - The battery packs are designed to ‘time-out’ if a measurable continuous demand for energy does not exist. 2 - The concern of energy loss converting 5V to 2.5V efficiently

Based upon a simple two transistor oscillator circuit I have used on numerous projects in the past, I decided to apply this technique to generate very short 5V pulses repeated every half second or so. LEDs are current driven devices and output higher light intensities when driven above their initial ON state. The concern for their life expectancy though depends upon the rise in chip templerature which if operated at a better that 5% duty cycle is not at all a problem in our cold (freezing) climate.


Luckily a shared design of this exact circuit was discovered for a SMD pcb designed for assembly onto a USB-A and will be utilized in future projects of this type.

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What I Fixed Today

What I Fixed Today (WIFT#1)

The start of something new. Becoming known as the Mr Fixit - seldom a day goes by without having to rack my brain and innovate a new solution to put something back into operation.

In this inaugural post we have a cool zoomable LED flashlight.


When received it arrived with a loose switch assembly, a spring and besides the flashlight body and battery holder not much else.

Basiclly it did not work!

First - manufactured a small 4mm dia x 5mm aluminium tube inside the spring loaded switch activtor. Determined a 4mm spacer was missing between the switch assembly and the battery holder. Added a Lexan retaining ring to secure the switch assembly inside the threaded housing. Arranged a support for the central battery / switch contact.

Hey presto! One amazing working flashligh - if only this was mine ;)

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2019 SE BC Road-trip.

theSTEAMtruck is back on the road for another great roadtrip

Mark your diaries and calendars for the date when we will be nearest your town in the Kootenays.

Our latest schedule and route is shown below:


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Arduino e-kits at the Salmo Library.

The new age of the local Libraries - E-kits to Go!

Salmo Public Library not only has the books but now you can take home Electronic kits to learn all about Arduino microcontrollers and the coding required to make things that work.

In the next few months watch for workshops and hands-on courses at the Library and in theSTEAMtruck on the projects that can be built up using these kits.



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Mom bookmark.

Mothers day - 3D printing Bookmarks

Mothers Day 2019 in KP Park. 3D printing heart shaped bookmarks for those special Mom’s


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Repair and Recycle.

Rescue of repairable items at Salmo Hazardous waste event

Food Processors, coffee grinders, Heaters, Fans, computer parts, cables and many more items saved from the dump.

Every little bit helps - we only have one planet!


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Scridgets MP3.

Our build workshop of the Scridgets MP3 Player

Music on the go. Folks building these cool MP3 players from components learn the following skills:

Identifying electronic components

Soldering real printed circuit boards

Elementary software programming

Drilling and mechanical assembly of the units.


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3D Car print worth waiting for.

Toy car 3D printed in theSTEAMtruck

Lots of interest today shown by the youth in the 3D printers. Intense waiting for the hour-long printing process of the model Mini.


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A Touchy Bopit.

What to do with this toy if youve never played with it before?

Ever wondered what’s inside one of these toys? We investigated and discovered that its possible to hack the device and make it touch sensitive.

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Now all you have to do is pick it up and it will tell you what to do.

No secret handshakes - pull or twist or bop required.

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Salmo Xmas Market.

What a wonderful vibrant community turn out and marketplace

theSTEAMtruck was there making ornaments and cool gadgets for the season. Cold weather but no snow or rain.


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Hand Control for the Chamber of Commerce Xmas Train.

Did you get a chance to activate the Train in the window at the Salmo and District Chamber of Commerce

Remembering the hand operated train years ago in the window in Kerrisdale I recreated the feature and its now in operation for the festive season here in Salmo

The control is now at the model train exhibit at Waneta Mall - June 2019


Watch the video below

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SeaPerch ROV Building at VHS in Vancouver.

A fun day using the tools at VHS to build a SeaPerch ROV

The Seaperch is a cool tethered underwater robot used in over 30 pool locations in the USA

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This basic submersible has become a standard ROV in the USA and forms part of national and regional competitions attracting thousands of participating individuals and groups. The robot is used by a team to carry out a timed specific search and rescue mission during which points are earned for challenges presented to the ROV.

Some of these are as follows:

Enter a cave - proceed through an underwater suspended loop

Navigate to a beacon under the water on the floor of the pool

Retrieve a target from the cave region

Return with the recovered object through the cave entrance.

Plans are in preparation to introduce these to the Salmo and local area pools to develop a regional tournament towards the end of Summer of 2019.


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Fun in the Snow.

Fun clearing snow off the home Solar Panels in Ross Spur.

Having fun while clearing snow.

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Despite the Climate Change in November we need to get out daily to clear the snow.

Last night we has a good 10cm dump and while the sun was out today we decided to have some fun at the same time.

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Grandforks Fall Fair.

Fun at the Grand Forks Fall fair.

theSTEAMtruck was a welcome addition to the fall fair in the child entertainment section.


The hit for day 1 was the 3D printing where we ran off-grid the 3D printers to create dinosaurs, mini-cars and the usual Makers Making Change assistive devices.

