Combining Cardboard Ridiculousness with Novice Engineering Fun

One of the joys I’ve experienced through adding to the Makezine blogging universe is the feedback I receive from individuals who have discovered my channel and cardboard creations. It is nice to receive emails and comments from people who previously never realized just how versatile cardboard can be in inventive pursuits. People discovering the extremes to which cardboard can be warped and fashioned to make anything possible.

Behold the Nunee New.

One question I recently received was from a viewer who wanted my personal reflection on, “… the most ridiculous yet fun and challenging concept I’ve ever made?”

Now, I have made some truly bizarre concepts in the five years I have operated my Homemade Game Guru channel. Beyond the standard fare of cardboard swords, geek crafts and children’s crafts, some of my more ostentatious designs have included a world record attempt board game that measured 775 square feet, a ‘booger’ whip (made out of that cheap sticky hand toy you get out of vending machines or from dollar stores) and of course my most ambitious and insane idea to date – an above-ground giant cardboard swimming pool that actually held water (until I filled it to the point of exploding open and flooding three backyards – good times!)

I’m actually planning to redo the cardboard swimming pool idea again this summer. The amazing reception the original 2011 video produced has been truly inspiring and I plan to share the updated initiative with you all come July.

However, as an answer to the original question of what I believe is my most ridiculous yet fun and challenging idea ever … well, I would have to say it is my Nunee New recreational mobile concept created on June 22, 2013.

It was in late May 2013 when I decided, out of the blue, to combine three mobile toy concepts into one mash-up model made out of cardboard and scrap wood. I wanted to fuse a Segway, a skateboard, and a scooter into one new form. That new form became the Nunee New!

The basic idea was to make a device that could stabilize like a Segway, would be sturdy like a skateboard and could be used to do tricks like a scooter, but made mostly out of cardboard. It was a challenging engineering task – especially for someone with little engineering knowledge. What I really had was an improbable idea and more ambition than sense (as if that was going to stop me).

It took three weeks of trial and error and more than 20 sheets of cardboard to figure out how to make the base of my new contraption strong enough to sustain the weight of an average person. I decided to utilize metal castors as the wheels. At $4 a pop and a weight threshold of 100 lbs. each, the castors were a great inexpensive option to support the base of the invention. Using something metal did feel a bit like cheating, but ensuring I didn’t crack open my head was more important than reinventing the cardboard wheel.

The concept’s main handle/control was a fused scrap piece of wood I found at a construction site two years previous. It was actually two pieces of improperly cut wood that somewhat resembled a single control module with a shaft. I picked it up from a recycling bin when I was driving by a housing development. Whenever I find a uniquely shaped object in my travels, I usually hold on to it and wait for the right idea to come along to use it. The Nunee New was the idea this scrap wood object was waiting for!

Being a Trekkie fan boy, I converted the scrap wood piece into the concept’s control module reminiscent of the USS Enterprise’s (NCC-1701-D) control panel. A splash of geek makes everything so much cooler!

To make the Nunee New more like a Segway, I designed it to move forward by pushing the control module forward (with the help of a foot powered kick push) and to get it to stop, the control module was pulled back to break using a wood stump and duct tape I placed as the bottom rear stopper.

Amazingly, construction glue was all that was needed to keep the contraption secured together. With a blast of spray paint, the finished design was ready for the outside world.

I had a blast zooming around the gravel paths at a nearby park. Enjoying the cockeyed WTF stares I received from fellow skateboarders as I passed them on a cardboard board.

As for the unusual name “Nunee New,” my love of the classic Sesame Street “Typewriter Guy” was the inspiration. I made a video called How the Nunee New Got Its Name to best explain the rationale behind the odd name choice.

So there you have it! The most ridiculous yet fun and challenging concept I have made … for now!

Make a Duct Tape Electric Rose


This little invention has already gathered quite a following among the Makerati from New York to Chicago to Rome. From MAKE magazine founder Dale Dougherty to Arduino founder Massimo Banzi to fashion technologist Troy Nachtigal to dozens of Italian teens at the Rome Maker Faire, this duct tape electric rose is making the rounds!

Dougherty NYC Maker Faire 2013

Dale Dougherty stops by just as I’m inventing the rose with a teen named Hana at the 2013 NYC Maker Faire.


Massimo Banzi took a rose back to Turin after giving a talk in Chicago (2013).

Troy cropped

Troy Nachtigal (@Troykio) and family, Florence, Italy October 2013.

rome teens IMG_20131004_045504

Italian teens at the 2013 Rome Maker Faire.


