Live from New York: The Day Before World Maker Faire

In this special edition of Maker Camp, we’ll be coming to you LIVE from New York, one day before we open the doors to the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth! We invite classrooms, kids, teens, families… anyone to join us for this 30-minute virtual field trip on Friday, 9/19/14 starting at 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Watch on Google+

Ask your questions to the makers, live with the Q&A chat function

Watch on YouTube

You can also watch the live stream on YouTube

Our host Paloma (Maker Camp Director 2014) will be talking to a few of the hundreds of makers who will be sharing their creations this weekend, September 20  and 21, 2014.

If you can’t join us live, you can always check out the Hangout on Air archive on Make’s YouTube Channel.

Featured Makers

Help is at Hand

Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

Beatbox and Bicycle Wheel

NYSci World Maker Faire Village

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.”

10 Years of “Tools of Mass Construction” with Howtoons

When I was a little kid, my family got a few magazines that were a bit beyond my grasp, but I still felt like those subscriptions were mine. I didn’t understand all the jokes in MAD magazine, but I still pawed through the pages, ran the Spy vs. Spy flipbook, and spent many a minute folding and unfolding the back covers with their hilariously adroit visual trickery. With GAMES magazine, I could solve some of the one- and two-star puzzles, plus many of the Mixed Bags, but I would always ace the Eyeball Benders and nearly always “Find the Fake Ad.”


howtoonslogoAs subscribers to Make: magazine well know, we’ve got a similarly fantastic gift to kids of all ages nestled in the pages of our issues, going all the way back to Volume 01. Howtoons is a distinct feature of Make:, combining the form of comic books with some friendly how-to and girded up with some solid real-life science and engineering principles. In these ‘toons, we follow siblings Celine and Tucker as they learn through play. “Challenged to make something ‘other than trouble,'” the pair use everyday objects to invent toys and change the world around them.

howtoons-coverFans of Howtoons could revisit the cartoons by hunting through the pages of Make: to find them, but now you can dive into 10 years of these Easter eggs all in one place, because the book Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction was published last month. This remastered collection contains 360 pages with over 70 projects of the “best of” Howtoons over those years, along with new material, photos, and essays by the creators of the series. Projects include soda bottle rockets, origami robots, marshmallow shooters, ziplines, zoetropes and more!

My son Ion, now 6, has grown up with Howtoons. It’s the page he turns to during his longer visits to our bathroom-based Make: library, which I know because he comes out revved up to start on projects. Like many kids his age, he’s graduating from picture books by binging on longer form graphic novels, so this book had his name written all over it.

When I was able to wrench this book out of his hands, I saw that alongside all of Nick Dragotta’s gorgeous full-color drawings, in this edition author Saul Griffith and company also include real-life photographs of the projects. These are so helpful!

sub-comic sub-pic

rocket-comic rocket-pic

cutting-comic cutting-pic

We also appreciated the table of contents for each section, which my younger son Q (who isn’t quite reading yet) could use to tell me which project he wanted me to read next.

Born at MIT over a decade ago, Howtoons has also been featured in WIRED, Harper Collins, the Cooper Hewitt and Smithsonian, and even Maker Camp. (I’m not quite sure what we would have done without Howtoons! From the Rola Bola Balance Board to Shake Ice Cream, so many of the projects are so well placed at the intersection of interesting + cheap-and-easy materials + happily challenging.)

The creators of Howtoons told me a little about their inspiration:

We created this series to inspire children to be active participants in the future, to teach them skills and inspire them to invent, engineer, problem-solve and create, not just consume. The books are wonderful for mediated play between parents, mentors and kids of ages 5-8, and as stand-alone project books for kids 9-12. We believe that inspiring stories of imaginative adventure, and rewarding hands-on projects build intuition in children that will be useful throughout their lives. We aim to hook kids as young as possible on the notion that you can create the world around you, starting with toys, activities, and play.

reignitionWhile you are on the hunt for Howtoons, keep an eye out for Howtoons [Re]Ignition, a new mini-series featuring a new all-star creative team: Fred Van Lente (writer), Tom Fowler (artist), and Jordie Belliare (colors). Howtoons’ largest story yet, it centers on energy literacy. Comic book stores have been carrying it for a little over a month, and you’ll be able to buy the full collection by the end of the year.

