Boing Boing 

New component adds cellular networking to DIY projects

electron

The Spark Electron is a small component that enables devices to connect to the Internet where there is no WiFi or Bluetooth.

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Teen makes Arduino compatible with rechargeable battery

Quin Etnyre is one of the coolest kids I know. He saved my butt a few years ago when he was my "assistant" at an Arduino workshop I gave.

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How to make a dandelion paperweight

MAKE has posted a video (shot entirely in portrait mode!) on how to preserve a dried dandelion in resin. It uses a gumball toy capsule as the mold.

How to make a golf ball bounce 8 times higher than where you dropped it

Physics Girl demonstrates a neat trick with a stack of balls. [via]

WATCH: Magnetic silly putty eats a magnet

I missed this video when Scott Lawson released it in 2013. It's a 50 second timelapse taken over 1.5 hour period, showing some magnetic silly putty surrounding itself around a neodymium magnet.

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Dad builds a VW microbus bed for his daughter

“DIYDad” built a VW microbus bed as a birthday gift for his three year old daughter. The bed is on top, and a play space is below. It uses real VW parts scored for free on Craigslist, and the headlights are illuminated. [via]

Suction-cup glass markers are a simple way to cut back on dishwashing

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My kids are in the habit of using a new glass every time they get a drink of water. As a result, the top rack of our dishwasher fills up much faster than the bottom rack.

I bought a set of 13 squishy rubber Creepy Creatures suction-cup glass markers ($4) so everyone in the family can claim a water glass for the day. These markers were meant for halloween party wineglasses, but they stick to water glasses any time of the years. We keep them on the tile backsplash under the glass cabinet. markers-2

Excellent animated alphabet by the creator of Windosill

Windosill is one of my favorite online puzzle games. It's quiet and wonderfully strange and comes with no instructions.

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Ouija Be Mine: build this animated Valentine’s Day card

Over at MAKE, toy designer Bob Knetzger shows how to make this nifty animated Valentine’s Day card that looks like a little Ouija Board.

RELATED: History of the Ouija Board.

Robot School - an app to teach kids programming concepts

Robot School, a game for kids 7 and up, looks like a fancy version of Light-Bot. The object is to control a robot by giving it commands to go from point A to point B.

As you level up, you'll start using subroutines to get the robot to perform various tasks.

Best sippy cups for toddlers

There’s no end to the amount you can spend on gadgetry for child-rearing, and yet I’ve been amazed at the poor design and shoddy construction that seems to dominate even the high-end of the parental gear spectrum.

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Photos of bugs and stuff with my USB microscope

I bought this USB microscope for $40, because I want to examine kitchen knife edges after I sharpen them using different sharpeners (I'm going to review them for Cool Tools). I'm having a lot of fun with it. The tiny millipede above is in a cup the size of a penny. Here are some images I've captured so far.

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An encyclopedia of how keys, scissors, pianos, telescopes, self-winding watches, and hundreds of other things work

The New Way Things Work, published in 1998, was an updated version of the original 1988 The Way Things Work edition. Although technically not “new” anymore, this wonderfully illustrated encyclopedia of how things work is as captivating now as it was almost two decades ago.

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Watch: how to laser etch metal surfaces to make them either love or hate water

Researchers at the University of Rochester are laser etching the surfaces of metal in ways that make them attract water or repel water. The video here shows how remarkably effective the treatment is. [via]

The Big Book of Maker Skills: tools and techniques for building great tech projects

I know Chris Hackett from my days as editor-in-chief of MAKE. This guy knows his stuff.

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Mercy Watson: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

This collection of Mercy Watson books is all my seven-year-old daughter wants to read. They are cute stories with thoughtfully challenging vocabulary.

Mercy Watson is a pig who lives with her adopted human family. She loves toast with a great deal of butter and has wonderful adventures. The stories are entertaining enough that as an adult listener I chuckle quite often. The vocabulary and character names are well chosen, requiring a bit of effort but expanding her grasp of our language.

We had a hard time finding books that Hannah wanted to read. Now she reads me bedtime stories.

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound

I’m filled with wonder at the engineering and imagination needed to create the magical eye candy of pop-up books. Elaborate scenes come alive as I unfold each page. I’m always surprised the first time I open a pop-up book, but with Birdscapes more than my eyes were opened. There are bird songs and bird calls, tweets and warbles, sounds of nature from the Arctic Tundra to the Great Plains of North America – all in stereo from the back pages of this book!

Birdscapes presents seven intricate, delicate and very realistic pop-up bird habitats along with the sweet melodies of the birds that live there. Each soundscape is pared with text about ecosystems and bird species that’s easy to follow for the novice and specific enough for the expert. Spotted Owl, Western Meadowlark, Ruffed Grouse and even a Woodpecker are seen and heard. This is definitely one book filled with lots of oooh and aah moments.

Batteries are included in the book for long lasting listening pleasure. – Carole Rosner

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Fun videos teach design concepts to kids

From the excellent website, The Kid Should See This.