Trust me when I say you will make friends and influence people if you combine duct tape and LEDs. Teens love it. Teachers love it. Grandmas love it. Kids love it amd Italians love it…and now it’s in print! Here’s what you need (no soldering iron required):


1. Scotch Tape; 2 AAA batteries; 3″ x 1.5″ paper; 8″ conductive cloth tape; green & red duct tape; 1 LED; 1 magnet

You can find conductive tape, rose petal duct tape and LEDs at


2. Lay the batteries end to end and hold them tightly together to make contact between the positive terminal of the first battery and the negative terminal of the second battery. Attach the paper to the batteries with Scotch tape.


3. Roll the paper around batteries and secure with Scotch tape. Peel the liner off of a 3 1/2” piece of conductive tape and attach the sticky side to the to the negative battery terminal (the flat end). Lay the tape along the side of the batteries. It should stop just short of the positive battery terminal at the other end.


4. To make the on/off switch, set your magnet on the sticky side of a 3 ½” piece conductive tape. Fold the tape over to enclose the magnet. You should have a magnet at one end and a sticky surface at the other end of your tape.

5. IMG_0841

5. Attach the sticky end of your conductive tape switch to the positive terminal of your battery. Lay the tape along the side of the battery. It should be on the opposite side of the first piece of conductive tape. Pull green duct tape tightly over each terminal. Be careful not to cover the tape leading from the negative terminal.


6. Bend the legs of the LED to fit over the end of the battery. Use a ½” piece of conductive tape to tape down the negative leg of the LED on top of the long strip of conductive tape leading from the negative terminal.

7. IMG_0844

7. Cover the positive leg of the LED (the longer leg) with 1/2″ piece of conductive tape. Don’t let it touch the tape peeking out from under the green duct tape.


8. To turn the light on, flip the magnet up so it sticks to the positive leg of the LED. Wrap the green duct tape around the batteries, starting on one side of the switch. Tear the duct tape and leave a tab sticking up near the switch.

9. IMG_0853

9. Fold the remaining tab of duct tape to create a tab. When the LED is on, the green tab of duct tape covers the gray switch.

11. IMG_0852

10. To turn the LED off, tuck the green tab under the magnet switch.

10. IMG_0855

11. Thread one red duct-tape rose petal between the legs of the LED to make sure the two legs of the LED don’t touch each other. Wrap it tightly around the LED.


12.  Wrap more red petals around the LED, making sure to scrunch the petals at the sticky end so they flare at the flower end. To make a leaf, fold duct tape onto itself and leave ½” sticky tape exposed and fold the remaining 3” in half. Cut the tape into the shape of a leaf.


13. Attach the leaf to the stem below the switch, scrunching the sticky end to give the leaves a realistic shape.

15. IMG_0869

14. Continue adding rose petals and leaves as desired.

rome roses

15. Improvise! Customize! Add your personal flair! (Roses by teens at the Rome Maker Faire.)

Celebrating X-Men: Days of Future Past with Cardboard

Comic Book Nerds rejoice! 2014 looks like it’s going to be an outstanding year for comic book-based movies, cartoons and television shows. Personally, I am stoked and excited for X-Men: Days of Future Past which will hit theaters in May. I have always been a long time X-Men fan since childhood and it will be interesting to see Hollywood’s interpretation of the classic Chris Claremont and John Byrne storyline.

To get us all in the spirit, I created a couple of X-Men based craft concepts that can be made easily within the comfort of home. The first of which is a bare-bones jack-in-the-box concept featuring our favorite bad-ass mutant, Wolverine. The jack-in-the-box utilizes a dowel based pulley system encompassing a makeshift crank and bungee cord to force open a cardboard box with a folded Wolverine cut-out inside.

The second concept is based on Kitty Pryde – also known as Shadowcat. For those of your unfamiliar with this character, Kitty’s power allows her to pass through solid objects. Walls and doors mean nothing to a girl who can walk through them at will. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to create an optical illusion cut-out standee of Kitty walking through a door. A very easy technique which will look awesome on any surface.

Happy creating everyone and have fun with your inner super-powered mutant!

How-To: 3 Most Popular DIY GoPro Projects

How-To 3 Best GoPro Tutorials

So you just scored yourself a fancy new GoPro camera. You’re looking to make some killer videos and be the next viral phenom. There are no short of the five gazillion YouTube videos of people strapping GoPros to their chests/heads/bikes and doing cool stuff. However, no matter how cool the stuff (or how tasty the dubstep) the first-person POV has become, well, boring.

You, my friend, need a new GoPro mount.