What Goes Up Must Glide Down

Ever since Rick Schertle’s original Compressed Air Rocket Launcher project appeared on the pages of Make:, it has been a hugely popular build for people everywhere. I helped my son and his friend build one for their 3rd grade science fair project, and it was a huge hit. We still use it today, when it’s not on loan to our local children’s museum.

“We first brought the air rockets to World Maker Faire New York last year and had no idea how popular they would be,” Rick said. “New Yorkers apparently love rockets as much as folks in California! We’re excited to be back this year ready to build and launch rockets by the thousands in the Fly Zone.”

Although watching the original paper air rockets blast 200-300 feet in the air and then come barreling straight down is fun, recently Rick has collaborated with Keith Violette to add a whole new dimension… wings!

Inspired by a decades-old catapult launched folding wing glider toy, Rick and Keith have come up with the Air Rocket Glider, which launches up, deploys its wings, and then glides down. The Air Rocket Glider project was featured in Make: Volume 39. They’ve also launched a successful Kickstarter for the new version 2.0 of their launcher and the Air Rocket Glider kit.


The Air Rocket Works team will be at World Maker Faire in New York this September showing off the Air Rocket Glider and the all new Compressed Air Rocket launcher v2.0. They will have several units that people can test launch in the Fly Zone. Although I haven’t seen the new glider in person yet, it looks even more fun than the original. You can also build and launch your own paper rocket to keep. So come on out and play!

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Rick and Keith have established the Air Rocket Works website. Check it out to learn more about their innovations in compressed air rocketry.

5-Minute Cardboard Wheelbarrow

cardboard wheelbarrow1

Back in June, I saw these photos of a fun cardboard wheelbarrow in my G+ feed, and asked the owner of the images, Alfonso E.M., if I could share them on Make. He agreed, and told me the story of how he came to make a cardboard box wheelbarrow:

Last Sunday my son Pit (2.5 yo) took a toy store catalogue, and, pointing at a little plastic wheelbarrow, asked: “Daddy, can I buy this?” That wheelbarrow was really tiny, and I thought he would get dissapointed If we buy it. So I took a cardboard box, a piece of PVC pipe, saw, and scissors and built this big one. In 5 minutes. Sometimes a wheel slides off the axle (I still have to put a couple of caps), but Pit loves to fix it!
cardboard wheelbarrow4

Pit fixing his cardboard wheelbarrow.

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Making on Vacation with littleBits

My idea of an ideal vacation includes time with my family – exploring and learning about some new part of the world, with a little time to play with new Maker toys. Last year, I took our Fireball HD pinball electronics to the beach along with a bunch of new connectors. We built all new custom cables, then we learned Adobe After Effects in order to create animations for the game. This year, we were flying to Cancun, so I had to reduce the Maker toys to something that would easily fit in our suitcase – AND wouldn’t look too crazy in customs.


After some discussion, we realized littleBits are the perfect Maker toy to pack for vacation! We had a shiny new littleBits Deluxe Kit and a littleBits Arduino Starter Bundle sitting in the home office waiting to be explored, so I packed them (after adding some headers to the littleBits Arduino to connect the NeoPixels), along with an Adafruit NeoPixel matrix, ring,and strip – figuring that we’d find something fun to make once we got to Cancun.

We were quite busy in Cancun – spending time in the ocean and in the pool, visiting Mayan ruins, and even hitting the local zip lines. When we’d had enough each day, we’d retreat back to our room and spend some time relaxing while trying out the littleBits and NeoPixels.

Our First Project

Andrew (my 11-year old son) & I went through all the littleBits modules one by one learning how they worked. Many of the projects in the littleBits Deluxe Kit instruction book required craft materials – scissors, paper, glue, tape, etc. Ooops – I hadn’t thought to look at the instructions to see what else was required. Looking around the room, we found a few things and Andrew created his first littleBits project – a Maker Faire sign (we are part of the team that produces Maker Faire Orlando, so creating a Maker Faire sign was a very logical thing to do!).


The next time we pulled out the littleBits, we built a Tic Tac Toe (also known as Noughts and Crosses or X’s & O’s depending on where you live…) game. I like using simple games to teach programming, as most people already know the ruleset.  We used the NeoPixel matrix as the gameboard, starting by drawing the gameboard and the existing moves for each player.

