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$5 programmable chemistry set inspired by music box

Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash and his colleagues devised a $5 "chemistry set" that can be programmed to mix various reactants by punching holes in a paper tape and feeding it through the handheld device. Prakash says he was inspired by a hand-cranked music box. This latest device for what Prakash calls "frugal science" is on the heels of his amazing 50-cent folding microscope that I blogged previously.

"Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries" (SCOPE)

Tech-art making class with Kal Spelletich (San Francisco)

Ingenious tech/robot artist Kal Spelletich of Seemen and Survival Research Labs fame is teaching a maker class in San Francisco on creating art involving technology! It sounds fantastic -- a rare opportunity to learn directly from a master of this genre that blends art, science, engineering, cultural criticism, and high weirdness. (Above, a two-minute video survey of Kal's storied career.) Kal says, "We will explore: building installations, carpentry, home-brewing, guerilla gardening, electric wiring, robotics, fire-making, fixing things, plumbing, pnu-matics, pumps, water purification, high-voltage electricity, video surveillance, electronic interfaces, scavenging for materials, cooking alternatives, solar power, skinning a rabbit, lighting, remote control systems, survivalist contemporary art history, and promoting and exhibiting your art.." Kal Spelletich: Research & Survival in the Arts Class

Bioengineer builds 50-cent paper microscope

Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash devised a pretty amazing paper microscope that uses cheap tiny spherical lenses. The "Foldoscope" costs around 50 cents.

“I wanted to make the best possible disease-detection instrument that we could almost distribute for free,” Prakash says. “What came out of this project is what we call use-and-throw microscopy.”

"Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope"

Formerly homeless maker reengineering the homeless shelter

Over at Institute for the Future's Future Now blog, my colleague Rebecca Chesney writes:

Marc Roth moved to San Francisco to make a better life for his family, but he soon became ill and unable to work. After six months living in a homeless shelter, he used assistance money to take classes at TechShop, a makerspace that provides tools and training for members. Marc learned new skills that led to starting his own laser cutting business, and, more importantly, he found support in an active and engaged community. Now Marc wants to help others who have fallen on hard times and don’t have the skills needed to enter today’s technology-driven economy. He founded The Learning Shelter, a 90-day program that provides housing, training, and mentorship for obtaining a job. A true extreme learner, Marc is teaching others what he learned: that the “permission to fail and encouragement to break through the walls you run into [are] absolutely necessary.”

The Indiegogo campaign is over but Marc's work has just begun: The Learning Shelter (Thanks, Gever Tulley!)

Dad makes son excellent "Mission Control Desk"

Jeff Highsmith made a fantastic "Mission Control Desk" for his young son who has just started school. It's hidden under a regular desktop.

White House Maker Faire taking place in 2014

BB pal Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House, sends word of the first White House Maker Faire taking place later this year. From the White House Blog:

Inspired by “Joey Marshmallow” and the millions of citizen-makers driving the next era of American innovation, we are thrilled to announce plans to host the first-ever White House Maker Faire later this year. We will release more details on the event soon, but it will be an opportunity to highlight both the remarkable stories of Makers like Joey and commitments by leading organizations to help more students and entrepreneurs get involved in making things.

Meanwhile, you can get involved by sending pictures or videos of your creations or a description of how you are working to advance the maker movement to maker@ostp.gov, or on Twitter using the hashtag #IMadeThis. Take Joey’s advice – don’t be bored, make something. Maybe you, like Joey, can take your making all the way to The White House.

"Announcing the First White House Maker Faire"

Russell "The Professor" Johnson, RIP

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Russell Johnson, who played iconic DIYer "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island, has died. He was 89. (CNN)

Make a weird dragon kite: Popular Mechanics, 1915

"Dragon kites are made as hideous as the maker can possibly conceive." Popular Mechanics, May 1915 (via Weird Universe)

The Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio and new book!





