Mark Perez, Rose Harden and the team behind the Life Size Mousetrap have taken a childhood game and turned it into a sideshow spectacle that any carny would be proud to be a part of. The structure itself is an impressive Rube Goldberg style machine, wrought large. Take a marble from the kid’s game, and turn it into a bowling ball. Now expand everything else to scale, and you’ll have some idea what I’m talking about. The bathtub is a real bathtub. The diver is the size of a person. The machine spreads over a 60×100 foot area, and weighs on the order to 50,000 lbs. It’s a pretty impressive engineering feat. The show has been touring for about seven years, and the team did some necessary rebuilding and refurbishing this year to keep things running smoothly.
As an entertainment, the show is more than just the machine. There’s music, composed and performed specifically for Life Size Mousetrap by the one-woman band Esmerelda Strange. Can-can dancers dressed as mice, unicycle riding clowns, and humorous patter accompany the already impressive display of physics in motion. Life Size Mousetrap recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their efforts. Part of the funding will go towards further developing their STEM curriculum. If there’s anyone who can make engineering seem approachable and fun, it’s the creators of Life Size Mousetrap.
Maker Faire was very happy to have Mark, Rose and crew back to World Maker Faire in New York this year. It’s one of my favorite things at Maker Faire, and I look forward to it every year. If you missed the show, be sure to check their webpage or their Facebook page for announcements.
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlkVz2aysew Do you know why we share videos of Eepy Bird doing their Diet Coke and Mentos show every chance we get? Because it is fun every single time you see it. There’s something inexplicably fun about the incomprehensible mess they’re making and how much fun everyone has watching it happen. They always have a massive crowd, as you can see in the video!
Sit back and enjoy Eepy Bird making a mess.
Rebecca and Cameron Stern of Stern Design Works create jewelry, sculptures, and toys through a mix of traditional metalsmithing, 3D printing, hand painting, mixed mediums, and plant derived epoxy resin, but what makes their work especially unique are the stories behind them. For instance, an organic chemist asked them to create a 3D printed necklace depicting the molecular lattice structure of a diamond for his wife, y’know, like an actual diamond necklace, but more thoughtful.
One of their little 3D printed sculptures features a portrait of Émile Durkheim, which a sociologist friend of theirs had them create on a dare.
They also incorporate aspects of their personal lives into their works. Cameron designed some of their 3D printed animal sculptures on his iPad while he was at the zoo with their daughter.
They’re nestled in the Bust Craftacular pop-up shopping festival for the rest of the day if you want to stop by and find out the stories behind some of their other works!
11-year old Blythe Serrano made a 3D Printed Light-Up at Night Pet Collar, which she was sharing at World Maker Faire New York 2014. It has nine LED lights, a battery, and a light sensor. When it’s dark, the lights illuminate so that you can see your pet easily. She used Sketchup to design the collar and inserted the LEDs inside.
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.
Ask your questions to the makers, live with the Q&A chat function
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.
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.
And 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.”
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.”
As 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.
Fans 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!
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.
While 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.