Fix an Umbrella With Piercing Barbells

Mike Daughtrey fixed his umbrella by replacing the el cheapo rivets with stainless steel barbells he bought off Ebay. Very clever!

We’ve all seen this before – the ‘broken spoke’ which seems to me to be the most common failure of the contemporary umbrella, from the $4 street corner specials to the $20 upmarket models with the ‘lifetime guarantee’, which I assume means the lifetime of the average housefly.

This is particularly aggravating to me because although the metal can be recycled the lifetime of an umbrella is incredibly short considering how often it is actually used. In my case my umbrella had not even been in the wind; it’s just so poorly made that part of it broke.

Why Educators Want to Attend Maker Faire 2012

Savannah and Sara

Savannah and her mentor Sara Bolduc exhibit Savannah’s “Lightastic” project in the Young Makers area at Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.

Maker Faire Bay Area is just about here, taking place next weekend, May 19 and 20 at the San Mateo County Event Center. This year, more than ever, Maker Faire will provide more resources and inspiration for teachers and other educators–everything from a special Educators’ Meetup on the Thursday before Maker Faire, to a DIY Learning: The New School pavilion, from our K-12 Education Day field trips to educational discounts. This year, as in the past, we’ve offered free teacher tickets to come experience one day of Maker Faire to the first 500 classroom teachers who request them. We actually have a handful of these left, available to those who join our community of educators before the end of the day today (and if you sign up after we’ve given them all away, you’ll be among the first to know for next year’s event!)

Educators, get all the information you need about all the Education events on the Maker Faire educational outreach page.

And for insight and inspiration, check out what a group of teachers answered when we asked them to “Tell us more about yourself and your students!” including things they love about making, Makers, or Maker Faire, etc.

    • Maker Faire projects are one of the most powerful experiences I have seen my students have. The fact that the project vision and creation are completely student-driven makes buy-in (and frustration levels!) run high, but creates an experience students truly learn from. – Aaron V., a high school Computer Science, Engineering, and Science teacher in Oakland
    • Right now students have an inquiry-based science curriculum but do not make things in the classroom. I would like to learn about project-based topics where students without many resources would be able to make things, and see why science is applicable and useful to their everyday lives. The school has a robotics group but many students do not have the chance to participate in it; I’d like to learn about what I could do with them in my class. – a high school Science teacher in Seattle
    • Technology is starting to become an important part of our instructional day as our district moves forward. I want to integrate technology and art into my curriculum more and love that Maker Faire offers the opportunity for inspiration. – Breanne R., a elementary Art and Math teacher in San Jose
    • I was inspired years ago by attending the Maker Faire to try BlinkyBots and a few other kits. I added soldering to my Physics curriculum. This empowers students (especially females) who light up when they see a kit they soldered come to life! The current focus in my mind is to incorporate green living into student projects. I have many students from a farming background that are interested in renewable energy. I would like to learn about solar energy and biodiesel. Next week, I am starting a recycling computer parts into art and other projects. The Maker Faire gives me the inspirational fire and connections to do what I want with students! – Brian S., a high school Computer Science, Math, and Science teacher in Ceres
    • I’ve definitely got both a tech side and a creative side, and making seems to be a perfect intersection of those interests. After attending Maker Faire last year, I was really inspired to try out a number of things on my own time, even getting an Arduino set and learning how to program again. – Cliff C., a high school Math teacher in Oakland


