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Favorite Kid-Dad Project Videos

If you’re looking to start a fun project with dad, here’s a round-up of kid-friendly projects videos, put together by MAKE Managing Editor Keith Hammond. Thanks, Keith!

Compressed Air Rockets

I’d hazard it’s the single most popular kid-dad project we’ve ever done: the Compressed Air Rocket Launcher. Father and teacher Rick Schertle showed us how in MAKE Volume 15, and then KipKay built it in a MAKE Weekend Projects video that’s had more than 400,000 views.

(Get the Compressed Air Rocket kit from Maker Shed here.)

The dads and kids of the world took it from there — today YouTube is full of videos of families having fun launching Compressed Air Rockets:

Potato Gatling Gun

Pixar animator Tony DeRose is a leader in our Young Makers program (, a collaboration between Maker Media, the Exploratorium, Disney-Pixar, and TechShop. This awesome project began when Tony and his boys Joe and Sam built the hair-spray-propelled Potato Cannon from Bill Gurstelle’s book Backyard Ballistics (see Bill’s see-through spud gun, the Nightlighter 36, in MAKE Volume TK).

In the spirit of outrageous oneupsmanship, the DeRose family proceeded to multiplex the spud gun into a six-barrel rotating gat with a 500V step-up transformer, automotive spark plugs for ignition, and 200-foot range. Naturally they showed it off at Maker Faire, immortalized on YouTube and their own site.

The project at Maker Faire
DeRose Family Projects

The Water Totter

Another cool dad in the Young Makers program, Kurt Fleischer, is a senior research scientist at Pixar, where he worked on building filmmaking software to create Cars and WALL-E before joining their research team. On his off time, he likes to apply his engineering skills to work on projects with his daughter, Lena, such as the Water Totter they exhibited at Maker Faire. Kurt used this project, which turns an old-style seesaw into a water fountain, as an opportunity to teach Lena about concepts in engineering, conservation, energy generation, and a few life lessons.

Maker Pioneers post on MAKE
Water Totter build log

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show

It’s not just that Sylvia is an awesome 9-year-old host who shows you how to make everything from rockets to crazy putty to Arduino gadgets. It’s that she and her maker dad James Morrison (aka TechNinja) do such a fantastic job producing this show. This may be the liveliest DIY show online, and I can’t help thinking that Sylvia’s effervescent personality and zest for making stuff are testament to a dad behind the scenes who has encouraged his daughter to follow her dreams no matter how geeky, gooky, or flammable they may be. Inspirational.

Silvia’s Mini Maker Show Video Playlist

Sylvia’s Own YouTube Channel
Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show Website


Adventures in Android ADK Development: Hardware

At this point in my Android saga, I’ve gotten the Android SDK and Eclipse all running well enough to run a Hello World in the Android emulator. This is an important step, but I want more. I want it running on real hardware! In this case, a Nexus One phone.

I installed a system update to bring the phone up to snuff, specifically to OS version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). The ADK and USB host functionality requires 2.3.4 or later. Using the steps in this guide, I set up the phone for development mode. The key steps are to set the phone’s Applications > Development mode to “USB debugging”, and to set the “Debuggable” flag to “true” in the AndroidManifest.xml file for the HelloWorld program in Eclipse.

Now, when I ran the HelloWorld from Eclipse, instead of launching the emulator, it uploaded and ran the app on the phone. This went without a hitch, so I decided it was time to move on to working with the ADK.

Again, the Android Developer website has excellent info on installing what you need to use the ADK. First up, I made sure I had the Arduino IDE 22 installed, then I downloaded and unpacked the ADK package which contains a few necessary Arduino libraries (for the USB host functionality, Open Acessory Protocol library, and CapSense library to register when you touch the little gold Android robot on the demo shield), a DemoKit Android app, and a corresponding DemoKit Arduino sketch. The download also includes all the fabrication files for the ADK board and demo shield, in case you’re curious or want to roll your own. I uploaded the DemoKit.pde sketch onto the ADK Arduino using the Arduino software.

