Poplocks are a very clever system for making movable papercraft fastenings with die-cutting and folding. The Paper Pose-Ables site has a bunch of downloadable papercraft toys you can print out and make, as well as pre-cut/scored kits you can buy, for making fabulous poseable robots and other cool figures.
The Pose-Ables people came out to one of my signings last month and gave me a couple of GUPP-E robots, which I've put together this week, with help from my five-year-old daughter Poesy. The robots were fun to put together -- just intricate enough to be challenging without being frustrating -- and the Poplocks system really makes for a great, semi-rigid joint for the toys.
The Poplocks themselves are CC licensed for use in your own models.
The Poplock pushes the two pieces of paper tightly together, creating lots of friction! It can also stay put, and won't pop out on it's own, unless a good amount of force is used to bend it out of place.
Combine the Poplock Wedge with the special Locking Flaps hole, and you will create a nigh-invincible connection. Seriously, you won't be able to get the connection apart with torsion or pulling forces unless you rip or crumple the parts. Even then, the Poplock will probably stay put... holding two mangled pieces of paper together!
On Alphamom, Lindsey "Filth Wizardry" Boardman shows how she and her kids made cookie-stamps out of salt-dough (they also make them out of polymer clay, but this is not recommended for use with things you plan on eating). The stamps let each kid customize her cookies, which resolves ownership squabbles and also adds aesthetic appeal.
I made them some handles from the salt dough that we could glue on once they were baked solid. The trick with salt dough is to bake it long and slow so that it doesn’t have any problems with air pockets distorting it. We left ours to air dry overnight and then I popped them in the oven on a low heat to finish them the next day.
Happily we found that the salt dough stamps worked nearly as well as the polymer clay one had! Although they are unlikely to last as long or be as easy to clean.
Mike Mika's five-year-old daughter wanted to play Donkey Kong as Princess Toadstool, so he hacked the ROM to effect the genderswap (see the Damsels in Distress episode of "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" for more). He's even posted a patch (ZIP) for the original ROM so you can play it yourself, or with your kids.
My three year old daughter and I play a lot of old games together. Her favorite is Donkey Kong. Two days ago, she asked me if she could play as the girl and save Mario. She's played as Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2 and naturally just assumed she could do the same in Donkey Kong. I told her we couldn't in that particular Mario game, she seemed really bummed out by that. So what else am I supposed to do? Now I'm up at midnight hacking the ROM, replacing Mario with Pauline. I'm using the 2010 NES Donkey Kong ROM. I've redrawn Mario's frames and I swapped the palettes in the ROM. I replaced the M at the top with a P for Pauline. Thanks to Kevin Wilson for giving me the lead on the tools and advice.
Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is a fantastic book for maker-kids and their grownups. It consists of a charming series of instructional comics showing a little girl and her mom converting a cardboard box into an awesome robot -- basically a robot suit that the kid can wear. It builds in complexity, adding dials, gears, internal chutes and storage, brightly colored warning labels and instructional sheets for attachment to the robot's chassis.
More than that, it encourages you to "think outside the box" (ahem), by adding everything from typewriter keys to vacuum hoses to shoulder-straps to your robot, giving the kinds of cues that will set your imagination reeling. For master robot builders, it includes a tear-out set of workshop rules for respectfully sharing robot-building space with other young makers, and certificates of robot achievement. I read this one to Poesy last night at bedtime, and today we're on the lookout for cardboard boxes to robotify. It's a fantastic, inspiring read!
Emily is six, and her dad wants her to be independent. The local law, not so much. When he let her cross the street on her own, a cop picked her up and detained her and her dad for half an hour, before admitting that it wasn't illegal to let a six year old cross the street. But things really kicked off when dad let Emily go to the store, a few blocks away. The cops detained her, and when her dad went to pick her up, the law wouldn't let him, calling Child Protective Services instead and only relenting when CPS told them they were too busy to intervene -- though they did follow up with a threatening letter to Emily's dad.
Once I got to the police station they would not release her to me for over 20 minutes, though she was sitting behind bullet-proof glass just 20 feet away. When the police finally came to talk to me, I was told that they had responded to a call of a young child being unsupervised. They refused to identify a reasonable cause for her detention, or even what law had been broken. They insisted that they were waiting for CPS to respond before they would let me see my daughter, but then they later came back and said that they were releasing me to her because CPS had told them to give her to me, since I was waiting for her.
I received a letter from CPS today.