  • I am very committed to cultivating a ‘Maker’ mentality in our classroom – but need ideas/support because this does not currently exist at the school. — an elementary school teacher in Petaluma
  • My students are primarily English Language Learners and come from low-income, immigrant families. Many times their families do not know the opportunities that exist for their children outside of the school. As a result, my students would not be able to “make” and design unless it was presented to them in school. – Elisabeth A., a 3rd Grade Math, Science teacher in San Jose
  • Really interested in the wonderful potential for the Maker movement and how it could fit into some of the changes which will eventually happen in science standards for K-12 settings. Engineering will be a greater component and these programs are important to rediscover enthusiasm for science. – Frank K., a college Engineering, Science administrator in Santa Barbara
  • I enjoy learning new things and being able to provide exciting hands-on experiences for my students. The students appear to enjoy working on the computer and building with blocks. I would like to attend  Maker Faire to get more ideas to help enhance the curriculum and provide an avenue for the students to explore, experiment, and create. – Grace W., a Kindergarten teacher in Union City
  • I don’t get to make with our students enough! My school is currently going through a large strategic planning phase, and STEAM skills and creative focus are big. Maker Faire is a terrific opportunity to see how other makers and schools implement making into a day-to-day school setting. Our students are hungry for this kind of real-world, project-based learning. – Jason S., a elementary technology coordinator in San Francisco
  • My husband and I visited the Maker Faire a few years ago, and we were blown away by the creativity, ingenuity, and spirit of innovation. I would love to attend this year and get ideas for how to make my English Language Arts classes more creative and hands-on. – Jennifer H., a high school English Language Arts teacher in Menlo Park
  • I’m hoping to bring back what I learn and see to use to help inspire the many special needs students that I work with everyday. – Jennifer C., a elementary Special Education teacher in Simi Valley
  • I am a teacher in the East Side district in San Jose. I teach chemistry and a science research class. The research class is one in which students work on long term projects of their own design. This year, some of the projects included a novel type of xray machine, quantum dot based solar cell, ion channel platform, a unique advanced battery, and low temperature superconductors. Maker Faire always provides inspiration for me for next year’s projects. – John A., a high school Science teacher in CA
  • I teach First Grade, and it’s hard to fit creative activities into the daily curriculum. I found that Maker Faire was a very good resource for finding projects that I could tie into the curriculum. I was particularly happy to find and to share that resource with my fellow teachers. – Katherine T., a 1st Grade teacher in Fremont
  • Students love to make things, and I love to make things with them! – Katie L., a high school World History teacher in San Francisco
  • I attended Maker Faire last year, and was inspired to create more art and facilitate creative expression in my students. – Kerri F., a Kindergarten teacher in Mountain View
  • I’m looking to integrate “make” in the classroom (not just mine but others) and to see the curiosity of the make community spread to my kids. – Marco C., a high school English teacher in San Francisco
  • I love going to Maker Faire and seeing all of the amazing inventions and how the many kids/teens are clearly inspired by what they are seeing. I saw a display with knitted DNA strands and went home and made my own for my classroom! — Maria F., a middle school Science, dance teacher in Oakland
  • My class and school population reflects the culturally diverse area in which we live. We have a high percentage of English Learners. The students in my class are bright, curious, and LOVE anything “hands-on”. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the scheduling flexibility to work with our hands, unless we can show it is directly tied to state standards. That’s what I want to find out!! I have so many students that I KNOW would benefit from a chance to learn by doing and making…. I would love to guide my students towards an appreciation of DIY and making and all the ways it can benefit them, their school and their communities. – Marilyn E., a 4th Grade teacher in Union City
  • My school is classified as “alternative,” which means we must meet state standards BUT we can get there in ways that don’t necessarily match the district curriculum. I love teaching project based units that span a whole semester. I love open ended projects where student outcomes are unknown at the beginning. I am strongly drawn to “making,” but need some more examples and ideas to spark my creative process. My kids are open minded and love to tinker already. – Michelle Y., a 2nd and 3rd Grade teacher in Palo Alto
  • In addition to being a teacher, I am a maker. We also make a point of being environmentally conscious at my school, and this goes hand-in-hand with repurposing materials creatively. A couple of years ago when I first attended Maker Faire, I ran into FabMo, and I’ve been visiting their fabric give-aways and making crafts out of repurposed materials ever since. I am currently planning on teaching an arts and crafts elective at my school with the focus on creatively repurposing discarded materials. I’m looking forward to the next Maker Faire, as it is always filled with inspiring and creative ideas for makers and teachers. – Monica D., a middle school Computer Science, English Language Arts teacher in Belmont
  • In the past, I’ve done a lot of food science “making” with students – baking bread from sourdough starter, roasting coffee beans, fermenting sauerkraut or root beer, making jam or butter, making cheese from scratch, etc. Usually these project come from projects I am tinkering with at home that I can find a curricular connection to. … I love the engagement students display when they have the opportunity to create something as part of science, and I feel like the invitation to make is an effective way to draw students into science (“understand this, and expand your creative powers!”). In past years, I have found the Maker Faire to be a great source of inspiration for both my own projects and projects I bring into the classroom. – Monica S., a high school Science teacher in Berkeley
  • Our school is a low-income grade school in Daly City we have a large population of second language learners. Because of cuts in funding we have no choice but to use previously loved materials to create gifts and projects for classroom assignments. Most are done within the classroom as individuals, however occasionally we have a group project. I love Maker Faire because I see so many creative ideas and possibilities to share with my students. – Nathalie J., a 5th Grade teacher in San Mateo
  • I love Maker Faire because I have free choice to choose my projects which means I look forward to being inspired AND actually use what I see and learn. – Patricia C., a elementary Art teacher in San Francisco
