Bowling Fan Builds DIY Alley for NYC’s Little Lebowski Shop


People have been bowling for the better part of 5000 years (ancient Egypt and Rome were the top competitors in those days) and there’s something satisfying about the sound when the ball slams into the pins. The only thing better than going to the bowling alley is having one in your own home. Maker [LLBowling] did just that for the Little Lebowski Shop in NYC, giving them their own personal lane. While he did not list specifically how he designed it, it looks pretty straightforward.

Six pins are arranged on a triangle-shaped platform with string running through the pins and anchored to the platforms base. After the ball is thrown, the pins are reset by pulling on a cantilever that raises both the pins and platform back into place. Sure, it’s not the most high-tech system out there but it is effective and certainly ingenious. The only drawback is that there’s no automatic ball return, players have to retrieve their own balls, which isn’t so bad considering that only 70 years ago bowling alleys had employees who reset the pins and brought back the balls by hand.

Crouching Phoenix, Flying Dragon

Many people “find their tribe” at Maker Faire, and there’s just no end to the variety of interests and backgrounds of the makers you will meet. Last year I met husband and wife makers Caipei and Hanfang Cao, who had come to Maker Faire for the very first time. They brought their quadcopters, some decorated in phoenix and dragon paper craft designs, to perform musical and aerobatic demonstrations. The windy weather conditions limited what they could do outside, and another maker group let them use their premium space just inside the main entrance to the NY Hall of Science on Sunday afternoon.

Caipei and Hanfang really showed their stuff. Caipei had designed spherical frameworks out of lightweight carbon fiber rod, safely sealing the spinning blades of the quadcopters away from unintended contact with the audience. They performed aerial tricks in what they describe as a sort of competitive sport intended to promote health and happiness. I think Hanfang was somewhat ahead of her husband on points. Caipei also flew his beautifully crafted paper creations, serenading the colorful phoenix as he guided it in a graceful dance.


After Maker Faire last year, the couple went on to audition for the television show, “America’s Got Talent”. They successfully passed several local rounds, but in the end were not selected for the live show. They are planning on auditioning for “China’s Got Talent” and seeing how far they can go. Caipei and Hanfang will be back at World Maker Faire in New York this September. They’ve added a flying Jesus, accompanying angel, and a flying wizard (not to be confused with Harry Potter) to their menagerie of creations this year. It sounds a bit crazy and maybe it is, but I loved it last year and I’m sure I’ll love it again this year.

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Sphero Goes Extreme with New Ollie



Sphero, the little, round, programmable robot, rolled its way into many hearts since it was released in 2011, confounding pets and expressing a unique form of movement. It was a reimagining of both robots and remote control.

For its second act, the company is reimagining wheels — at least, wheels in the context of robots. So, meet Ollie, which is a Sphero-sized body, elongated slightly, and equipped with a wheel on either end. It’s not quite so omnidirectional as Sphero, but what it lacks in that department it makes up in creative programming that allows it to recognize its position and direction, and maintain its course in the face of bumps, jumps, and flips. But it stays true to — and even improves upon — Sphero’s programmable, hackable nature.

“The robot itself is always keeping track of its tricks, so it always knows how it’s oriented in the air, it knows if it’s in the air, it knows how many spins it’s done in the last certain amount of time. It’s actually doing those calculations on the actual robot, and then it sends the results up to the phone,” says Brandon Dorris, Sphero director of product development.

Earlier this year, Sphero released a video showing off the Ollie with a bunch of skaters and their skateboards. (Note the robot’s skate-inspired name.) The emphasis now is on more extreme play, but it’s still programmable — you can create tricks, the company points out, and Ollie will track its own air time, spins, and more.

Necessary for the zippier acrobatics was a refinement of Bluetooth LE. To get the phone to communicate with the Ollie faster, they needed to use LE, but LE can’t transfer as much information. So, to get the data across, the app sends them in packages of six, explains Dorris.

“It’s constantly checking itself, and its constantly giving feedback to the phone on what’s going on, so the phone can react to what’s actually happening in real life,” he says. “The person is really interacting with the toy, but the toy is interacting with the person at the same time.”

The apps for Sphero will also work with Ollie, including Draw N’ Drive, which follows routes, and Macro Lab, which teaches basic programming. Advanced users can even program in a version of BASIC. And the device itself is hackable, or more so at least than Sphero, which had to be cracked open if you wanted to get at its insides. Ollie opens easier, and later this year Sphero will be releasing a software development kit for it. “You can use it to create your own robots, or create your own things that you want to be able to control with Bluetooth LE,” says Dorris.

OllieProductHR-5562And Ollie is fast, up to 14 miles per hour. It’s that speed, along with the clever wheels that make it more of a driving machine than its predecessor. It drifts too, for those fans of The Fast and the Furious who aren’t ready to do so in their cars.

All that speed makes driving it a bit more challenging. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: “You get better over time. You learn how to control what you’re doing and get it to do what you want to when you want it to do it,” says Dorris. “It’s kind of this whole idea of mastery, and playing with it for a while. You feel better each time you play with it, because you get better at actually doing it.”