We then moved onto allowing selection of the first player (human or computer)…

…and for selecting the position of your next move using the same buttons.

We had a fairly functional game after two nights of coding, but the game wasn’t very intelligent. Andrew and I had a long discussion and documented the game strategy on the hotel sticky notepad, then improved the algorithm for the computer’s moves. We did such a good job, we can’t beat it anymore!


Continue on to the next page see how we lit up our room!

Adore Aardman? We Do Too!

char-wallace-and-gromitWhat maker cannot help but love Aardman Animations? Today, you can meet a few of the brilliant artists who bring Aardman’s irresistible characters to life during our LIVE Maker Camp Hangout on Air at 11am Pacific time (2pm Eastern) on or the Maker Camp Google+ Community.

Aardman produces a lot of true classics of animation. You may not know their name, but you definitely know their characters! In the maker community and the world at large, this surprisingly small British studio is probably best known for its wildly creative and sweetly funny series Wallace & Gromit, featuring the clueless but kind human inventor and his far more clever canine companion. That ficitional duo is always hard at work on their latest invention, whether that’s down in the basement or dodging dishes full of Wensleydale up on their kitchen table. If we lived in their clay world, we’re sure Wallace (or rather, Gromit) would knock our socks off at the local Maker Faire.


The Knit-o-matic from Wallace & Gromit’s “A Close Shave” by Aardman Animations.

ShaunTrue Aardman fans will know not only the popular, half-hour short A Close Shave, but a wonderful television series featuring one of the supporting characters: Shaun the Sheep. Like his old pals Wallace and Gromit, Shaun is always sketching out smart schemes to get himself and his fellow farm residents out of hot water. This spinoff’s title character was recently voted the UK’s “favourite” BBC children’s TV character of all time. He’s got such maker cred, he’s teaching kids how to code through Shaun’s Game Academy!

And not only will Shaun headline Aardman’s upcoming feature film, he will be the subject of the featured step-by-step project on today’s Maker Camp! What a way to kick off Make:Believe week!


7 Awesome Backyard Builds

madcat1If you’re privileged enough to have a backyard, especially one without excessive deed restrictions, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about building something there. After all, you are reading Make’s website! You could buy a playset kit from your local hardware or toy store, but what’s the fun in that? Why not build something truly unique to show off to the world, or at least your immediate neighbors.

Read on, and hopefully these awesome backyard builds, from a roller coaster to a Battle Mech tree house, can give you inspiration for your next project!

Click the little numbers below to proceed through them, or hop directly to what interests you in this table below.



  • Amazing Pirate Ship.
  • Laser Cut Gymastics Rings
  • AT-ST Cat house
  • Madcat Mech Tree House
  • Minotaur Roller Coaster
  • Extreme Water Slide
  • Ultimate Back Yard Climbing Wall

  • Hanging 3D Galaxy Mobile



    Mobiles aren’t just for hanging over cribs anymore! Although this new 3D hanging galaxy mobile would be a great crib accessory, brighten up any room with a miniature piece of the universe made by you! An artist from Vancouver created this stunning piece with her own DIY guide to follow with only 10 steps to reach the stars! The artist’s in depth instructable gives the low down on what you’ll need. Preparing the background, preparing LEDS, preparing fibre optic filaments, attachment of fibre optic filaments, adding color, adding fluff, how to hang and more! Using mainly household junk-door finds along with 10 string LEDs with batteries(found at Walmart),  Fibre optic filaments, polyester batting and Organza fabric(found at dollar store or fabric store), the artist threw together this night light with a big bang! Also, with the help of Google Image search, print off your own galaxy picture to use as a helpful guide.

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    But we aren’t the only galaxy in this universe, are we?

    “When I was taking photos of my galaxy, I noticed how lonely it is on its own. A nice starfield background would be a great accompaniment. For some of my photos I just poked holes into a piece of cardboard and shined a light through it, it works but it is only a short term solution. I would recommend a star projector , a fibre optic starfield or even glow in the dark sticker that you can add to your ceiling and wall.”

    By using hot glue covering LEDs to create the shapes, the artist went to add smaller surrounding galaxies!

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    There is room for improvement and experimentation with this craft, no doubt. But to even go a step further, turn a room into your own Discovery Center by pairing it with the intergalactic DIY constellation wall art project! No harm in adding a little more space to a room!

    [via Instructables}