Makers CAN Change the World

RIP Steve Jobs. You, and your Homebrew Computer cohort and Apple Computer, fundamentally changed our lives, through technology. Multiple times. You and Apple made magic with gadgets. I literally gasped the first time I picked up the current MacBook Air. Not a lot of consumer technology makes me gasp.

When I got my pre-ordered iPad 1, the FedEx driver who brought it to my door was itching with curiosity as I signed for it. We had never exchanged more than a “hello” and “thanks.” I finished and she turned to leave. But then she blurted out: “What is that!?” (like she was breaking some sort of company policy about asking people what was in their boxes). When I told her, she totally let down her guard and gushed: “OMG! How cool! I SO want one of those!” She was completely lit up like a kid at Christmas. “Please tell what you think about it. So exciting.” She was still smiling as she walked away. As I, equally excited, went back into the house to open it, I wondered: “Do you think Microsoft or Dell or even Sony products generate this kind of excitement where delivery people can’t help but ask what’s in the box?” Rarely, if ever, I bet.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur C. Clarke

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do… -Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Thanks for the magic and for showing us how far a group of makers can take their inspired ideas.


How-To: Speed Vest for Night Cycling

MAKE Volume 19 Speed Vest

If car users knew how fast cyclists were moving, would they be more willing to share the road? That’s the question posed by Mykle Hansen in the intro to his Speed Vest project from MAKE Volume 19.

Bicyclists receive a lot of honk-based grief from car drivers who perceive them as slow and in the way, and when drivers misjudge a bicycle’s speed, it can cause “right hook” collisions that kill several bicyclists each year. This lightweight night-cycling vest displays your current speed in glowing, 7-inch-tall numbers easily visible to cars. On the back, an Arduino microcontroller reads input from an off-the-shelf bike speedometer sensor, and then switches power to sewn-in numerals made from electroluminescent (EL) wire.

Mykle’s entire project is now up on Make: Projects for you to check out, collaborate, and build your own vest. Safety first! Check out this video to see the vest in action:


News From The Future: Artificial Bone Made From Fish Scales

News From The Future: Artificial Bone Made From Fish Scales

Until now, collagen from pig skin was utilized. But there are viruses that are common to people and animals, which means that viruses in pigs can migrate to people and cause illnesses. With fish, it’s known that this doesn’t happen. So one feature of this new material is that it’s very safe. Also, artificial bone made from fish can have a much higher density, so another feature is that this artificial bone can be very strong. Also, when such a material is implanted in the body, the type made using fish collagen converts to bone faster. With artificial bone made from pig collagen, it takes about six months for the material to convert to bone after it’s implanted in a bone. Artificial bone made using fish collagen reaches the same state in about three months, so it converts to bone very quickly.

It’s not just for plastic any more!


DIY Sous Vide: Cook Perfect Steaks with Arduino Electronics at BioCurious!

biocurious logoCome one, come all, science geeks, food lovers, Arduino hackers. Build a magical box with Arduino-inspired technology that will control the temperature of an appliance you hack, up to 0.1 degrees accuracy. October 15th at the BioCurious hackerspace in Sunnyvale!

  • Date: Saturday, October 15th
  • Time: 1 – 6pm
  • Class fee: $115 (Includes an $80 Ember Kit to make your own “meat jacuzzi”)
  • Click here to sign up!

All of the top restaurants in the world use sous vide machines to make make sure their proteins are perfect. It is a brilliant cooking strategy for so much more and it’s been hailed as the next microwave.

Rumbling in your tummy? Check out Sous-vide powered “Beer Bath Bratwurst” and “60 Hour Sweet and Sticky Beef Ribs” — nom!! Q and Abe also taught an Ember class at NYC Resistor you can read about here!

hacking arduinos and sous videhacking arduinos and sous vide

On Saturday October 15th, come and make your own sous vide machines with experienced food hackers, Q and Abe, from,, and In our class we will guide beginners from soldering to Arduino language and programming. Perfectly cooked snacks will be served.

Q (writer) and Abe (plasma physicist) are experts in the field of DIY Sous Vide and Open Source Technology. Their inventions and foods have been featured on FoodGawker, CNN, Maker Faire, and TasteSpotting.