  • I have taken good ideas home from Maker Faire in recent years, and also love to see all the things women are doing. That inspires me and then, during my enthusiastic sharing, my students. Attendance at Maker Faire is an extra credit activity available to my students. – Patricia A., a middle school Math, Science teacher in Morgan Hill
  • Right now my focus with “making” has been on creating a community of writers who value their own personal writing, share, and continually innovate their language. In a non-traditional sense, treating writing as a valuable product is making in itself. I love making, and in future years I really want to learn how to bring in more making! I … want to learn more about integrating design, empathy-building, and making into my future middle school classroom so that I encourage students to develop creativity and wonder. – Rei J., a middle school History and English teacher in Stanford
  • Seeing what you are doing for kids seriously brought tears to my eyes–probably because I was thinking of all of our kids who fail or barely pass science class yet show me pictures of the things they’ve made and ask me questions way beyond what we’re talking about in class. I need a way to keep them going in the right direction and get them motivated to work for good grades to get them into college, and I think a Makers Club is the way to do it. – RJ H., a high school Science teacher in Ventura
  • I like to encourage my students to work on their own projects. Attending Maker Faire allows me to see what ideas are out there and how I can incorporate those ideas in my classroom in order to stimulate the mind of my students. – Shahram M., a high school Science teacher in San Francisco
  • I often use concepts and ideas from Maker Faire to get across ideas. For instance, we talk about creative, practical and analytical thinking in one segment of class. Maker Faire has allowed me to show experiments (like molecular gastronomy) and give demonstrations (basic cheese making) that emphasize each and every one of these, which helps bring the point home to my students. As you can see, it also reinforces my love of cooking, so it’s a win-win for us all! – Shavon W., a college English professor in Newark
  • I am completely committed to the Maker philosophy, and have been teaching classes in this vein long before Maker Faire started. I have already begun telling all my students about the upcoming Faire in San Mateo, and hope that many will attend to taste the flavor and excitement of creating/re-purposing their very own projects and making them their own. Students [in my classes] are often so energized that they take their projects home, and often end up collaborating on their own time with other students outside of class. My hope is that these kids end up “makers for life”. – Shelly L., a teacher in La Selva Beach
  • Personally, I love making stuff. I am a craft fanatic, when I find the time to do it….I want to bring these ideas of making from my personal life into my classroom, and am looking for a community to help me integrate it with my given curriculum. – Shira H., a high school Math teacher in Mountain View
  • I have gone to Maker Faire for the last three years and it has inspired me to make/create more things in the classroom. As a class, we have made various science and arts & crafts things that I’ve learned about through the Maker Faire. I choose things that related to grade level standards and at the end of the year we just do fun activities just because the students like them and can be creative. We’ve made felt bracelets, lotus memory books, tie-dye cloth, scrap art and etc… I’ve also learned about many different organizations and companies that I would never have heard of it wasn’t for Maker Faire. Maker Faire has also inspired me personally. – Son-Hui W., a 3rd Grade teacher in South San Francisco
  • In math, we often read about real world examples, but I’d like to explore ways to have students create models of these examples to really see the mathematical concepts. I find that with the technology we have, sometimes, I shy away from building things with real objects because Google Sketchup or Geogebra can mock it up pretty nicely. I love Maker Faire because it connects me to people truly more creative than I am. While I am good at making connections and making some things (knit/crochet items, origami), creativity doesn’t come naturally to me. I came away inspired last year and have no doubt that this year will be the same! – Sue-Ting C., an elementary Math, Music, Mandarin teacher in Los Altos
  • I started something a few years ago called Exploration Days where the kids create their own projects based on whatever field of study they prefer and then find the CA content standards to match their project. I’ve got: sculptors, movie makers, musicians, textile artists, builders, scientists, artists, etc. The point of the exploration is to find something that they are curious about and explore it through a medium that equally fascinates them. It’s what school should be but often isn’t.” – Susan S., a 6th Grade teacher in San Jose
  • Even though I’m an English language arts teacher, I am personally interested in science and technology–as I know a lot of my students are as well. The creative process across disciplines is in many cases similar, and I strive to point this out to my future engineers and programmers in creative writing. Cross-curriculum projects will be a part of our future curriculum, and I can’t imagine a better place to go to get inspired about a science and technology cross-over project for my English class. — Suzanne E., a high school English Language Arts teacher in San Francisco
  • I love that Maker Faire feels like Disneyland for the inventor’s mind. It is very eye-opening for teachers and students especially because we have the tools or at least the platform from which to create and innovate! — Tamar S., a high school Science and advisory teacher in Oakland
  • I will finish my credential to teach middle school science next year. I’m still developing my own set of projects and activities to use in lessons, but I believe in doing as much hands-on as possible. One reason I’m really excited about Maker Faire is that it will give me more ideas and resources for implementing project based learning in the classroom. — Tegan L., a middle school Science teacher in San Jose
  • I wish I had more time to make things with the kids at school, but it seldom seems to happen. I think the kids would benefit from more hands-on, creative projects. I always leave the Maker Faire really inspired to try new things both at school and in my personal life, usually in arts and crafts. I have picked up small project ideas that fit in with my curriculum at the Faire. (At home, my son’s last birthday party was a Minecraft / Maker theme and they just used all kinds of junk to build things.) – a 3rd Grade teacher in Walnut Creek
  • Of course, my art students are “making” many wonderful art pieces, but I think what they are “making” the most of is a brain that can problem solve and “making” their eyes see the world in a different way. They are building connections to the basic principles of making things and how it correlates to their lives. – Yolanda G., a high school Art teacher in San Jose