Day 2 was spent playing with squishy circuits and watching the drawbot doing its thing.

Alongside the truck were two AMAZING kids activities:

  • The amazing squash racetrack - kids decorate enormous donated zucchinis and race them down a sloped 4-lane track
  • The test your skill meandering wire ring to follow a wire structure with car horn buzzer. Both these ideal additions to our upcoming Salmo Valley Fall Fest.

Calls to bring back the ‘scream-o-meter’ were also heard!


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How NOT to fix a chopsaw switch.

Another great repair job.

As part of theSTEAMtruck activities recently we were called upon to fix a well used chopsaw with a reported ‘iffy’ power switch.

Well! What a discovery after opening the housing to find apiece of wood jammed in by a prior “hacker” to fix the broken switch lever supports.


The idea was good but the remedy was anything but good. As can be seen in the picture the wood shim eventually cracked and provided no support at all.

The real fix was to mill out the old broken support and add a new screw and solid plastic insert to ensure a rigid, solid structure.

Sad that good money was spent on such a hack job by persons unknown in the past.

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..and the Tools keep Coming!

The Tool Collection for theSTEAMbus continues to grow.

The week after the bus arrived a welcome delivery of a package to test for Canadian Tire was collected from the Purolator Depot in Trail. WOW! A marvelous set of 200+ socket-set and wrenches in its own worktop drawer style toolbox. A video and user feedback comment to follow soon.

Additional to this we have now received a useful donation of a full set of screw drivers and ring wrenches

Now located in the bus we also have the tools that were donated in 2017 including the following items:

  • an Oscilloscope
  • radial arm saw - (assortment of blades required)
  • chop saw
  • pottery wheel (motor speed control pedal under development)
  • vacuum cleaner
  • filter coffee machine
  • weller soldering station
  • Singer sewing machine
  • 100W soldering/cutting gun
  • several small items


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theSTEAMbus arrives

theSTEAMtruck has a partner at home - Welcome home to theSTEAMbus!

theSTEAMbus arrived yesterday at 4721 Eerie Ross Spur Road to be converted into the first local open MakerSpace. _config.yml

Having served its life out as the South Columbia Search and Rescue Mobile Command center its been saved from the recyclers to be converted into a local MakerSpace.

Shortly a work party will be arranged to clean/paint, redecal, plan, strip and start the installation of several donated tools and equipment. While the vehicle is no longer licensed for road use it will be here to stay unless/until and more suitable venue is identified.

Initially the facility will be open to anyone that has demonstrated safe use of the tools and equipment. Access will be by a secure combination code lock on the access door. Some very basic rules of use will be established and all/any users will be required to accept and complete a waiver form.

Open public days/evenings will be set up in due course.

Note the facility is Off-grid and powered by solar energy and batteries. Limited washroom facilities in the form of an outhouse is available in the vicinity.

Here are the ONLY two Kootenay MakerSpaces on wheels alongside each other.


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Latest tool for theSTEAMtruck

It may be a small addition but it looks great!

Besides the magnifying headset and great spot-lighting in the truck this USB connected 1000x microscope is a great addition to our toolset.

Now crystal clear images can be viewed of the smallest components and further enhancing the ability to ensure quality work as with soldering etc.

The application software is loaded on all the laptops in the truck.

Images can further be saved for use in documentation or for other purposes.


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Salmo Poetry Phone.

The Poetry Phone now operating at the SVYCC in Salmo.

After a recent visit to Vancouver with theSTEAMtruck we returned with the much loved Poetry Phone.


Come by the SVYCC to listen to some excellent words of wisdom. These audio clips of poets and contributors are to be updated regularly. If you have a poem or verse that you would like to add then record the audio - max length 2 minutes - and mail to thesteamtruck at Please indicate the name of the originator and composer of any music recorded.


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Scridgets NiteLite Workshop at SVYCC


theSTEAMtruck Teamed up with SVYCC to run workshops this Summer

Although only a single applicant enrolled in the program we successfully went thru the production process.

Following the tradition used in theSTEAMtruck workshops the participant selected a famous inventors name for use in the workshop. The name selected was George Washington Carver - The botanist who introduced crop rotation to the cotton farmers in North America.

Starting from the beginning we learnt how to solder by first practicing on copper wires by building a tree structure soldering ‘braches to a main stem.

Following the ability to recognize good vs bad solder joints we progressed to solder the components and Arduino to the custom interface pcb. during this process we learnt how to use jigs to ensure component alignment while soldering.

Then came the discussion about addressable LEDs and understanding of the process of having serially controlled devices on a LED strip. Again use was made of a custom 3D printed jig to cut, strip and align the LED wires to their appropriate terminals on the pcb connector.

Now it was time to start the mechanical assembly which was proceeded by learning how to use a counter-sink drill bit and drill press. The identification of the mechanical parts was described and the use of the Laser Cutter to produce them was discussed. After accidentally drilling holes on the incorrect side a small washer was manufactured to fix the height alignment. These projects are true DIY and while we could prevent accidental errors the program is intended to teach participants to be acquainted with the production process and thus not do it for them.

