Making A Kid-Friendly Computer As A Present: Or How To Be The Cool Aunt At Christmas

This article was meant to be finished up before Christmas, so it’ll be a little late whenever you’re reading it to go and prepare this for the holiday. Regardless, if, like me, should you ever be on the lookout for something to give a toddler nephew or relative, it could be worth it to look into your neglected old parts shelves. In my case, what caught my eye was a 9-year-old AMD laptop catching dust that could be better repurposed in the tiny hands of a kid eager to play video games.

The main issues here are finding a decent selection of appropriate games and streamling the whole experience so that it’s easy to use for a not-yet-hacker, all the while keeping the system secure and child-friendly. And doing it all on a budget.

This is a tall order, and requirements will be as individual as children are, of course, but I hope that my experience and considerations will help guide you if you’re in a similar boat.

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Making A Halloween Costume Fit For 2020

All across the country, parents are wondering what to do about the upcoming Trick Or Treat season. Measures such as social distancing, contact free treats, or simply doing it at home are all being weighed as a balance of fun and safety. [BuildXYZ] has decided to lean into the challenges this year and incorporate a mask as part of the costume for his boys.

It started with a 3d printed mask, printed in two halves, and sealed with silicon caulk and N95 filter material in the inlet and outlet holes on the sides. The real magic of the mask is the small OLED screen mounted to the front that works along with a small electret microphone inside the mask. By sampling the microphone and applying a rolling average, the Arduino Nano determines if the mouth drawn on the display should be open or closed. A small battery pack on a belt clip (with a button to flash “Trick or Treat” on the screen) powers the whole setup and can be easily hidden under a cape or costume.

This isn’t the first hack we’ve seen for Halloween this year, such as this socially distant candy slide. We have a feeling that there will be many more as the month rolls on and people start to apply their ingenuity to the season.

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Ask Hackaday: What Skills Would You Give A Twelve Year Old?

In several decades of hanging around people who make things, one meets a lot of people fascinated by locks, lock picking, and locksport. It’s interesting to be sure, but it had never gripped me until an evening in MK Makerspace when a fellow member had brought in his lockpicking box with its selection of locks, padlocks, and tools. I was shown the basics of opening cheap — read easy from that padlocks, and though I wasn’t hooked for life I found it to be a fascinating experience. Discussing it the next day a friend remarked that it was an essential skill they’d taught their 12-year-old, which left me wondering, just what skills would you give to a 12-year-old? Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: What Skills Would You Give A Twelve Year Old?”

Keep The Kids Entertained With A Time Machine

We often hear it said that today’s kids don’t go out and play as much as they did in the past, but honestly, it’s hard to really blame them. Have you seen some of the games they have now? It’s going to take something a little more exciting than a game of stickball to get them off the couch when they’ve got 4K and VR game systems to play with.

Circuit to control ATX PSU

Which is exactly why [Bobek] is building his kids a time machine. Not a literal one, of course. The Flux Capacitor technology required has yet to be mastered. But it does allow the player to “travel” through time through videos which are played by punching in specific codes they have to unlock by solving puzzles in the real world. Then again, keeping keeping kids active and mentally engaged might as well be “going back in time” in some people’s eyes.

By the looks of things, [Bobek] still has a little work to do on the project, but it’s far enough along that we can get an idea. Inside the bottom of the heavy duty plastic case he’s installed an ATX power supply and a Raspberry Pi 3, and an top of that, there’s a metal plate that holds the power button, an RGB backlit keyboard, and a Vacuum Florescent Display.

After powering on the system, the kids punch in the codes they’ve earned on the keyboard. If accepted, it starts the corresponding presentation which goes over the sights and sounds of the time period they’ve unlocked. In the video after the break you can see [Bobek] test the device with a small display hanging off the end of an HDMI cable, but presumably the system will eventually get an integrated display. The kids could also plug it into the TV, but at that point you might be going full circle.

We’ve seen several examples of hackers creating their own electronic gadgets to keep their children entertained. The line might be a little blurry, but we’d rather see kids use their imagination to “fly” a spaceship in their bedroom than play Roblox on their phone.