Reclaimed Plastic Number 5 Fender

In the neighborhood where maker Clayton McIntire lives, number 5 plastics are more difficult to recycle than other plastics. Not wanting to throw away a food jar in the garbage, as well as realizing the hexagon shape had a useful geometry, and in need of a way to keep puddle-splashes off his back, he combined all of those concerns into one and built this rear fender for his bicycle. Riveted together the fender appears to be made of scales, giving the fender an elegant shape, curving over the back wheel. And holding the fender to the bicycle’s rear dropout is a salvaged coat hanger – all clever methods to re-purpose would-be landfill items.

Do you reclaim materials? Upcycle components into your projects? Submit your idea to the Project Remake Contestdeadline is TODAY, 11:59PM EST. Your project could win you one of FIVE MakerBot Replicators up for grabs. And one of those 5 winners will win an expenses-paid trip to NYC in September to exhibit their project at World Maker Faire!

Calling all remakers, upcyclers, found object artists, and refuse miracle makers! Win a MakerBot Replicator and a trip to World Maker Faire in NYC! Submit your idea to Project Remake, presented by Schick.

Math Monday: Live-In Polyhedra

By Glen Whitney for the Museum of Mathematics


Continuing last Math Monday’s theme of building polyhedra, let’s turn to the opposite end of the spectrum from paper models: polyhedra so large and substantial that people can live in them. Here are a couple of striking examples of habitable polyhedral architecture. The first is the Reflection of Mineral house in Nakano-ku, Tokyo:

The unusual form of this house stems from a desire to maximize the usable living space in a building on a small irregular lot on the corner of two streets. That goal was subject to Japanese construction codes which limit the height and roof angles of buildings to ensure sunlight can reach both the neighboring streets, and the property immediately to the north. In the interior image (more of which can be found here) and floor plans below, you can see the beautiful and creative solutions the architects reached in order to conform to the irregular polyhedral space left by the planar constraints imposed by the codes.

The second example is the Habitable Polyhedron by Colombian architect Manuel Villa:

This backyard guesthouse is actually a segment of a truncated cuboctahedron, which can be more easily seen in some of the interior and exterior views gathered here. Coming full circle from last week, you can actually build a paper model of the Habitable Polyhedron using the unfolded version, or net, supplied by the architect:

A nice project might be to create a similar net for the Reflection of Mineral house in Japan, using publicly available information on that building such as the images and floor plans included and linked above.

See all of our Math Monday columns

3D Printer Trading Cards (from the Future!): Printrbot

Printrbot trading card

Twenty years from now, I found a box of old 3D Printer Trading Cards. It turns out 2012 was a great year for 3D printers, driven by an explosion of innovation from individual maker businesses and people sharing their designs, successes, and failures. A lot of these folks are going to be at this weekend’s Bay Area Maker Faire, including the subject of today’s trading card: Printrbot.

If you make 3D Printers (or know someone) who plans to attend, feel free to drop me a line at

Your Comments


And we’re back with our twenty-seventh installment of Your Comments. Here are our favorites from the past week, from Make: Online, our Facebook page, and Twitter.