There are thousands of video tutorials online in which DIYers teach you how to mount, rig, and  jazz up your GoPro — so many, in fact, that we created a site called for the sole purpose of sifting through the dizzying amount of GoPro tutorials to showcase only the ones worth watching. And if you’ve ever tried to find a decent tutorial video among the countless muffled, dimly lit, out-of-focus monstrosities out there, you know how much of a timesaver this is.

Here are the site’s top three most popular tutorials. Each is basic — using everyday hardware — yet each will add new dimensions to your GoPro masterpieces, letting you get the most out of that expensive new toy. Plus, you could build them all in a single day. Enjoy.

360° Swiveling Helmet Mount

If you’ve ever wondered how people capture angles where the camera appears to be floating around them like a drone, here’s your answer: a fairly simple counterweight system fastened to the top of your helmet. Total cost here is about $30, depending on what you already have laying around.

Parts you’ll need:

  • 2″ swivel caster with threaded post
  • 5/8″ washers and hex nut
  • 3/4″ PVC pipe (5′)
  • PVC end cap
  • PVC cement
  • GoPro seat post mount
  • 4″-long, 1/2″ hex bolt
  • 1/2″ nuts (2)
  • 1/2″ fender washers (approx. 40)
  • Piece of felt or towel

Camera Slider

Looking to get those smooth sliding shots but don’t really want to shell out over $100 to do it? Look no further. This simple project uses a common drawer slide to accomplish the same effect as the equipment the pros use and will only cost you about $20.

Parts you’ll need:

  • GoPro tripod mount
  • Mini ball joint adapter (from eBay)
  • 22″ ball bearing drawer slide
  • 1/4″ coupling nut
  • 1/2″-long, 1/4″ flat-head bolts (2)
  • Tripod quick release plate
  • Small bolt, 2 washers, hex nut

Pole Mount

GoPro Pole Mount

No GoPro mount roundup would be complete without the classic pole mount. Textbook for selfie footage, following shots, and the poor man’s crane shot.

Parts you’ll need:

  • GoPro tripod mount
  • Old ski pole
  • 1/4″ hex nut and bolt


GoPro Pole Mount

  1. Determine how long you want your pole to be. No right answer here.
  2. Cut off the pointy end.
  3. Flatten the cut end. Hammer the cut end of the pole until it’s flat.
  4. Prepare the cut end for the camera mount. Drill a 1/4″ hole through the flat end. Use a Dremel or sanding wheel to clean up the sharp edges of the pole.
  5. Spray-paint it.
  6. Attach the mount. Use the 1/4″ bolt and hex nut to attach the GoPro tripod mount.
  7. Mount your GoPro camera. Here’s a tip: when filming following shots, hand the camera down toward the ground as opposed to balancing atop the pole. This will give you much smoother footage.

What do you think?

There you have it. These were the most popular mounts, but maybe not the best. If you have a GoPro, what mounts have you made? What mounts would you suggest people make or buy first? For more tutorials, check out DIYGoPro’s website.

Can’t Find the Right Music Controller? Don’t get Mad, get Livid!

MIDI controllers are a staple of electronic music. They provide a physical interface to let the user “play” notes on their computer using software like Abelton Live or GarageBand. Traditionally, MIDI controllers have resembled piano keyboards but other button / pad based controllers like the monome, Abelton Push, or Livid Base (above) have become more popular. These alternative controllers allow musicians to trigger loops, sequence tracks, and explore new ways to create music without being limited by tradition. But what happens if you want to take things further and make your own custom controller?


The Maker Shed has teamed up with the folks from Livid Instruments to bring you their Builder DIY lineup of MIDI controller kits. Each kit is based upon the flexible Brain Jr. platform (above) to provide a driverless USB MIDI interface to your computer. The Brain Jr. allows 16 digital (switches, buttons) inputs, 16 analog (pots, sliders, sensors) inputs, and 16 LED (RGB and monochrome) outputs from a board roughly the size of an Arduino.


We currently have 5 kits to choose from, ranging from the comprehensive Omni Kit, to the basic Starter Kit. You can even pick up the Brain Jr. along and a Breakout Shield for those that want to supply their own parts.

Due to the flexibility of the Builder DIY series, enclosures are not available – but building your own is half the fun anyway, right?

Alternative Energy Kits: New in the Maker Shed


I’ve been fascinated by Stirling and other heat based engines as long as I can remember, which is why I’m excited to announce that these educational alternative energy kits from Exergia are now available in the Maker Shed. These unique kits are assembled using simple hand tools and come with clear English and German instructions. They also have some clever packaging; each comes inside a small can which is later re-used in the build (for most of the kits.)