Finally the LED strip, laser-cut panels, screws and stand-offs were carefully assembled

Hey! Presto - First time powered up and it worked perfectly.


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Tiny Nights Festival

Tiny Lights Festival - Ymir, BC


theSTEAMtruck lit up the entrance to the Tiny Lights Festival Vendors area for the weekend. Sadly the weather provided rain for most of the event but being inside the truck enabled us to keep going non-stop till 11:30pm on Friday, 8:00am Sat. till 2:30am (Sun) and again 8:00am till 6:00pm Sunday


Setup the truck and started 3D printing a new designed 2320 battery, LED and card holder with badge pin. The card holder was included to allow a cutout to be made to light-up from behind. Future use could be for table/exhibit applications. Typically takes just under 15min to print. Rain storm started at closing time (11:30pm). Cycled back to Ross Spur in the dark and rain - arrived soaked!!




Great day with lots of folks learning a)About S.T.E.A.M. and b)About Maker Spaces and the facilities in theSTEAMtruck. Kept the printers busy most of the day creating several 3D devices designed by Makers Making Change for disabled folks. Distributed several TinyLight modules for night time way-finding as no area lighting existed in and around the Vendor Gate and Camping field. On demand, designed and built a curtian wire rail end clamp for local campers in a campervan. Decided to deploy a hammock and sleep in the truck due to consistent rain at the 2:30am Sunday closing time.


Facilitated many young kids who played with the Squishy Circuits and built ‘robots’ from the bits and pieces bin. Played with several block puzzles and printed parts for a rubber band powered car.


Many more wonderful contacts made and future bookings in line for theSTEAMtruck. Great amazing musicians and performers providied the backdrop for this wonderful festival.

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Building Pyramids - continuation of previous week

theSTEAMtruck carried on the construction of Structures

We explored the strength of the triangle and with the use of plastic straw connectors developed by the folks from MakerMobile - Sierpinski pyramids were constructed.

Despite the desire to destroy the built pyramids- always lots of fun!! - the decision was to save them for a future add-on session.


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Tech Club at Salmo Library


theSTEAMtruck played with strong structures and 3D printers

How would you support a weight off the edge of a table given only a sheet of paper? In the Library various designs and structures were considered. The optimum design tested with a plastic cup (without liquid!!) was a folded triangular beam. The runner up was a rolled tube of paper.

Using the 3D printers in theSTEAMtruck we produced several of the assistive devices as promoted by Neil Squire Society At this event we identified the need of those with disabilities and gave attendees the opportunity to try out some of the devices.


Flooding Alert in Salmo

Due to the welcome but early warm weather following the massive winter snowfall the village of Salmo went onto Flood Alert with 100’s of sandbags deployed in the event the already full Salmo River breached its banks. Glad to report the peak was slightly below the level at which major damage occurred.


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Where have all the T-Shirts gone??

theSTEAMtruck saves the planet from plastic shopping bags

To celebrate Mothers’ Day we got down to work in Salmo’s KP Park to convert old T-Shirts into useable shopping bags/totes. Kids and edults alike tooled up with fabric scissors and the ‘STEAM’ Brother sewing machine to make the conversions.


One of the conversions here. Process used prefered the sewed seam rather than the optional tied bottom of the bag.

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theSTEAMtruck is making things for Mothers' Day

theSTEAMtruck will be at the SALMO Valley Farmers Market Mothers’ Day event


Lets all ‘spring up’ at KP Park in SALMO, BC to make things for mom’s. The project planned is to convert a well used t-shirt into a useful re-usable shopping tote bag.

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To Bomb or not to Bomb

TheSTEAMTruck is participating in Earth Day 22nd April by building Bombs

Yes its true but is it appropriate?

What can be more exciting than giving a kid the materials to build a bomb? Lets first start by describing a seed bomb. The “bomb” consists of generally 3 components.

  • 1 Clay or other moisture absorbing material
  • 2 Compost or potting soil suitable for germination of seeds
  • 3 Flower, grass, vegetable seeds
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TheSTEAMTruck takes part in World Create Day

SALMO Valley Youth Community Centre participates in WCD

On Saturday March 17th the truck facilitated the WCD event at SVYCC. Several youth dropped by to check out the facilities in the truck. Three Blinky pins arrived in the mail and were assembled by some budding youth who learned the basics and challenges of small outline surface mount manual soldering.


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What can you do in theSTEAMtruck?

The STEAM projects are diverse and cover many disciplines.

Equipment available in the STEAM truck:

  • Seating and workbench tables for up to 15 attendees and 2 presenter/instructors
  • Variety of hand tools located at each bench
  • 5 Temperature controlled Soldering stations
  • 3 Digital Multi-meters
  • Powered electronic breadboard
  • 10 Heated Glue guns
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