Tinker Crate is a monthly subscription service, delivering cool toys to encourage engineering-style skills in kids aged 9 to 14. Instructions are included, but they also produce slick videos like the one above to further engage little minds. Project kits include parts and diagrams to make a trebuchet in one month, and a simple motor the next.
The site doesn't list more projects than that, but since they're offering subscriptions up to 12 months, we'll just have to sign up and be surprised. Read the rest
Read the rest
Not since the Amphicar has a boat led such an interesting double life. The short film Skate Heads shows a number of wooden structures that transform into skate ramps and accessories (including a cooktop for snacks). Directed by Vancouver-based Zenga Bros, the film is a collaboration between blog Booooooom and hat manufacturer Flexfit.
Skateboarding is inherently about adapting and repurposing the urban landscape, but somehow even skateboarding can settle into a complacent state, where certain approaches become the norm. When street skating first started it was weird and abrasive, and that’ll always be there with wheels rattling down the sidewalk, but it’s good to remind ourselves to maintain a sense of foolishness, exploration and wonder; that is skateboarding.
(Side note: I do hate his use of the word "ghetto" in the description, common among some makers. Does he honestly live in a poor neighborhood where improvisation and thoughtful use of materials reign? If not, what's it saying?)
One of the most versatile tools and fasteners is the humble hose clamp, invented in 1921 and marketed as the Jubilee Clip. Besides their intended uses in plumbing and automotive, they can be used to fix an exhaust, fasten parts on a bike, and make DIY camera parts. I've used them in prototyping: for instance, quickly holding together parts for a rainwater pump.
Who knew that hose clamps were such big business? Not one, but two reports recently came out on this growing segment: "Global Hose Clamps Market Size, Trends, Forecasts, Market Research Report 2015" and "Global Hose Clamps Industry Report 2015". They both make for exciting reading, through of course, not as gratifying as the masterwork, "The 2009-2014 Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats in Greater China".
Artist Rebecca Baxter of Halifax, Nova Scotia makes noisy, grating, often ethereal sounds from machines she designs and solders herself. Demand has been high for her one-offs, including those used in recordings and performances by Flaming Lips, Electric Wurms, New Fumes, Mike O'Neill, Panos, METEOROID, Holy Fuck, Buck 65, and Oscillator Sunshine Machine.
Now she's launched a campaign to raise money to build more sophisticated handmade instruments. So far her devices have been stand-alone, creating sound from oscillators inside, but her next model, the Omega, is slated to have inputs for a guitar or keyboard. More videos: 1, 2, 3.
Pretty much the best looking receptacle for this purpose is this wood and leather number made by woodworker David Waelder. The only thing it's missing is a wireless charger installed in the lid. He tells you how it's done in this video from February 23:
Renowned expert on makerspaces in school libraries, Laura Fleming, has written a great post about her experience embracing serendipity with curious students. In her class, she passed out some brain-computer-interface gadgets and let kids come up with their own applications. The results were surprising. One student is developing his own technology to help an autistic sibling communicate better.
Fleming's book comes out this month, called Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. It sounds a little too educator-focused for me, but it's likely a must-have for anyone involved in high-school STEM.
My favorite passage in Fleming's post is about the role of serendipity in making, and seems to get at a lightening-in-a-bottle quality that fires all good invention:
Serendipity is quickly becoming an important component in establishing a vibrant maker culture. As creative producers, students can take an experimental path to solving problems or creating things [without] an imposed curriculum or the pressure of satisfying someone else’s preconceived objectives, but instead influenced by personal goals and interests.
For a friend's birthday last night, we made cookies (below) using a custom cookie cutter we bought from an online service. They came out well, but I ended up wanting more control over the process.
Next time, I'll use Cookie Caster, the free service that lets users make their own cookie cutters and download the digital files to their own 3D printer. Most everyone can scare up a 3D printer these days, either from a friend or at school. Doing it ourselves would have given us the chance to iterate on the baked good until it looked perfect. Owning more of the process, we could have done two cutters and experimented in final dough form.
Cookie Caster is a free service (it doesn't offer cookie cutters, only digital files). It launched last fall, and it grew out of the Noisebridge hacker space in San Francisco. You can also create cookie cutters by uploading your own image and tracing around it:
To make the multiple cookie cutters needed to create versions of these cookies from Fancy Flours (below), you might need something like Autodesk 123D Make or improvise your own slices. Not sure if Cookie Caster could help envision a 3D cookie like this.
Whether you're trying to quiet the hum on your old single coil Strat or Telecaster, or create a DIY wireless charging station for your phone, the copper tape sold to repel pests from the garden is an inexpensive and easy-to-manipulate material for the job.
By the way, slugs actually do HATE copper tape, evidenced by a 2004 paper ("Behavioural response of slugs and snails to novel molluscicides, irritants and repellents") in which scientists placed snails and slugs in little time trails. Citing a slowed pace of .5 centimeters per minute, they concluded that the "copper significantly reduced the velocity of snails."
Apparently the whole copper-slug thing is an urgent question to some people. I admire this guy's testing setup:
If the whole Potter franchise didn't already seem to give UK kids special powers, now this: primary and secondary schoolers can enter a contest by April 5 to program a Raspberry Pi for the International Space Station. Astronauts will upload kids' software to the newest credit-card-sized $35 computer for projects. That happens in November.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of a way to pass as a high school kid and also use the gyroscope, magnetometer, temperature probe, and infrared cameras on the Pi to do something cool 300 miles over the planet.
Matt Mets has a Kickstarter for something he calls BlinkyTile.
It's a fun little set of pentagonal LED circuit board tiles that you can solder together to make geometric shapes, and then program to make dazzling light shows. It's unique because the LEDs are all connected in parallel, but each one has it's own address, so you can make any kind of structural topology and still control each light individually. I would of course appreciate any attention I could get for it!
Retired naval mechanic José Manuel Hermo Barreiro makes incredibly intricate models of engines like the V-12. (via Devour)
BB pal Adam Savage of Mythbusters is very proud of his incredible new muscle suit! Check out those guns and boulders! Read the rest
Read the rest
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.
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
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.”
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.”
Jeff Highsmith made a fantastic "Mission Control Desk" for his young son who has just started school. It's hidden under a regular desktop.
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 email@example.com, 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.
Russell Johnson, who played iconic DIYer "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island, has died. He was 89. (CNN)