The Stirling Engine Kit is great for demonstrating principles of thermodynamics and is powered by a small tea-light candle (or your wood burner, provided it isn’t too hot.) If you’ve ever built a Stirling engine, you probably know that they can be a bit finicky. The above engine took me about an hour to assemble and ran the first time I lit the candle and spun the prop.


The Candle Car Kit uses the same principal that powers nuclear space probes (the Seebeck effect.) Instead of using decaying radioactive material and the cold of space, however, the car uses candle and a heat sink. After you build the car, put it on a smooth surface and fill the reservoir with water. Light the included candle and after a minute or so, the resulting temperature deferential across a Peltier junction will produce enough energy to drive the motor. You can increase the speed of the car by using colder water or adding ice cubes, and have it go straight or in circles by adjusting the front wheel.

Heat Engine

The Thermogenerator 2.0 also demonstrates the Seebeck effect for power generation. Just build the kit and fill one side of the reservoir with cold water, and the other with hot. The Peltier junction sandwiched between the two aluminum plates will generate enough electricity to turn the prop with just a 10 degree difference. Increasing the temperature differential by using hotter water or ice will increase the speed of the propeller.


This one boggles my mind a bit. The Heatmobile 2.0 converts heat directly into mechanical energy using a continuous loop of Nitinol wire. Nitinol is a shape memory alloy (~50% Nickel, ~50% Titanium) which has the unique property of “remembering” a shape it was formed into at high temperature.  When heated to its transition temperature by warm water the wire attempts to return to that shape. This force is enough to drive the propeller until the water cools below the transition temperature. The really interesting part is that this motor is bi-directional; spin the prop clockwise and it will continue clockwise. Spin it counter clockwise and it will continue counter clockwise.

These kits are perfect for tinkerers, students, or anyone interested in alternative energy. Check them all out in the Maker Shed online store.

15 Fun Vines for Your Labor Day DIY Inspiration

Ah, Labor Day weekend. It typcially signals the end of Summer (though there are three more weeks until the season changes on the calendar). It’s time for one last BBQ before putting away the equipment. And it’s time for one last DIY project that isn’t attached to Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the December holidays. I scoured Vine for some six-second inspirations, and I think you’ll like what I found. Indeed, I may well have to tackle the beer bottle lamp myself!

[Note: if the Vines don’t autostart, just click them in the center to play]

How-To: Abraham Lincoln Campaign Torch


With our Independence Day holiday weekend upon us, a weekend project with historical significance is in order. MAKE contributing editor and resident pyromaniac Bill Gurstelle offered a project that fits the bill in his Remaking History column from Volume 33: the Abraham Lincoln Political Campaign Torch.

Here’s the fascinating historical background from Bill’s intro:

Presidential political campaigns were much different in the nineteenth century, and to many people (me included), they sound like much more fun. Instead of ceaseless televised debates and commercials, scripted sound bites, and never-ending media analysis, the key political tool was the parade. While everyone may still love a parade, Americans of 150 years ago, it seems, were absolutely enamored of them. Imagine for a moment you’re a member of the “Wide Awakes,” one of many political marching clubs organized to drum up support for political candidates. Since marching is what you do, you and your fellow Wide Awakes do it often and are very good at it. Everyone in the group (and there are thousands) owns a torch. Your torch — a new gimbal-mounted, nickel-plated tin torch in the shape of a Union Army musket — is particularly eye-catching. When an evening march is organized on behalf of your presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, your club takes to the streets, waving torches with pride and artistry, even using them in the manner of rifles, presenting a display of close order drill to the crowds lining the streets. It’s very exciting. Mr. Lincoln himself rarely attended actual parades, because at the time, candidates did not campaign personally. They stayed home and let others make speeches on their behalf. But on Aug. 8, 1860, Lincoln did participate in a rally near his home in Springfield, Illinois. He was mobbed by an enthusiastic crowd and was lucky not to have been injured. These parades often lasted two to three hours. The costumed or uniformed participants sang campaign songs and shouted slogans as they marched. To satisfy the need for parade torches, scores of small manufacturing companies sprang up across the United States to fabricate them. Their factories ran at full steam, stamping out hundreds of thousands of unusually shaped torches — from rifle look-alikes for the aforementioned close order drill ceremonies, to torches built in the shape of faces, animals, capital letters (“L” for Lincoln), hats, pinecones, brooms, and pick axes. Night after night, all over the country, people marched by torchlight, hoping the bright lights held aloft would awaken sympathetic feelings in onlookers and carry their candidate to victory. But the era of such campaigning tactics was soon to wane. In the 1860s and 1870s, strategies such as parades were the best way to reach people of all social status. However, as literacy rates rose and newspapers became less politically biased (at least overtly) political campaigning became less spectacular and more educational. By 1900, the importance and frequency of the torchlight parade declined dramatically, and the torch-manufacturing industry slid into a steep decline from which it never recovered.

