Portal puppet probably won’t kill us

This incredibly detailed puppet of the Wheatley from Portal was sent into us, and we a so very happy that we’re not writing about a GLaDOS build right now.

Hewn from florist foam and covered Wonderflex and Apoxie Sculpt, Wheatley pretty much tows the line as far as cosplay and prop builds go. What makes Wheatley interesting is his movement mechanism – he’s actually a hand-controlled puppet. Portal quotes come a small sound module that plays 10 Wheatley quotes. The control system has ten buttons and allows for the display of a lot more emotion than we would expect from a talking sphere. We really like the completely manual solution to an articulated robot eyeball – a really great, simple solution to a complex problem.

Like the portal turret and the adorable and friendly companion cube, we’re really impressed with the build quality of Wheatley. Yet again we’re left wondering why Valve doesn’t license some awesome toys like their office sentry.

Check out the intelligence dampening sphere in action after the break.

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RC pontoon from a toy car

[Kevin Sandom] built this boat using a radio controlled toy car. The two pontoons are recycled from Styrofoam packaging material using some thick wire to connect them and provide a framework for the propulsion and control circuitry. The motor itself is a hobby outboard, which really only required [Kevin] to develop a method for steering. He walks us through the build process in the video after the break, where we find out that the original toy has a pretty bad design flaw. It seems the car used four AA batteries to drive the motor, but one of the four batteries was also used separately from the other three to power the control circuitry. Running that battery down faster than the others shortens the life of the whole.

This is considerably easier than the underwater ROV hacks we’ve seen before. We do think that it would make for a fun weekend project, and we’d bet you’ll get some weird looks for piloting what appears to be garbage around a pond.

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Fake Christmas tree makes it fake snow

Let it snow inside your house this Christmas by building your own snow making tree. [Trey] was inspired by a snowing lamp-post he came across in a story. He looked around the house and came up with all the stuff necessary to make this happen with a Christmas tree. The snow is loose Styrofoam like you’d find in a bean bag chair. At the bottom of the tree there’s an inverted umbrella to collect the snowfall and funnel it into a blower salvaged from an inflatable Halloween yard ornament. The blower shoots the Styrofoam up through a PVC pipe, which also serves as the trunk of the fake tree, and it erupts from the top bringing Christmas cheer to an otherwise quiet room. See for yourself.

Portable air conditioner

The dog days of Summer are looming just over the horizon like a hot sticky wave of impending doom, but you don’t have to take it lying down. Building a portable air conditioner is cheap easy, and we daresay refreshing.

You’ll need the following materials: a condenser, heater core, or radiator, a styrofoam cooler, a submersible water pump, a few case fans, some adapters to power the works, and a few other materials. The pump circulates cold water through the condenser as the fan pushes air through it and the rest of the box.

We’ve never been huge fans of swamp coolers like this one since they offer no true refrigeration cycle. What’s more, they pump a good deal of humidity into the air, which makes the heat worse in the long run, or creates a vicious cycle of cooling and humidifying. Still, when the heat is scrambling our brains, it’s hard to say no to any relief, however ephemeral.