Hey folks! If you recall, a while back I was involved in a flipbook gallery show. (Here’s a video of my contribution – Ms. Beatrice Howard) Turns out, the FlipBooKit folks are doing another Kickstarter for a new, more affordable release of their miniature movie machine! It funded in 17 hours. Seventeen. These things are that cool. It runs until December 2nd, and, as of this writing, there are still some early bird perks available. Consider this a recommendation. Go now!
I’ve posted another Instructable, this one for how to make poetry that lights up, using conductive paint and LEDs.
This is a project I came up with last year at the Exploratory to accompany a Bare Conductive paint event. It’s fun to make ridiculous filler words. Why, of course, I carry your fish in my shoe! Why would you question that?
Tinkering is an activity, a skill, a way of life. It has so much value when it’s open-ended. A big part of its value for adults is that it requires letting go of the “I’m not creative, I need discrete instructions” mindset. Something for adults to consider is that children can do it, and they don’t have the slightest doubt that they can. Adults, you were once children, it was once your job to tinker. You’ve only forgotten that you can.
Hmm, I wonder what this does.
Tinkering can also be a more intentional process. That’s where prototyping lives, between making and tinkering.
I have a standard toolkit for tinkering. It’s the set of materials I pull out when I want to tinker with an idea or do a super quick prototype for a specific project. It’s also the basic set I bring along to tinkering classes and events with kids. Other folks (particularly those in specialized fields) might use different items, some might use more expensive things. When I’m playing, I like to not have to worry about the cost or availability of my materials. It’s okay if I break something, or waste a bunch in a “failed” attempt (though, there is no failure in tinkering, there are only learning experiences), because I can grab some more and try again. So most of the things you’ll find in my ever-expanding tinkering toolbox are inexpensive and/or available in bulk.
I should point out that this particular toolkit doesn’t include electronics, or recycled materials. Those are lists for another day.
- Bamboo Skewers
- So useful. So so useful. With a pair of snips and a hot glue gun, you can make more shapes than you can shake a stick at. (bad pun intended)
- Cheap/free and somewhat flexible. Some might complain about it not being super solid, but take a material for what it is. There are times and places for sturdy cardboard. Depending on how it’s constructed, you can find cardboard that will hold a shape fairly well, but it can also be especially useful for its flexibility. A piece of moderately flexible cardboard folded up can make a decent approximation of a spring.
- Hot Glue
- I’ll list a hot glue gun under tools, but the hot glue itself can be a material. It’s great for making quick little shapes, it diffuses light from LEDs nicely, and pressing a motor shaft into a piece of a glue stick is an easy way to attach a light load to a motor should you not have the exact shaft collar on hand.
- Duct/Paper/Gaff Tape
- Same deal as hot glue. It can be a material and not just a method of attachment. Doubled over duct tape makes a good tab. If you’re slick about it, you can fashion a functioning belt from gaffer tape (as introduced to me by the fabulous Carlyn Maw).
- Shrink Plastic
- You can get a piece of hard material and cut it with power tools until you get the shape you want, or you can take shrink plastic, cut it with normal scissors, and toss it in the oven to get a quick, hard piece of plastic in whatever shape you like. It’s not 100 percent precise (some plastics works more consistently than others), but this is tinkering/prototyping. It’s not meant to be. Shrink plastic will get you close enough for a lot of tinkering and rough prototyping.
- Rubber Bands
- These are a good stand-in for springs or any tightened cord. Also can be quite handy when you want a soft connection that has a little give.
- Both thin and fat (boba) straws. Among other purposes, thin straws can help create axles for hinges and wheels, and fat ones are good for self-straightening bendy joints.
- Zip Ties
- Another attacher/material. They provide a good resistant but bendy connection.
- Multiple colors. Cardstock is particularly useful.
- Random Doodads
- Little (or big) shapes of metal/wood/plastic/what-have-you that don’t have a related purpose. It’s exciting to bring items that you have no ideas for whatsoever to an event (especially one with kids), because they will think of a use for them that will surprise you. Working with kids is always surprising.
- Good Scissors
- Trying to cut things with crummy scissors is a pain and a half. You might also consider having separate pairs for coarse vs fine materials, the same way every sewing aficionado has dedicated fabric scissors that ARE NOT used for anything else.
- Wire Cutters/Snips
- Good for wires, good for skewers (scissors are a poor substitute and can be damaged by heavier materials), good for anything that needs more of a chop than scissors.
- You never know when you’ll need a better grip, to crimp wires, or to bend something stiff.
- Dual-temp Hot Glue Gun
- The dual-temp aspect is relevant. Low temp settings are good for a glob of hot glue that holds its shape when joining objects, the high temp settings are good for making stronger bonds, but also make the glue drippy.
- Permanent markers that will draw and stay on anything always make the list.
- Toaster Oven
- For shrink plastic
- Power Drill and Bit Set
- There isn’t much by way of power tools on this list, and it’s a more luxury item than most other things here, but I adore my power drills, and always have one within arm’s reach, in case I need to make a quick, clean hole in wood, plastic, or cardboard.