In response to the new Maker Mom Facebook Page, Omar E Ferrer reminisces:

I know I’m supposed to say here, what I did for my mom, but I rather share what she did for me. When I was a kid (like a geological era ago), my mom knew I was into astronomy, so, during a vacation, using cardboard and other materials, she made me a replica of a moon landscape, and set up some cheap bubble gum containers to appear like flying saucers using cocktail sticks as cannons, I’m sorry I don’t have a picture (as I said, a geological era ago), but it was one of the coolest thing ever any mom could have made for her kid!

When seeing the R2D2 rain barrel, bastien notes:

Shouldn’t they have made a C-3PO rain barrel? After all, his first job was programming binary loadlifters, which are very similar to moisture evaporators, in most respects.

In response to Upcycled Game Controller Wallets, Mary reminisces:

i think you may be a little harsh on creativity and artistry. Well, for me, I AM amazed that someone can turn turn things into a step back into time using things that are fun and nostalgic. As the saying goes…”beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and may I add, love the nostalgia. Thanks for the fun memories

The article Ristow’s “Face Forward” Robotic Sculpture has a funny remark by Anton Christopher McInerney in the comments section:

I see this country is in no danger of losing face anytime soon!

With news that Heathkit has closed up shop (again) Chris Wittington remembers:

That is too bad. In the 70′s I built a Heathkit 25 inch color TV, oscilloscope, and nixie tube multimeter as part of a correspondence course for the grand total of $140.00. And they all still work.
Thanks, GI Bill!

In a post on Knocking Down Pallets we unexpectedly found a pallet maven in user thebes42:

Having built a cabin 50% of recycled lumber from pallets-

You can take apart pallets with a large pry or crow bar just fine.
If you’re messing with large oak pallets or something exotic like that you might have trouble with just a large crow bar and need to give it some persuasion with a 5lb sledge, but you won’t ruin everything, probably won’t ruin more than a trivial amount of wood given that its had for fuel costs…

Pallets are great, some of them have oak 3x4s in the center. If you check at 20 or 30 industrial sites you might find oak studs that are long enough for a residential wall- our whole cabin is studded with these. Our friend who helped once recovered cocobolo 6×6′s from oversized imported pallets of some kind, but that was his best score over several years or scrapping pallets.

Like these comments? Be sure to sound off in the comments! You could be in next week’s column.

Love Letter to Plywood, by Tom Sachs

[Video Link] Sculptor Tom Sachs made this wonderful seven-and-a-half minute film about his loved for the wondrous properties of plywood. This makes me want to run out, by a sheet, and start making stuff out of it, like this chair I saw in a photo of a house designed by architect John Lautner in 1947.

New in the Maker Shed: RedPark TTL iOS Cable Breakout Pack

RedPark just announced a new version of their iOS cable and it’s available right now in the Maker Shed! This revised cable allows you to hook your iDevice up to an Arduino with no soldering or jailbreaking required. The new cable works just as the RS-232 terminated version except RedPark has make a few internal changes so that it communicates over TTL serial (the same serial protocol used by an Arduino.) Eliminating the need for a TTL adapter means it’s never been easier to connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to an external microcontroller for enhanced sensing and communication!

The new RedPark TTL cable is available by itself or in a handy breakout pack that includes our deluxe jumper wires and Mintronics: Survival Pack Guts (no tin.) This way you have everything you need to hook the cable up to an Arduino and have plenty of components to experiment with. Just add an Arduino, a copy of Alasdair Allen’s “iOS Sensor Apps with Arduino,” and you’ll be up and running in no time! Also, we’ll have them in stock at Maker Faire!


  • Does not require soldering!
  • Enables development of iOS apps for private use in homes, schools and offices
  • Connects iOS devices to microcontrollers and sensors!
  • Designed for use with iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (fourth generation), iPad 2 and iPad.
  • Used in conjunction with the Redpark Serial Cable SDK and sample code. Together these tools enable you to write iOS apps that communicate with serial devices.
  • Requires iOS 4.3.x or later.
  • Includes Mintronics: Survival Pack Guts
  • Includes Deluxe Jumper Wires


Low Power RGB Night Light

Michael of n0m1 Design built this Arduino-controlled night light as a Mother’s Day gift.

A few years back I made a motion sensitive night light as a Mother’s day gift and while it worked pretty well it really chewed out the batteries. And as with all devices that eat batteries it eventually fell out of use. The standby current was around 4 mA due to the common LM324 opamp that was used to amplify the PIR motion sensor signal. The original enclosure was CNC milled from a bit of re-purposed apple which had a former life as a guitar body I built as a child.

Code and schematics on the project page.

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