Try These at Home: Ten Cool Things to Make from Maker Faire

October 3, 2014

Kristi Jacobi, Explo's Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction, took to the booths of the New York World Maker Faire to find out what's happening in the world of maker culture, and what innovations we should be paying attention to in the future. Countless products, tech creations, and inventions drew her attention, but ten stood out above the rest. We detail them — in her words — below.

Here, Kristi's Top Ten coolest things parents and students can definitely make (and do, and build...) at home:

  1. Design (and Print) 3D Objects



    People are using 3D printers to print everything from food to toys and even prosthetics. Using software apps like 123Design or Tinkercad, you (and/or your children and/or parents) can design your own 3D-printed object. Once you have the design in place, you can send it off to print — to a 3D print site (like this one or this one), where they'll print your object and return it to you. For those looking for ideas or inspiration, check out the great designs posted on Thingiverse.

    Alternatively, think about purchasing a tabletop 3D printer of your own (some are totally accessible!). The Micro (pictured above) is a successfully-funded Kickstarter project (which Explo backed). You can purchase an 8-inch cube tabletop 3D printer for less than $350, which prints just like the big guys. Maker Faire even had a full-size — and fully working! — car that was printed using a 3D printer (photo at the top of the post). Now how cool is that?

  2. Construct a Circuit Board



    Create your own circuit blocks using 2x4 pieces of wood, nails, and electronic components from old toys — like the folks from Brave New Things (pictured above) and the Exploratorium have done. Alternatively, experiment with pre-fabricated kits like Little Bits (below, which we're excited to try out). Draw your own circuits, using conductive ink in a Circuit Scribe kit, like those offered at ElectronInks. We’re already experimenting with all of these at Explo for future classes and projects, and would love to hear your ideas and thoughts.


  3. Make a Computer with Arduino



    There are tons of ways to make cool things — like apps or robots or even computers — with Arduino, an open-source electronics platform. Arduino is both easy to use and entirely interactive. With Arduino, you can make everything from robots to a unique Magic 8 Ball, and endless things in between. Think: Arduino plus Legos, Arduino plus Little Bits, or Arduino plus your pet. (Just kidding!)

  4. Launch a Rocket — No Tech Needed



    Make a PVC pipe marshmallow shooter, or a decahedron sculpture using simple board and cable ties. Make air rockets fly high with just a PVC tube and a bike pump. Or craft plastic-coated foamcore or paper triangles (pictured above) to form intricate geometric sculptures.

  5. Craft Lego Necklaces



    Legos aren't just for building. They can also help make a very cool, fun, and customizable fashion statement. To make your own, drill a small hole in a Lego block and create the base for an ever-changing Lego necklace sculpture.

  6. Build Interactive Puppets



    At Maker Faire, a giant giraffe robot (pictured above) walked the crowd and added to the electric, larger than life, Explo-like atmosphere. But imagine how cool it would be to build one that's more human-sized (or even cat-sized)! Check out some options here and here.

  7. Create a Coke and Mentos Fountain



    The guys from EepyBird (pictured above) took it above and beyond. At Maker Faire, they created a Bellagio Fountain-style performance out of 180+ bottles of Coke Zero and Mentos, basically hundreds of fountains choreographed to music. They developed different plastic tubes and sprinkler heads to top each bottle that created different spray effects — fan spray, geyser spray, multiple holes, etc. Then, they tested the ideal temperature for optimal eruption height (room temperature works best) and figured out how to drop the ideal number of Mentos (5) into the bottle at once. While it took them more than two hours to set this up, their big message to everyone watching was, "Do try this at home!" The best way? Start small: One bottle of Diet Coke (or two), and one (or two) packet of Mentos. Find a place (probably outside) where gushing geysers of Diet Coke won't wreak havoc, put one some safety goggles, drop in those Mentos, and get ready for your bottles to runneth over. Want to escalate your game? In this world of soda fountains, the sky really is the limit. Have fun experimenting (and send us photos)!

  8. Take Lite Bright to a Whole New Level...



    ...by making your own! Start with a large cardboard box and paint it black. Then cut holes — in a symmetrical pattern, a face, or whatever image you want to project — in all of the surfaces. Then affix a light source (like a light bulb or a string of Christmas lights) inside, and use small plastic drinking glasses as the pegs to fill each hole and create a rainbow-hued display of light.

  9. Cardboard!



    Make anything out of cardboard: full-size dinosaur costumes, invention prototypes, and more. It makes us think of our own cardboard creations this past summer, such as the Mini cardboard carnival, and the upcoming Global Day of Play/Cardboard Challenge hosted by the Imagination Foundation and our friends from Caine’s Arcade. The possibilities are endless!

  10. Making Can Include Anything!



    Bake a cupcake, build a replica of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop, program a Lego robot (above), weave a necklace from rope, design a website, spin wool into yarn, or build a scooter that charges your cell phone…anything that lets you explore your curiosity and creativity. Kids are Makers, too, and sometimes they are the best Makers around! What will YOU make?
By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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