This is hardly a full list, but it is good for starters. Leave a note if you have suggestions that you’ve found useful!
As a footnote, there are a few things that I do not bring when working with kids, because of their propensity for suppressing creativity.
- Of the pre-made, fully-designed variety. Yes, they can be great fun. But when you’re creating, unless you need it for a specific purpose, like a logo, it can act as a stop button for one’s imagination.
- Glitter, Glitter Glue, Sparkly Things
- Sparkly things are like sugar. Especially when working with kids, you give them something shiny, they will grab and consume it by the cupful, and it will overpower any other flavors they’ve put into their project. Sugar is meant to be used in moderation. If you want shinies, decide specifically where and why before pulling them out.
Many thanks to everyone who came to my talks at Two Bit Circus‘ STEAM Carnival this weekend! I had a great time and was excited to talk to folks about making my instrument.
What’s more, the event was just plain fun! Geeky games and carny exhibits? Awesome! I took a ton of pictures (admittedly many of them were of the Dunk Tank Flambé). You can check out the full flickr album here.
If you’re heading to the STEAM Carnival this weekend, be sure to check out my talk about my Hexachord. See it in person, and hear about how tinkering factored into its construction.
I’ll be presenting both Saturday, Oct 25, and Sunday Oct 26 at 1:15pm.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately in Autodesk’s 123D Series. This is something I modeled in 123D Design the other day. It was originally intended to be a koi fish, but it looks a bit like a whale. Oh well, I still like it. Download, print, and enjoy.
This critter was printed on a Bukobot at Crashspace, using gold PLA.
Hey, folks! Join Jen Fox and me for our Upcycled Musical Instruments Workshop this Saturday at 1450 Ocean! We’ll be bringing along some of our own inventions, including geometric string instruments, motorized pan pipes, and a spinning noisemaker. You can bring your own materials, maybe a big box for a string bass, or keys for a chimes mobile, or you can help me build a giant multi-material marimba from a recycled trellis. Whatever your inspiration, we will help you make it a reality.
Saturday, Sepember 20th, 1:00 – 2:30pm
1450 Ocean Ave. – Camera Obscura Santa Monica
Register here! Pre-registration guarantees you a spot and makes the musical muses happy.
Music, that universal medium! We’re lucky in that there are innumerable ways to create music using diverse, non-traditional materials. Let’s explore sound and basic design principles to build a personalized instrument from recycled materials – come away with a set of wind chimes, a children’s toy, and/or the confidence to teach others how to upcycle!
Please bring 1-2 items traditionally considered “trash” out of which to build an instrument – we’ll also bring some starter materials. Things to consider when choosing your materials: most instruments need a hollow area to resonate from, chimes require suspension, many wind instruments use reeds, etc. Consider the components and design of existing instruments to help direct your materials search. Suggested materials: packaging, cardboard boxes (intact), glass bottles, jars, metal scraps or other metallic objects, paper/plastic/styrofoam cups and plates, string/yarn/twine/rope, straws, etc. We will facilitate the process, provide supplementary materials and examples of recycled instruments. Let’s tinker! Mostly we’ll be using hot glue guns, drills and other non-intimidating tools, and we’ll help you use anything you’re unfamiliar with.
Thanks to everyone who came out and made papertoys with me at our LA Makerspace booth at Kickstarter LA Film Fest last night!
If you didn’t get to join us, you can still make one! Just print the pattern, cut on the solid lines, fold on the dotted lines, and follow the instruction photos below, using glue or tape to attach the tabs. Then decorate and make it your own!
Hey, folks! If you’re heading out to the Kickstarter Film Festival tonight, September 12th, come on by the LA Makerspace booth and make some neat bobble head paper toys with me! They’re blank templates, so you can design them however you like. Here’s my lady bot.
Jen Fox will also be at the booth, making upcycled robots, as well as some other folks doing 3d printing, and stop motion animation. Fun!
Last Saturday, the fabulous Jen Fox and I had a Tinker Day at 1450 Ocean (the Camera Obscura building) in Santa Monica. We used inexpensive and recycled materials to make brush bots. Dollar store electric toothbrushes are a great source for materials, as they include a motor, battery, and other reusable bits.
Check out a video of our fun!
Jen cut off the head from her toothbrush (and a couple others), and created a bristle bot built around a balloon and housing from a solar lawn light. Balance was precarious at times, but when it fell, we discovered that it was good at breakdancing too.
My brushbot was built on a spoon from Yogurtland, and stood on three golf tees. I tried to keep it as minimal as possible otherwise – motor, battery, and wires. For a switch, I stretched the wires out into arms and hooked them together when I wanted it to run. And, of course, the bot requested eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to refuse.
We also created a couple bots made from bamboo skewers, one of which included a 3d printed mechanism to give the movement a little more wobble (see the video above).
As we decided to forgo pre-made battery packs and switches, there was a lot of experimentation of how to effectively hook up and control power to our bots. We have used electrical tape to secure wires to a battery in the past; this time we tried using hot glue, metal pieces left over from the toothbrushes, coins, and balloons. Keep an eye out for my upcoming Instructable detailing our different approaches.