Emily knows her name, address, phone number, etc. Furthermore, the responding officer knows exactly who both Emily and I are since she responded to a complaint regarding Emily crossing the street by herself just a few days prior, during which we were detained for more than half an hour. After this previous incident her supervisor had confirmed that there was no law against a child crossing the street by themselves.
Etsy seller sheepcreeknc makes major deluxe-o custom Star Wars felted mobiles to order. At $380, they're not cheap, but if you owe someone a major baby gift, this might be just the thing.
The pictured mobile is a piece I recently made as a custom order. It features a Naboo Starfighter, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, Millenium Falcon, Star Destroyer, Republic Attack Gunship, 8 orange and white planets and 1 Death Star.
This listing is for a Star Wars mobile with the same basic structure as the mobile pictured (choose up to 6 Star Wars figures or ships and 9 planets/balls). For additional figures/ships/planets please contact me for a price quote.
Back in June, blogged about Ben, a young man with autism who had a fierce devotion to the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World, and who was the last person to ride it, after more than 3,500 turns on it.
Ben's father, Ron Miles, has published a memoir of his life with Ben, in which he narrates his journey as the father of a child with a profound mental disability, his love affair with Disney parks, and Ben's development through the extraordinary adults in his life (including some very special and caring Disney cast-members). It's an unflinching -- and sometimes unflattering -- account of the challenges of parenting and the special challenges of parenting a child with autism.
I read it very quickly, and often had to dab at my eyes, but it's not a weeper, really -- there's plenty of hilarity and thoughtful wonder and appreciation of the sweetness of parenting as well as the difficulties. Here's the blurb I sent to Ron for the book: "Brimming with heart and tragedy overcome, this is a book that captures the tribulations of parenthood, the magic of Disney World, and the wonderful online communities that allow us to lend aid and comfort to strangers around the world."
A filmmaker named Melton Barker travelled America from the 1930s to the 1970s, making and remaking a short movie called "The Kidnapper's Foil," which featured a large cast of kids. He'd roll into small towns, announce that he was going into production, and advertise for proud parents who wanted their kids to break into the movies. He'd raise local money to (re)make the film with an all townie cast, have it produced, and leave it behind. There are lots of versions still extant, but there are probably hundreds more that may never be recovered. They're a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans across the country and the years.
She estimates that Barker made hundreds of versions of “The Kidnappers Foil,” but fewer than 20 have been unearthed and digitized. In advance of his arrival to a new town — like Reidsville, N.C., or Allentown, Pa. — Barker, who Ms. Frick said probably died on the road in 1977, would broker a deal with a local theater to screen the film upon completion, handing over the reels once they’d been developed, either by himself (working in his hotel room) or by a lab in Dallas. (During part of his career Barker, like the filmmakers of his era, was working with cellulose nitrate, a wildly flammable film stock that is difficult and dangerous to store.) All the currently accessible prints are available to view on meltonbarker.org, a Web site Ms. Frick and her colleagues built to raise more interest in Barker’s work. That collection, Ms. Frick reasoned, might lead to the recovery of more prints.
Dan Streible, a film historian and an associate professor of cinema studies at New York University, is the director of a recurring symposium for so-called “orphan films” like “The Kidnappers Foil.” Mr. Streible said such films, which he defines loosely as “amateur films and home movies, medical films, outtakes, uncompleted films, fragments — things which were not commercial features,” are also “the ones that need the most preservation and advocacy.” He added, “There wasn’t an obvious commercial value to them, and there isn’t always an obvious owner in the legal sense, and they’re films that are left behind in archives for any number of haphazard reasons.”
These lost artifacts can become essential cultural documents, and what they occasionally lack in narrative coherence or flash they make up for in historical worth. Unlike Hollywood films set in fake small towns and populated by professional actors, “The Kidnappers Foil” captures, however incidentally, an authentic American culture and locale. “By going to all those small towns, throughout the South and all over, Barker was preserving regional dialects that cannot be heard in a single Hollywood film,” Mr. Streible said. “No one else was recording people in Childress, Tex., in 1936, and here they are, a large group of them all talking in their natural voices.”
Yan sez, "It was really, really cold outside today (-29°F/-33°C) (With the wind chill factor), so I decided to use the opportunity to show my kids what happens when you throw really hot (boiling) water in the air outside at this temperature. Just seeing the look of wonder on my kids' faces was all I needed to justify going outside today."