Fueled by Coke Zero, Mentos, and Science!

Many people have tried a fun backyard experiment where you drop some Mentos candies into a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke or Coke Zero. If you have not seen this, here’s a spoiler: you get a giant geyser of soda. Since they first learned about it in 2005, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz of EepyBird have taken this simple experiment and elevated into performance art. Together Fritz and Stephen have performed their crazy soda experiments all over the world and on television, thrilling audiences and expending about 10,000 bottles of soda and over 60,000 Mentos.

EepyBird’s creativity doesn’t stop at soda geysers. Check their YouTube channel for cool science videos, extreme experiments with Sticky Notes, and of course, more fun with Coke and Mentos.


Maker Faire has been thrilled to have EepyBird perform their Coke and Mentos magic at Maker Faire. The feeling seems to be mutual. The EepyBird website says, “If you haven’t been to Maker Faire, you must go! It is the coolest event on the planet, and we’ve had a ton of fun doing Coke and Mentos shows there over the last few years.” Come see them at World Maker Faire in New York this September. Bring your curiosity, a sense of humor and maybe get inspired to do some creative experimenting at home.

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Go to the Milwaukee Maker Faire and Solve the Laser Maze

Photo by Eric Schneeweis

Photo by Eric Schneeweis

As if you needed another reason to check out the free Milwaukee Maker Faire on September 27 and 28 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, Milwaukee Makerspace member Adam Cohen let us in on one of the cooler exhibits you’ll see there — the Laser Maze.

If you’ve watched movies or television in the last … ever … you’re probably familiar with the laser hallway trope. (See Entrapment, Ocean’s Twelve, and many, many more.)

It’s really not a complicated build, says Cohen, who built one for last year’s MakerFest (pictured). He attached laser pointers to the walls with Sugru and tape, bounced them off of mirrors, and positioned solar panels where the beams fell. The panels he plugged into an Arduino which controls a countdown timer. The space is darkened, and a fog machine makes the beams visible. As you travel through the maze, time gets added to your score every time you break a beam, and a leaderboard shows the best times.

“It was really popular, the kids loved it,” says Cohen of last year. “It’s really something anyone that has a minimal amount of Arduino experience can set up pretty quickly.”

If you want to channel your inner Catherine Zeta-Jones and give it a shot yourself, take a crack at the Laser Maze leaderboard.

laser maze

AT-AT with Custom 3D Printed Lego Technic Pieces

Taran Van Hemert’s AT-AT constructed with custom 3D printed Legos

Taran Van Hemert’s AT-AT constructed with custom 3D printed Legos

Legos and Star Wars went hand in hand for kids back in the 70’s and still go together to this day for kids and adults alike. What could be better than building with Lego while re-watching Star Wars? How about building a motorized AT-AT made with 3D printed Lego, which is what Taran Van Hemert did when designing his Imperial Walker.

Taran’s initial design was based on Lego’s Dark Side Developer Kit but he expanded on it using parts from several different kits to suit his needs. His Imperial Walker features a total of four separate motors with one powering the legs, one for shooting rubber bands, another for steering the legs and one to pivot the head up and down for aiming. The AT-AT functions using a remote control to pilot the giant mech, actuate the head and for firing Imperial lasers (in this case red rubber bands). Because there were no pieces that existed in those Lego Technic sets, Taran had to build some of his own.

He designed different sized gears and studded beams using Sketchup and had Shapeways print them out using different colored nylon filament. Taran’s goal is to create enough demand for the 3D printed parts that Lego will take notice and produce the pieces themselves because even though the printed pieces are good, they can’t stack-up to the real thing. See more at his site.

Taran’s 3D printed pieces certainly look great but can’t match the real thing - injection molded LEGOs.

Taran’s 3D printed pieces certainly look great but can’t match the real thing – injection molded LEGOs.


Folding VR Racing Rig

With driver

With driver

Maybe you like racing games. Many people do, and some buy an off-the-shelf wheel and pedals to enhance the experience. For some though, this isn’t nearly good enough, and in this case, Redditer Veriix decided to build a fold-away rig to use to get approval from the rest of the family.

Besides the “dissapearing” feature, made possible by cleverly placed brackets and hinges, it features an extensive array of controls.  The hand brake is from a Mini Cooper, and can be switched between analog and digital, depending, I suppose, on how the game being played handles this input.  It has 3 pedals for those that can virtually drive a stick shift, and a nice-looking racing seat with a decent amount of wiring underneath.

All that in addition to a cup holder.  I linked the abbreviated version of this build earlier, but if you want to see it, here’s the full (gigantic) build log.  It should be noted that this build was inspired by this Gran Turismo-themed “Dark Chest of Wonders.” Both have their own interesting features, so if you’re considering a build like this, you should check that one out too.

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As this was originally posted on the Reddit Oculus “subreddit,” and is called a “VR racing rig,” it is certainly geared toward use with a virtual reality headset.  On the other hand, a TV could rest on the front of this chest, or a projector could also be used.  After all, how would one use the cup holder with the headset on?