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How to win at rock, paper, scissors

In 2005 a Japanese electronics firm decided to sell its collection of four French impressionist paintings. Christie’s and Sotheby’s courted the company. The CEO asked the auction houses to play a game of Rock Paper Scissors to determine who would sell the paintings. The representative for Christie's researched Rock Paper Scissors strategies, and used the advice of one of his co-worker's children: “Everybody knows you always start with scissors.” This proved to be good advice in this case, because Sotheby's chose Paper. Christie's sold the paintings for $17.8 million, and earned a $1.9 million commission.

William Poundstone (author of many books I've enjoyed, including Big Secrets, Fortune's Formula, Prisoner's Dilemma, and an entire book about Rock Paper Scissors) starts off his article about Rock Paper Scissors strategies with the above anecdote. He looks at strategies involving statistics (in pro tournaments Rock gets thrown 35.4%, Paper 35%, and Scissors 29.6%), doublethink, tells, scripts, and pattern recognition. His conclusion:

  • Scissors is the least popular choice, and men favour rock. Both are reasons to choose paper in a one-shot match.
  • Announce what you’re going to throw and do it. Most players figure you won’t go through with it.

Leif the Lucky – A gorgeously illustrated bio on Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot in America

Leif Erikson, the Viking explorer, is usually just briefly touched on in elementary school classrooms. But his rich story is a captivating one that any child – or adult – would enjoy. As a boy he moved from Iceland to icy Greenland, where his father established the continent’s first settlement. Eric grew up learning how to sail ships, throw spears, and catch sea animals for dinner. He played with baby polar bears and dreamed of adventures.

As a young adult Leif sailed to Norway and charmed the king with a Greenland falcon on his fist and a bear cub at his side. The king granted him permission to explore the west (Leif’s father had once seen a speck of something west of Greenland on an earlier exploration), and Leif became the first European to set foot in America (Canada) – 500 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” it. Soon Leif’s relatives settled in this new land – for a while – until, well, I won’t give the whole story away, but let’s just say they were chased off the new land and forced to hightail it back to Greenland.

As soon as I laid my eyes on this book I was blown away by the stunning art: the bold popping colors on some pages, the beautifully shaded black and white images on others, and the saturated details and texture that all of the illustrations enjoy. And then I found out the book was first published in 1941 by Doubleday, created by the bohemian husband-and-wife team Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, who wrote 27 illustrated books in all (many of them tales about Scandinavian heroes and mythology). Leif the Lucky is one of three of their books to be reprinted by University of Minnesota Press, and I now need to get my hands on the other two (Children of the Northlights and Ola).

Leif the Lucky, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

See sample pages of Leif the Lucky at Wink.

Make wooden pliers with 10 cuts from a single block of wood

David Warther shows how he makes working wooden pliers with a single piece of basswood. "There's nothing to it. It's just trial and error. It took me a few packages of bandaids to learn. And it might you, too."

[via]

Online Spirograph

Look at the pretty design I made using Nathan Friend's elegant Inspirograph site.

Pippi Won’t Grow Up – Whimsical, charming and wonderfully absurd

Just released today is Pippi Won’t Grow Up, Drawn and Quarterly’s third volume of Pippi Longstocking comics. Last spring I reviewed the hilarious second volume, Pippi Fixes Everything, and this one is just as whimsical, humorous and utterly charming.

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WATCH: Life hacks for kids

Our family friend Sunny is a great ukulele player and project maker. Here's here new web series, Life Hacks for Kids.

WATCH: Make a cool spinning pencil toy

Arvind Gupta, master of making toys from trash, shows you how.

Make a Christmas Krampus!

Just in time for the Christmas season, Bob Knetzger has instructions to build your own tiny child-nabber.

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Improved Mid-Century Modern rocking chair

chair-openerMy book Maker Dad has instructions for making this Mid-Century Modern rocking chair. The design is based on a chair that was built around 1950 by Alexey Brodovitch, a designer who was the art director at Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. I built Brodovitch's chair and discovered that it was not very sturdy. I changed the design to have better support, and a few iterations later came up with a chair that felt more robust.

Last week Edward Reading sent me photos of the chair he built with his son. He improved on my design: "I counter-sunk the dowels about half the thickness of the plywood, and glued them for additional support. I also notched the sides to receive the 8" brace, and glued that in as well." Good job, Ed!

Here are photos of his chair:

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Ed's son is holding the peg trick, which you can see in the above video.

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Kit that lets you build a "chaos machine"

My friend William Gurstelle told me: "Remember when you assigned me the Make magazine story about the Chaotic Double Pendulum? Well, I always thought that was one of my very best projects. About two years ago, I invented a toy based on that project and called it the Chaos Machine. I've been working with Fat Brain Toys on the project for quite a while and lo and behold, as of today, we're ready to go.

Chaos Machine ($40)

My Maker Dad book is $2 on Kindle

My book, Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects is just $2 as a Kindle right now.

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Easy to Make Solenoid Engine

I want to make one of these.