It’s really cold outside today here on the south shore of Montreal (QC, CA). Really, really cold. The temperature outside currently is at -13°F (-25°C), but when you add in the wind chill factor, it feels more like -29°F (-33°C). Since it rarely gets this cold, I decided to use the opportunity to show my kids what happens when you throw really hot (boiling) water in the air at this temperature. You can check out the video of the experiment below (and put it in HD and full screen mode to observe the effect more closely.)
A new research report released by the Connected Learning Research Network is a call for educators, parents, youth, media-makers, geeks, creatives and intellectuals everywhere to work together to make the learning riches of the online world accessible to everyone. The researchers provide evidence of the importance of making, tinkering, exploration, collaboration, and problem-solving in learning to thrive in today's networked world. They also cite growing equity gap between young people who are highly connected and activated 21st Century learners and those who are subject to no-frills education and have little support for enriched, socially networked, or inquiry-based learning.
'We're seeing the tremendous potential of new media for advancing learning,' said says lead author Mimi Ito, a professor of anthropology, informatics and education at UC Irvine. 'But, right now, it's only the most activated and well-supported learners who are using connected learning to boost their learning and opportunity. We believe many more young people can experience this kind of learning, but there's no question we're at risk of seeing yet another way privileged individuals can gain advantage -- even though the Internet and digital technology has the potential to even the playing field and multiply the opportunities for all youth to find their place and achieve.'
Mimi Ito is one of the world's leading experts on how young people use technology. The Digital Youth Project she led is a spectacular must-read, even now, years after its publication. This new report advocates technology in the classroom, but not as a mere means of cutting costs or standardizing curriculum -- rather, as a way of giving young people and teachers the power to do individually tailored, passion-driven learning. It's a humane, sensible, evidence-based approach that is a welcome tonic for the stupid technology good/technology bad debate. Must-read.
Lorraine Robinson from Fairy Meadows Miniatures made this dollhouse inside a guitar for her daughter, as a 25th birthday present: "She is a music and travel buff and just about to start a new episode in her life and attend Flinders University."
I'm in Toronto visiting my family with my daughter, Poesy. I was intrigued by Makerkids, a makerspace for children that does after-school and summer programs for kids who want to hack toys, use the woodshop, learn Arduino and electronics, use Minecraft to product Printcraft 3D prints on the Makerbot Replicator, and more. Andy Forest, the space's co-founder, was gracious enough to show us around and to get Poesy started on hacking a robot, and to get her cousin Jaxon working on disassembling a Wall-E robot and changing its arms and such. It was a great day -- and it's a great space -- and Andy has put up a blog post about the day.
My daughter Zhen figured out how to make candy flowers, and kept us well fed with sugar.
Next to arrive, Alex brought with him a huge box of speakers. He loves taking things apart, so he brought the parts in to see what he could make. He ended up making a speaker box out of wood and wiring it up to our stereo!
Audrey arrived with her brother Wilder and a plan – she didn’t want to slip on the ice any more! So after designing some strap-on ice cleats on the whiteboard, she got right to work. Next, she moved to the wood shop. She mastered the jigsaw to cut out some plywood soles and drilled holes in it for the ice-cleat screws. She’s coming back next week to finish it off.
First time visitor Arbor produced a huge list of crazy ideas and narrowed down to making a light-up head. She learned to solder and wired up LEDs, batteries, resistors and switches like a champ!
We also had a maker kid creating a video game with the Alice software. I peered over his shoulder and it looked interesting!
The Chinese website Tencent reports that a father got so upset with his son's nonstop MMO playing that he hired an in-game hit-squad to kill his son's character whenever it spawned, in the hopes of discouraging the young man from playing. Here's some of Kotaku's English summary, by Eric Jou:
Unhappy with his son not finding a job, Feng decided to hire players in his son's favorite online games to hunt down Xiao Feng. It is unknown where or how Feng found the in-game assassins—every one of the players he hired were stronger and higher leveled than Xiao Feng. Feng's idea was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job.
Despite being sick of getting killed every time, Xiao Feng decided to stick up to his father and tell him how he felt. He was quoted as saying, "I can play or I can not play, it doesn't bother me. I'm not looking for any job—I want to take some time to find one that suits me."
Last month, I brought you the delightful news that Adafruit was launching a kids' puppet show about electronics called Circuit Playground. Now Adafruit has begun to offer plushie toys based on the characters from the show, including
Cappy the Capacitor
Hans the 555 Timer Chip,
Mho the Resistor,
Connie the Transistor,
Ruby the Red LED and
Gus The Green LED.