Within the last few years, a lot of companies have started with the aim to disrupt the educational electronics industry using their LEGO-compatible sets. Now they’re ubiquitous, and fighting each other for their slice of space in your child’s box of bricks. What’s going on here?
The main reason for LEGO-compatibility is familiarity. Parents and children get LEGO. They have used it. They already have a bunch. When it comes to leveling up and learning about electronics, it makes sense to do that by adding on to a thing they already know and understand, and it means they can continue to play with and get more use from their existing sets. The parent choosing between something that’s LEGO-compatible and a completely separate ecosystem like littleBits (or Capsela) sees having to set aside all the LEGO and buy all new plastic parts and learn the new ecosystem, which is a significant re-investment. littleBits eventually caught on and started offering adapter plates, and that fact demonstrates how much demand there is to stick with the studs.
Continue reading “LEGO-compatible Electronics Kits Everywhere!”
There was a third-party multiplayer upgrade pack for one of the Quake games back in the ’90s that included a whole slew of non-standard weapons. Among them one of the most memorable was a gravity well, that when thrown into the middle of a crowded room full of warring players would suck them into a vortex. Assuming its user had made it to safety in time, they would then be left the victor. The hyper-violent make-believe world of a first-person shooter is probably best left in a Pentium server from the ’90s, with few direct parallels in the real world. Maybe laser tag, or Nerf battles, are the closest you’ll get.
If you are a Nerf enthusiast, then you’ll appreciate [Giaco Whatever]’s CO2-powered remote-control Nerf bomb as an analogue of that Quake gravity well. It fires twelve darts at the press of a button on an infra-red remote control. The firing tubes sit in a nicely machined manifold connected via a solenoid valve to a little CO2 gas bottle. In the hectic world of a Nerf war it is slid out into the field of combat, its operator takes cover, and the other participants are showered in foam darts. There are probably kids who would sell their grandparents to own this device.
The build is detailed in the video below the break, along with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek movie segment demonstrating it in action.
Continue reading “Remote Controlled Nerf Bomb”
Once tried, even grown-ups just can’t let go of that hilariously funny Chewbacca mask. Also, the speaking toy literally cries out to be hacked. Weary of the whining Wookie, [John Park] set out to bring variety into Chewie’s mode of expression, expanding the mask’s memory and vocabulary to unprecedented levels.
Continue reading “Chewbacca Mask Hack Cheers Up The Whining Wookie”
A large part of the world still educates their kids using a system that’s completely antiquated. Personal choices and interests don’t matter, and learning by rote is the norm. Government schooling is woefully inadequate and the teachers are just not equipped, or trained, to be able to impart useful education. [Arvind Gupta], a science educator, is trying to change this by teaching kids how to build toys. His YouTube channel on Toys for Science and Math Education has almost 100,000 subscribers and over 44 million views. It’s awesome.
[Arvind] graduated from one of the finest engineering schools in India, the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, and joined the TATA conglomerate at their heavy-vehicles plant helping build trucks. It didn’t take him long to realize that he wasn’t cut out to be building trucks. So he took a year off and enrolled in a village science program which was working towards changing the education system. At the weekly village bazaar, he came across interesting pieces of arts and crafts that the villagers were selling. A piece of rubber tubing, used as the core of the valve in bicycle tubes, caught his eye. He bought a length and a couple of matchboxes, and created what he calls “matchstick Meccano”.
This was in the 1970’s. Since then, he has been travelling all over India getting children to learn by building fun toys. The toys he designs are made from commonly available raw material and can be easily built with minimum resources. These ingenious DIY toys and activities help make maths and science education fun and interesting for children at all levels of schooling. All of his work is shared in the spirit of open source and available via his website and YouTube channels. A large body of his work has been translated in to almost 20 languages and you are welcome to help add to that list by dubbing the videos.
Check out the INK Conference video below where he shares his passion for education and shows simple yet entertaining and well-designed toys built from trash and recycled materials.
Continue reading “The Toy Maker”
For the 20th anniversary of the Movie “Hackers” [Jamie Zawinski], owner of DNA Lounge in San Francisco, threw an epic party – screening the movie, setting up skating ramps and all that jazz. One of the props he put up was an old payphone, but he didn’t have time to bring it alive. The one thing he didn’t want this phone to do was to be able to make calls. A couple of weeks later, he threw another party, this time screening “Tank Girl” instead. For this gathering he had enough time to put a Linux computer inside the old payphone. When the handset is picked up, it “dials” a number which brings up a voice mail system that announces the schedule of events and other interactive stuff. As usual, this project looked simple enough to start with, but turned out way more complicated than he anticipated. Thankfully for us, he broke down his build in to bite sized chunks to make it easy for us to follow what he did.
This build is a thing of beauty, so let’s drill down into what the project involved:
Continue reading “My Payphone Runs Linux”
If you had a Power Wheel vehicle as a kid you may have been the envy of the neighborhood. Even as fun as they were you probably out grew them. Lucky for a few youngsters, [Bob] hasn’t. Not only does he have several Power Wheels for his children to use, he does some pretty cool mods to make them even more fun.
Changing the stock motor out for a cordless drill is one of the first things that gets done. A few brands have been used but the Ryobi 18v Cordless Drill is the favorite. The entire drill is used, including the reduction gearbox. The gearbox is switched to LOW gearing so that the drill has enough torque to move the combined weight of the vehicle and child. As much as it may sound odd to use a drill in this manner, the Power Wheel can get up to about 15 mph. A stock Power Wheels maxes out at 5 mph
Continue reading “This Is Not Your Father’s Power Wheel”
Hobby electronics from 1982
[Lennart] came across one of his projects from several decades ago. It’s a twinkling star which blinks LEDs at different rates using some 7400 logic chips and RC timers.
Solder fume extractor
We’re still blowing the solder fumes away from us using our mouth, but this might inspire us to do otherwise. It’s a large PC fan mounted on a lamp goose neck. It clamps to the bench and is quite easy to position.
Ultrasonic liquid level measurement
Wanting a way to measure the liquid in these tanks without submerging a sensor, [JO3RI] turned to an Arduino and an ultrasonic rangefinder. His method even allows the level to be graphed as shown in his Instructible about the project.
Adding an ‘On’ light to save batteries
Dumpster diving yielded this electronic drum machine for [MS3FGX’s] daughter to play with. The problem is that pushing any of the buttons turns it on, it doesn’t have an auto-off, and there’s no way to know when it’s on. This is unacceptable since it runs on 5 AA batteries. His quick fix adds this green On LED. We wonder if he’ll improve upon this and add an auto-off feature?
CMOS Binary Clock
This is a portion of the guts of [Dennis’] CMOS Binary Clock project from the early 2000’s. He even built a nice case with a window for the LEDs which you can see are mounted perpendicular to the protoboard.