Digital Open Winners: "Hybrid Airship," by teen robotic blimp builders.

Teens build hybrid airship

By Xeni Jardin

candyhat.jpg Institute for the Future teamed up with Sun Microsystems and Boing Boing Video to co-host the Digital Open, an online tech expo for teens 17 and under around the world.

In today's episode, you'll meet the "Funky Shiitake Mushrooms," a group of young people from a Fremont, CA high school who build robotic blimps. The one you see in this video also doubles as a fashionable hat, as you can see from the photo inset at left (that's me with the headgear).

The blimp in this episode is named "Skittles the Second," after the popular, cartoon-colored candy. They'd made an earlier version of "Skittles," but that one floated away. In fact, it floated all the way to a farm near Yosemite. The farmer found an ID tag on the floataway airship, and phoned a teacher at the high school to advise. The teen makers were eager to road trip out there and pick it up, but only one of them was old enough to drive.

Their energy and inventiveness was inspiring. I hope you enjoy the video as much as we enjoyed making it.

Read more about the youth competition in IFTF's press release announcing Digital Open winners. And you can visit team Funky Shiitake Mushrooms online, here.

Published 1:28 pm Wed, Oct 14, 2009

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About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email:

9 Responses to “Digital Open Winners: "Hybrid Airship," by teen robotic blimp builders.”

  1. daverunsfromfire says:

    Now that is a wonderful thing. Well done all around!

  2. scifijazznik says:

    It’s the blimp! It’s the blimp, Frank! It’s the blimp!

  3. ZippySpincycle says:

    Nifty! But as it doesn’t appear to be even partly autonomous, shouldn’t that be “radio controlled blimp” instead of “robotic blimp”?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Autonomous capability was not displayed in the video as we are currently developing said capability with AVR RZRaven and TIMSP430 microcontrollers. I’m one of the FSM team.

  5. skunklover says:

    visit us at

  6. zaimond says:

    Awesome! Good job.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well done. Here’s the sort of science project that is fun and still teaches loads about math, mechanics and working in a team. Thanks to Boing Boing for encouraging the next generation of engineers that will design the cool stuff.

  8. James Bond says:

    Hi folks,
    If you want to see some similar U tube links and enjoy a helium sniffing laugh try my comedy web site, Gasbags: the worlds only lighter than air hybrid comedy site.
    Regards JB (