Before I could compile and run the Android DemoKit application, it was necessary to install the Google APIs Level 10 add-on library. This part tripped me up, because when I went to the Android SDK and AVD Manager in Eclipse I mistook the SDK Platform API 10 (which I already had) for the Google APIs Android API 10, which I needed. I also had to set the Eclipse project to build with the Google API target, NOT the Android target platform. The DemoKit application threw loads of errors until the Internet helped me figure that one out. (There may have been cursing and throwing of objects, I’m not telling.)

Once that was behind me, I was able to set the DemoKit application to “debuggable” and run it on the phone! I couldn’t plug the Arduino into the phone while uploading the Android app, so it kicked up this groovy image.

(Incidentally, I found this nifty way to take screenshots of the phone onto my computer at Android Central.)

With my excitement mounting, I unplugged the phone’s USB cable from my computer and into the ADK Arduino board, which is powered by a 12V wall wart. I launched the DemoKit app from the phone and everything worked! The app has two modes, input and output. The input mode displays data from the Demo Shield on the phone, including the temperature and light sensor data as well as the two axis joystick, three buttons, and the capacitive robot pads.

Output mode allows you to use sliders to light up and color mix three (seriously bright) RGB LEDs, control three servos and tap on-screen buttons to open and close two 12V relays.

I had a lot of fun playing around with the DemoKit app, mixing light colors, blinding myself, flipping the relays, and checking out the input data on the Nexus One’s lovely screen. I’m sure there are many, many possibilities for writing Android apps that will utilize the ADK hardware in mind-blowing ways, but for now, I’m pretty excited just having such a nice touchscreen interface to an Arduino.

Here’s a video showing me using a converted continuous rotation servo on the board, as well as playing with the LEDs.


“Tips My Dad Says” Downloadable Card

Here’s a downloadable card we put together of some of the best content from our Tips My Dad Says collection. Why not print out some copies on card stock and give one to dad (and the other makers in your life)? And print one for yourself and post it in your work area or slot it into the back of your Maker’s Notebook. The PDF is available here [PDF, 48K].


Tips My Dad Says (Happy Father’s Day to All of the MAKE Pops)

Earlier in the week, we asked our staff, some of our MAKE contributors, and you, dear reader, to share some maker tips and words of wisdom from your dads and granddads. Leatherman even sponsored a giveaway and we gave four of their awesome SuperTool 300s to participants selected in a drawing. We got a lot of great contributions, stellar words of dad-ish wisdom, filled with practical ingenuity, good humor, and garage philosophy as only dad can brew it up. Probably our favorites were from Photo Editor Sam Murphy’s dad: “If you ever have to shoot someone, make sure you empty the gun. That makes it look like you were scared” (Okay… thanks, dad. Good to know), and from staff writer, Brookelynn Morris’ pops: “If you get in trouble when you are diving for abalone, drop your weight belt. It will be right where you left it at the bottom of the ocean when you go back to find it.”

We’ve divided some of the best tips we collected into categories: General Tips (2), General Tips (Practical) (3), Repair and Maintenance (4), and Tool Tips (5). Click on the numbers below to view the categories. And do read through the initial conversation. We got nearly 140 responses. Many thanks to all who contributed and to the dads and granddads for sharing your ideas, your experiences, and your fatherly wisdom with us.

All love and appreciation from your sons and daughters at MAKE. Happy Father’s Day.


How-To: Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraph animated GIF
While animated GIFs have been around for a while, they’ve recently been adopted by photographers to add small amounts of looping motion to otherwise still images. It’s no wonder they’ve been seen all over the web lately, as the result is often a quite entrancing moving photograph. If you’re interested in making your own, Photojojo offers a detailed write up of how to make these so-called “cinemagraphs,” from planning the right motion to the final assembly in Photoshop. And if you’re looking for a little inspiration, check out the work of photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics designer Kevin Burg, who are responsible for popularizing this trend. According to Jamie, “There’s something magical about a still photograph—a captured moment in time—that can simultaneously exist outside the fraction of a second the shutter captures.”


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