In MAKE Volume 29 we published the Better Nerf Gun project by Simon Jansen. It’s a lovingly hand-crafted Nerf dart gun made from machined metal, PVC pipe, and wood — the kind of foam dart weapon that you might will to your grandchildren as an heirloom.
While the characteristics of Nerf darts and PVC were being explored for the project’s test-build at Make: Labs, engineering intern Dan Spangler came up with simpler and more powerful (if perhaps less elegant) Nerf dart propulsion device: a 1/2″ ID PVC pipe barrel stuck into a capped 2″ PVC pipe chamber, with a flint igniter from a propane lantern installed in the cap on the back.
Warning: Potentially Dangerous Pyro Ahead. To operate the mini dart cannon, one loads a dart into the detached barrel and fills the chamber with fuel from a BernzOmatic mini torch (with trigger pulled halfway to dispense the fuel without clicking the igniter). Then the barrel is fit onto the adapter fitting on the front chamber, and the lantern igniter knob is turned to fire.
One foam dart fired across spacious Labs hit a whiteboard hard enough to create a sizable dent.
Our master craftswoman Corinne Leigh put together this video tutorial on making paper masks. She used the work of Phillip Valdez and Flurry & Salk as inspiration and then produced this nifty bird mask. You can, of course, use these same techniques to create any type of lightweight, paper mask you desire. And as you can see, you can get quite elaborate with the design. Perfect for your next costume party, nerd con, or cosplay.
This video was sponsored by Elmer’s products.
I’m here at TED2012 in Long Beach, CA! I interviewed Ayah Bdeir, the founder and lead engineer of littleBits, an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping and play. littleBits won Popular Science’s “Best of Toy Fair 2012″ and Ayah was named a TED Fellow this year.
Gregory Gage of Backyard Brains also showed me how to measure the electrical activity of a neuron in a cockroach leg. At around the 12:00 minute mark, Gregory pumps the electrical signal from music on his iPhone into the cockroach’s leg, causing it to twitch in time with the beat. (The cockroach’s leg will grow back.)
Here’s a short interview with Bre Pettis, co-founder of MakerBot Industries. He shares news about the new Replicator 3D printer, and the printing of an old school mechanical clock with an escapement mechanism. (I called it a “catchment mechanism” in the video — oops.”)
[Cross-posted from BoingBoing]
Matt Cottam wrote in to let us know about a huge development. Now you can use Android Open Accessory boards like the Arduino Mega ADK without needing to develop directly in the Android SDK: you can write your Android code using Processing for Android:
Interesting, unusual concept from artist Kit Webster, who has covered the surface of a flat panel display with a grid of square pyramidal prisms of various sizes. The image displayed on the underlying screen is designed to interact optically with the prisms, bringing patterns of light and color up out of the screen into the third dimension. This seems like a pretty rich technique for experimentation. I don’t recall having seen it before, and between the number, size, shape, and arrangement of the prisms, and the huge number of ways the screen image could be designed to interact with them, the possibilities are quite vast. [via Boing Boing]
The Diyode hackerspace in Guelph, ON, has a neat twist on the Arduino scene. Rather than teach people the basics by giving them a bare board, they have created a prototyping shield, the Diyode CodeShield, which allows them to learn software first:
Inputs include a switch, button, pot, rotary encoder, thermistor, photocell, and hall effect sensor. Outputs are a piezo buzzer, servo, RGB LED, Yellow LED, and a relay with screw terminals.
It sounds like Diyode is thinking about selling the boards and/or kits.
At an RCA event Oscar Lhermitte had the idea to mount a camera to an electric drill and record the outcome, dubbed “Seeing in Circles.” With the camera recording at 15 fps and the drill spinning 20 times per second, the resulting image turns whatever the camera is pointed at into a swirling kaleidoscopic video. Lhermitte explains:
Sometimes the simplest hacks can yield surprising results.
Let’s jump in, but first, a quick tour of Boy Scout and Girl Scout past.
Boy Scout Past
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
In 2011: 2,723,869 youth members, 1,047,038 adult members and 111,668 units (source: scouting.org media kit). It’s also a pretty big business (501(c)(3) non-profit organization) with over $133 million in income (2008). This is not only impressive in terms of kids and resources, but historically, to be called a Boy Scout has always meant: honestly and “scout’s honor.”
Boy Scout Present
In recent times, the Boy Scouts, like any organization, has gone though challenges. Here’s a recent article from Geekdad “After 100 Years, Are The Boy Scouts Still Relevant?“. From 1998 to 2008 there are membership declines of up to -26%. With 2.7 million members now, the Boy Scouts has about half of its peak in 1972. The Geekdad article asks important questions and is filled with firsthand stories about being a scout and what it can do for a kid.
It’s hard to speculate exactly why numbers are declining (there are forums dedicated to this), but the easy guess is that parents are busy and the world of technology is often very hard to compete with. The parents (and 20-somethings) I’ve talked to researching this article all said that when both parents work and school is all about test taking, it’s hard to imagine doing more. Families are more mobile now, so being part of a troop for years can be fragmented. They also said, “It’s hard to find a kid that wants to go camping instead of playing video games.” But video games are now built around earning points, showing off status on a leaderboard, getting and unlocking achievements, just like earning a Merit Badge. And that brings me to badging.
Merit badges go hand-in-hand with scouting (Boy and Girl Scouts). What a great way to show and share something a kid has learned, and therefore earned. Earn enough and you’ve got a sash filled with skills.
