My hope for young women is that they’ll find meaningful work in an environment where they can flourish. It doesn’t matter to me if they choose a technical field, but it does matter deeply that they know they could choose one. For that to happen, it will take deliberate work on the part of all of us who work in technology to make our communities welcoming. There are many efforts going on toward this, and I think the maker communities have a wealth to share.
And of course, check out Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
The Ryhthmicon was the world's first drum machine, built in the 1930s by Leon Theremin (of Theremin fame) for avant grade composer Henry Cowell. Read the rest
Read the rest
This fellow made a 40W laser shotgun that is quite powerful and, yes, ridiculously dangerous. Read the rest
Read the rest
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.