When I was eleven, my three primary interests were science, art, and magic. That hasn't changed. In 1981, I visited San Francisco for the first time and my big brother took me to the Exploratorium, a pioneering museum that exists at the intersection of science, art, and magic. It blew my mind wide open. And more than three decades later, it's become a very special place for my children, aged 7 and 4. Part of the Exploratorium's stated mission is to ignite curiosity about human perception. But the Exploratorium doesn't just teach people about human perception. Like the best science, art, and magic, the museum experience actually changes your perception of reality.

Earlier this year, the Exploratorium moved from its vast warehouse space near the Golden Gate Bridge into new digs on a pier overlooking the Bay. The massive new space retains the raw, inviting "rustic" warmth of the original location but with better amenities and, most importantly, far more room to showcase classic and new exhibits and also inject even more of the DIY spirit that fuels the museum's creators. This motivation is made tangible in the exposed workshops (just like the old facility) where staff prototypes new exhibits, and in the new Tinkering Studio, a bustling workshop where every guest is encouraged to "learn by doing." And if you need inspiration, just look around at the permanent and temporary exhibits like Scott Weaver's "Rolling Through The Bay," made from 100,000 toothpicks and seen in action above.

Read the rest

Neurodreamer: open source sleeping mask/mind machine

NeuroDreamer LR name

After eight years of development and a successful Kickstarter, BB pal Mitch Altman's Neurodreamer sleep mask is ready for shipping! You might recall that Mitch is the inspiring maker behind the TV-B-Gone, Trip Glasses, and a bunch of other delightful gadgets. The Neurodreamer is an open source light/sound machine integrated into a memory foam mask. Mitch says:

The NeuroDreamer sleep mask is an advancement over prior entrainment* devices which attempt to entrain the brain with only a single brainwave frequency at a time. The NeuroDreamer sleep mask uses up to four brainwave frequencies simultaneously (mixed at different amplitudes), to more closely replicate the full spectrum of frequencies present in a person who is falling asleep.

* "Entrainment" is the the process of externally presenting brainwave frequencies to the brain, allowing it to synchronize to those frequencies.

It's available for $69.95 in three different versions designed for Sleep, Lucid Dreaming, or Meditation. Mitch is having a sale right now: Entering the coupon code THANKS gets you 10% off everything in Mitch's Cornfield Electronics shop, including the Neurodreamer. I want one!

Face-O-Mat: faux machine paints portraits

Face-o-Mat is Tobias Gutmann's absolutely delightful faux-automatic portrait machine: "The interaction with machines made our daily life easier, faster and more efficient. Despite the rapid growth of technology, machines could not yet replace a simple smile, but now we have Face-o-mat." (via Think Faest!)

Rube Goldberg's marvelous machines

Cartoonist Rube Goldberg’s absurdly complex mechanisms for achieving easy results are so ingrained in popular culture that the artist/engineer’s name appears in the dictionary as an adjective. A new book highlights his happy mutant approach to engineering.

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Floating UP! house posts photos to Instagram via Raspberry Pi

Valentin Squirelo and friends at HackerLoop built a miniature model of the flying house from UP! outfitted with a Raspberry Pi computer and floated it above Paris where it posted live photos to Instagram. This was particularly interesting because generally photos can only be uploaded to Instagram via the official iOS or Android app. HackerLoop worked around that limitation. HackerLoop's #Upstagram

HOWTO guide: Soldering is easy!

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PhotoMitch Altman, inventor of TV-B-GONE and co-founder of San Francisco's Noisebridge hacker space, is a master maker and educator who finds great joy in teaching people of all ages how to get creative with electronics. At last year's Science Hack Day SF, Mitch taught my 7-year-old son how to solder and he's been at it ever since, making increasingly-complicated kits from Mitch's Cornfield Electronics, Maker Shed, and Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. Mitch even taught a weeklong Creative Electronics camp for elementary school kids at my son's school over the summer and it was a huge hit. If you (or your kids) want to learn to solder too, I highly recommend the "Soldering Is Easy" comic book (PDF) that Mitch created with Andie Nordgren and Jeff "mightyohm" Keyzer. You can download the free PDF in multiple languages from Mitch's site. And there's also a single-page "Soldering Is Easy" reference sheet too. Thanks for all that you do to inspire young makers, Mitch!

"'Soldering Is Easy' and other DIY projects!"