There were 57 original badges in 1911. As of September 2011, there are over 127. Merit badges are seemingly endless for the Boy Scouts. Geocaching, Inventing, and Chess are recent editions, and in April of 2011, the Boy Scouts introduced the Robotics badge. Now we’re talking; however, the first thing my partner Limor asked me was, “Why doesn’t the Girl Scouts have a robotics badge, too?”.
The Girl Scouts
And that brings us to the Girl Scouts. Starting one year after the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts also have been around for 100 years, and in fact, on March 12, 2012, it will be exactly 100 years. President Barack Obama signed the “Girl Scouts of the USA Commemorative Coin Act” for the 100th anniversary celebration, there will be a new cookie, a “Girl Scouts Rock the Mall: 100th Anniversary Sing-Along,” and events all over the USA. It’s going to be a big month this month for the Girl Scouts. How did it all get started?
As of 2010, the Girl Scouts have over 2,303,388 youth members and 878,904 adults (you can read their annual report here). Also a non-profit charity, the Girl Scouts is a successful “business” too. For 2010 their total income was $81.5 million.
Their mantra: “to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”
The Girl Scouts also have their own challenges: membership fell by 250,000 in just five years. Depending who you ask, The Girl Scouts are generally considered more progressive than the Boy Scouts — they have a “don’t ask, don’t evangelize” policy on sexuality, and the word “God” is optional in The Promise.
Most of all, the Girl Scouts are usually associated with their yearly cookie sales. We all love these cookie, so much that it seems to have brought the dough: in the 2010 program year, three million girls sold 198 million boxes for a record $714 million in cookie revenue. I always wondered how it worked — it’s a pretty straightforward trademark licensing deal.
That’s not all. Pictured above are some other recent merchandising efforts. There are even Girl Scout cookie pop-up stores coming.
In the annual report, it says the following:
The Girl Scouts also have their own merit badges (Boston.com article and Neatorama) and recently added some financial-themed badges, like Good Credit and Savvy Shopper, to some techy ones, like Website Designer and Inventor. After they announced these badges in October of 2011, I spotted this interesting quote.
Now we’re talking! So I think I’ve been able to show some of the past and present of these two groups — now it’s time to talk about the future. Or least some possible futures. This is where I think the maker movement, the technology world, and these organizations all intersect.
The Future? Scouts 2.0
In 2009, Ladyada and I thought it would be cool to reward anyone with a soldering badge. We didn’t see any merit badge for soldering so we designed our own. The plan was to create a few dozen maker-skill badges that did not exist. As the maker movement has taken off, I’ve talked with lots of parents and educators who are coming up with their own curriculum because nothing exists for many of the new maker skills. MAKE has a Learn to Solder skill badge, too. They want to have achievements and make it fun, but it’s a challenge. Competing with the internet is always hard too.
The world is changing rapidly, kids are growing up fast, and often both parents are working. The trend of humankind is to live in big cities and for all of us to be connected with various devices at all times. Kids are playing network-connected games and unlocking achievements or “checking in,” but is there a way to also include skill building in all of this? I think so.
This is where the future of the Scouts comes in (Scouts 2.0 is a fun way to think of it): the merit badge systems they have in place are perfect ways to teach, share, and celebrate skills. However, the badges seem to be lagging behind the times. While the Boy Scouts finally has a Robotics badge, how long will it take for the Girl Scouts to have one? What about a bio-hacking badge, a 3D printing badge, a laser cutter badge? These are all skills for the 21st century that millions of girls and boys should be learning.
The badges should not just be physical ones you sew on, or can only earn by taking a camping trip — they should be digital as well and flow from social profile to social profile. Like it or not, we’re all going to have a social networking profile in some way. If you’re an adult, maybe you’ve barely escaped it, but the kids today? It’s the default. So, I’ve come up with a list of ideas for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (and any other group that does badges). It’s a work in progress and I’ll revisit this later with more ideas, which are actually predictions, and some, I’m trying to help make happen. I’m mostly focusing on the badging and online thought experiments, but this is all about your ideas too!
It’s an easy guess, but if I had to place a bet on the future and what organization will do this, I would say the Girl Scouts have the best chance of really adopting most of these. So instead of just putting ideas out there, I’m going to offer up the badges you saw above that I worked on at Adafruit with Limor, our designer Bruce, and our team. If the Girl Scouts want to use the badges we’ve designed to modern-up their merit badge offerings, we’ll work with them to make it happen. I really don’t know what’s possible, but I’d love to see kids earn 3D printing badges. These are just some of the ones we made — there are other ones we asked permission to use.
There are many many efforts going on with badges, from FourSquare to the Mozilla Foundation. I’d like to see organizations like 4-H also consider these ideas and possibilities. 4-H IS the new generation of bio-hackers! When you add up the number of kids in 4-H, FIRST, Boy/Girl Scouts, and the kids who come to Maker Faires, we really have a chance for all of them to interact in amazing ways using the internet. And maybe, just maybe, we can make earning skills as popular (and fun) as being on a video game leaderboard. Or who knows, maybe this can be the start of a completely independent Scout effort, “Hacker Scouts” — one that is born in the 21st century and starts from scratch.
Now it’s your turn — post up in the comments real, actionable ideas for these groups to consider. Don’t talk about what’s wrong with these groups, stick to what’s right and offer up new ideas using all the great tech we have to bring together skill learning and kids.
Are you interested in learning more about Arduino but don’t know where to begin? Check out the Getting Started with Arduino Kit available in the Maker Shed! This popular kit includes everything you need to form a solid foundation with the Arduino microcontroller. The components in the kit match perfectly with Massimo Banzi’s latest Getting Started with Arduino, 2nd Edition book (not included, but discounted when purchased with the kit) or with the tutorials available online. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!
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