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Expert Says Don’t Teach Kids To Code

I was a little surprised to see a news report about Andreas Schleicher, the director of education and skills at OECD — the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Speaking at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Paris, Schleicher thinks that teaching kids to code is a waste of time. In particular, he seems to think that by the time a child today grows up, coding will be obsolete.

I can’t help but think that he might be a little confused. Coding isn’t going away anytime soon. It could, of course, become an even deeper specialty, and thus less generally applicable. But the comments he’s made seem to imply that soon we will just tell smart computers what we want and they will just do that. Somewhat like computers work on Star Trek.

What is more likely is that most people will be able to find specific applications that can do what they want without traditional coding. But someone still has to write something for the foreseeable future. What’s more, if you’ve ever tried to tease requirements out of an end user, you know that you can’t just blurt out anything you want to a computer and expect it to make sense. It isn’t the computer’s fault. People — especially untrained people — don’t always make sense or communicate unambiguously.

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This RC Fortnite Rocket Is A Victory Royale

Minecraft is over and Red Dead Redemption II has barely even started yet. The biggest thing on the planet right now is Fortnite, and oh man, is it awesome. It’s the best game ever, and we wish every day was a Battle Royale. But what if Fortnite was real life? That’s exactly what [Giaco] and [David] did when they made an RC Fortnite Foam Rocket. It’s Fortnite, in the real world! If you don’t mind, we’re going to go T-pose in the corner.

The core of this build was done with the Maker Knife, first introduced as a Kickstarter by [Giaco] as an everyday carry utility knife that features ceramic blades. It’s impressive for a box cutter, but what’s even more impressive is that this fantastic tool can be used to make a real-life Fortnite rocket.

This rocket, like so many other RC planes we see these days, was constructed out of foam board, a technique that was popularized by the folks at Flite Test, and uses all the construction techniques you would usually see in a foam board model airplane. The hinges for the control surfaces are chamfered and reinforced with packing tape, servos are just hot glued to the body, and the control horns are just bits of cardboard.

What makes this really impressive is that this Fortnite rocket actually flies. [Giaco] took this plane out with [David] of rcexplorer fame, and even though this ‘plane’ didn’t really have any lifting surfaces, despite indiscernible center of gravity, and the fact that the paint weighed more than the plane itself, this thing can fly. Fairly well, too, until it gets stuck in a tree. There are prices to pay for producing content that’s this attractive to 12-year-olds, I guess.

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Custom ATTiny85 Board Powers Kids’ Light Show

We’ve often said that kids with hackers and makers for parents must be some of the luckiest kids in the world. While all the other children have to settle for some mass produced drivel from Toys“R”Us Amazon, they’ve got some of the most thoughtfully engineered and built toys and gadgets on the planet. After all, there’s no way any hacker worth their salt is going to give anything less than 110% for their own child.

A case in point is this RGB star nightlight that [Unexpected Maker] built for his children. The star itself is simple enough, just a basic shape printed in transparent PLA on his Prusa i3. The impressive part is how he lights it up. Rather than stick an Arduino or ESP8266 in there as we have seen plenty of times before, he’s put together his own custom ATTiny85 board specifically for controlling the RGB LED strips.

The board, which he calls TinyDev, is designed to be the same thickness as NeoPixel style LED strips so it can fit inside tight spaces. He solders it onto the tail end of his LED strip, adds a photoresistor so the star can tell when it’s time to light up, and then snakes the whole arrangement through a channel printed in the star itself. There’s a battery pack in the middle, but that’s about it. It really does allow for a remarkably clean LED strip implementation, and the mind can’t help but start thinking of interesting possibilities when you can tuck the controller into the same space as the lights themselves.

[Unexpected Maker] has made the TinyDev completely open source for anyone who wants to build their own, but it’s also available on Tindie if you want to get one to play with quickly. If you’re looking to light up the little one’s room with somewhat more mainstream methods, we’ve got that covered too.

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