Sign up here!

BioCurious Address:
845 Stewart Drive, Sunnyvale
California, Earth

Also! For BioCurious-fun *this* weekend (Sunday, October 9th), Reto Stamm is teaching an intro class where you’ll build a volt meter, stop watch, and motor driver with Arduino — and on the path to hacking biotech hardware! Check it out here


1,000-Piece Popsicle Stick Bomb

Looks like a great parent-child project. It’s not in danger of breaking any records, but a fun project nonetheless. [Via @ItsColossal]


Dual Stage Heating/Cooling Temperature Controller with RGB Display

I am probably flattering myself, taking any sort of credit for inspiring this sweet custom temperature controller built by Adafruit reader Mike to keep his beer-brewing fridge at a constant temperature. Like my recent project, it simultaneously controls AC-powered heating and cooling equipment to maintain a constant temperature, and is mounted in a hardware-store PVC junction box. But there the similarities pretty much end. Whereas I used a cheap off-the-shelf thermostat module from China, Mike built and programmed his own controller using an Arduino for brains, an Xbee for remote temperature control and data logging, and a cool multicolor LED display with letters that turn red when the system is heating, blue when it is cooling, and green when it is at the correct temperature. [Thanks, Tom!]

Jake’s Laser-Cut Sous Vide Controller


Automatic Media Deactivation System (video)

Jake Ketchum‘s Automatic Media Deactivation System attaches to a standard power strip and shuts off all power to a room’s electronics when its smart sensor detects that a person is no longer in the room. When someone re-enters, the system is switched back on. He demonstrated his invention at Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.

Subscribe to the Maker Faire Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v
directly, or watch it on YouTube or Vimeo.

Check out more videos from Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.


What Carbonated Acrylic Plastic Looks Like

As I wrote about a month ago, one of the many unusual phenomena Ben Krasnow has produced in his garage is supercritical CO2. As you may recall, Ben machined a custom acrylic pressure vessel so he could get (and give) a good look at a state of matter that most of us have little experience of. Since then Ben has inadvertently had a chance to observe another extremely unusual effect: the carbonation of solid acrylic.

After completing his observations, Ben cooled the pressure chamber down, condensing the supercritical CO2 back into a liquid state at about 750 psi. Then he left it for a week before disassembly. At some point in the process, the hypothesis goes, the high-pressure carbon dioxide diffused into and/or dissolved (the precise term is debatable) the solid acrylic. Once pressure was relieved, it slowly (over the course of several hours) defused back out into the atmosphere, causing the crazing, bubbling, and swelling shown in Ben’s video. Like opening a bottle of really, really, really viscous soda pop. [Thanks, Ben!]


Chess Board Made from Chemistry Glassware

Andrew Goodin, a chemistry teacher at Soldan International Studies HS in St. Louis, MO, whipped up this chemistry themed chess board on the fly:

It is a picture of our chemistry themed chess board. We designed it after school today when we realized that many students in our technology club knew how to play chess, but no board was available and game websites were blocked.

They used flasks for pawns, rooks are the tops of pipettes, knights are crucibles, queens are beakers, bishops are 10ml volumetric flasks, and kings are graduated cylinders. Love it!


“Adalight” OSHW Dynamic Adaptive Display Backlighting

We’ve posted about Phillips’ Ambilight (Wikipedia) real-time multicolor display backlighting system, and various DIY versions thereof, before (see below). If you’re not familiar with the idea, watch a few seconds of the embedded video, as it’s hard to appreciate the effect from still images. If you believe the hype, this kind of dynamic backlighting improves viewing by making it more “immersive” and reducing “backlight bleed.” In any case, it’s certainly cool-looking.

Adafruit recently posted this excellent step-by PC Ambilight clone from talented builder and writer Phillip Burgess. Naturally, Ladyada would like to sell you the parts, but it’s all open source and the components—a strand of WS2801 individually-addressable RGB leds, an Arduino, a power adapter, a USB cable, white reflective sheet stock, tape, and a few other odds and ends—are widely available. Arduino sketches and Processing code are free, natch, at Github. [Thanks, PT!]



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