Bill walks us through the simple build, which essentially calls for a metal can, high-temp epoxy, a hex nut, cotton rope, a wooden dowel, aluminum foil, and kerosene. Below is a visual synopsis (illustrated by Julie West). Check out the full tools and materials list and step-by-step in Bill’s project online.







MAKE Volume 33: Software for Makers

In our special Codebox section you’ll learn about software of interest to makers, including circuit board design, 3D CAD and printing, microcontrollers, and programming for kids. And you’ll meet fascinating makers, like the maniacs behind the popular Power Wheels Racing events at Maker Faire. You’ll get 22 great DIY projects like the Optical Tremolo guitar effect, “Panjolele” cake-pan ukelele, Wii Nunchuk Mouse, CNC joinery tricks, treat-dispensing cat scratching post, brewing sake, and more. Buy or subscribe today!

How-To: LED Photo Lights

led photo lights

What do you use to light small objects you’re trying to photograph? MAKE contributing editor and author of the bestselling Make: Electronics book Charles Platt found that electronic flash is overkill and photo lights are too bulky and hot, so he built an array of miniature LED photo lights and shared the how-to with us in MAKE Volume 34.

From Charles’ intro:

On eBay I found complete LED reflector bulbs for just $3 each. They are plug-compatible and identical in size and packaging to the little 12V quartz-halogen spotlights often used in track lighting (although the LEDs have a cooler light temperature of 6,000 Kelvin–very similar to cloudy daylight). … Since each unit was rated at 4W, I needed a 12VDC AC adapter rated to supply at least 40W. Fortunately this kind of switching power supply is commonly available as a power source for laptops and LED displays. I found a 50W unit for $5. How to mount the lights? I wanted to use them in two sets of five, so that I could position each set on opposite sides of a subject. The angle of each individual light had to be adjustable, so that I could focus their combined beams around a small object, or point them at a larger object from farther away. I also wanted to be able to angle the lights up and down, or backward toward a reflective photographic umbrella if I needed diffuse, shadowless illumination. The design that I came up with uses jointed arms, made from 3/4″ oak and small aluminum angle brackets. Originally, the lights push-fitted onto a 3/8″ brass peg. I later changed the design so that they screwed onto a ¼-20 threaded stud, which is a more common termination on a photographic light stand (plus it fits on a tripod). If you don’t have light stands or extra tripods, you can easily improvise something from a vertical 1″ dowel screwed into a plywood base.

Essentially, you cut the wood and aluminum angle to size, make the brackets, mount the lights, wire it up, test, and you’re ready to shoot. Below is a general visual overview. Check out Charles’ full LED Photo Lights how-to for the details.

led photo lights wood diagram

led photo light bracket

led photo light mounted

led photo light mounted2

led photo light diagram

led photo light mounted3

led photo lights2

volume 34 cover

MAKE Volume 34: Robotics

Join the robot uprising! There’s never been a better time to delve into robotics, whether you’re a tinkerer or a more serious explorer. With the powerful tools and expertise now available, the next great leap in robot evolution is just as likely to come from your garage as a research lab. Buy or subscribe today!

How-To: Text Your Coffeemaker

rasppi zipwhip espresso machine

When the folks at Zipwhip heard that the Raspberry Pi team was moving to a new office, they decided to combine their cloud-based texting service with the power of Pi as a gift to the Pi crew: the world’s first Raspberry Pi-powered, cloud texting-enabled espresso machine, called Textpresso. Yes, that’s right: you can text your coffee order to the machine, and it’ll text you back when your drink is ready. They built it, tested it, shipped it to the Pi offices, and then shared their full how-to with the rest of us caffeine enthusiasts. The machine reportedly works brilliantly, though the only catch is remembering to always have an empty cup on the tray, lest your double shot end up on the carpet.

The Zipwhip team made a custom circuit board to interface between the Raspberry Pi and the main board of a De’Longhi espresso machine. They provide the Eagle files so you can get your own printed. They also use three optocouplers to communicate info from the machine to the Raspberry Pi using a beam of light. To make your own, check out Zipwhip’s full how-to, as well as the short video they made to accompany the build: