Is the Best Superhero Power the Tongue Lasso?

After dancing with Richard Simmons on the show “Who’s Line is It Anyway,” Wayne Brady quipped that he felt, “ten pounds lighter…and just a little dirty.” Dang, he makes me laugh. You know when he makes me laugh most? When they’re doing the superhero bit, that’s when. Here’s how it works: One actor leaves the room and the other actors are assigned super powers by the audience. A character gets toe jam that shields him from danger. Another can see through clothing. Another’s tongue can lasso any moving object.

You know, that kind of thing.

Read more

Computer Science Education Week Kickoff, Dec 8!

Design an app, program a robot, learn computer thinking outside the box and more at Computer Science Education Week in Boulder, CO, Monday, December 8 – Saturday the 13th! Best yet, swing by Boulder co-working and tech connection juggernaut Galvanize on Monday for a kickoff with Maker Boulder, co-sponsored by local startup 911 Labs Inc (which does development and operations for early startups). We’ll be running a radical computer scavenger hunt, all ages welcome.

“Computers are a part of everything these days. Not only in obvious places like laptops and phones, but in thermostats, traffic lights, and washing machines,” says Daniel Zacek, CEO of 911 Labs says. “Our display will show examples of how computer science is involved in everything from farming to flying, and include a scavenger hunt for computer science in and around Galvanize.”

You’re reading this on a computer. You depend on the computers in your car to transport you to places where you can buy food sources like kale and Slurpees. Computers are shaping the very folds of your grey matter in ways we’re just now starting to understand. Don’t you think it’d be kinda good to know just a little bit about how these computers work? Here’s your chance to get edumacated without the terribly painful process of actually studying.

“We are working together to inspire the next generation of coders, makers, and innovators to think about how computing is part of their lives today, and their future through a groundbreaking and town-wide week of programs,” says Galvanize.

Come on down to Computer Science Education Week events next week and have a good time! Full list of events at www.csed.co. (And while you’re at it, if you want to stay up to date with Maker-ish events and news in Boulder, please consider following us on Facebook!)

New Boulder Mini Maker Faire Poster!

Think back to your teenage bedroom. C’mon, admit it: you had a White Lion poster hanging next to that blowup of Kirk Cameron. Now as adult you know better. You have tasteful art hung on your walls, some of which you didn’t even buy at the Pottery Barn. But lurking just beneath your cultured veneer is that rowdy teen. Now is your chance to reconnect with your teenage self. Please feel free to print as many copies as you like of this truly White-Lion-awesome Maker Boulder poster and use them to plaster your current bedroom. If, for whatever reason, wallpapering your bedroom with robot posters isn’t politically feasible in your house, consider printing posters for use in your place of business or at other places of business that happen to have wall space not yet covered by advertisements for bands with pot references in their names.

Here without further ado or preamble is the new, super sweet Boulder Mini Maker Faire Poster:

Maker.Boulder.Poster

Roller Coaster Thought Experiment

You know those thoughts you have in the shower? No, not those thoughts…but the mind-wandering flashes of observation or brilliant insight that you can’t seem to get any other way? I was thinking last night about a trip we took last year to Knott’s Berry Farm, where Leif — then 48 1/4 inches tall — was just tall enough for the radical roller coasters. There were absolutely no lines and so Leif and I strolled through the gates and directly onto Ghostrider, where we seated ourselves in the last car of the train. With my continued assurances of a fairly mellow ride, we clicked toward the top of the first hill. And long before we crested, Leif and I were whipped over the top and down many hundreds of feet toward the cold, hard ground, pulled over by the gravity already working on the front seats. Now in hindsight and in the shower, I recognize a couple thoughts that went through my head at the time. Here they are in no particular order:

Read more

Calculating the Effort to Spend on Thanksgiving

A couple years ago today, I was baking muffins with my son’s preschool class and set fire to the school. Okay, technically I didn’t set it on fire—it was only butter smoke from the tin that set off the alarm, necessitating the entire school of a couple hundred kids filing out to the basketball courts while the fire department arrived en mass.

After that, my wife took over the Wednesday cooking class and it was never NEARLY so exciting. Besides, Leif was line leader that day, and he was really, very proud to lead the class evacuation. (I remember standing there with my large metal bowl and wooden spoon, smelling of smoke and trying to look innocent.)

Read more

Best. Animal Shadow Puppets. Ever.

Oh we think we’re so slick, sitting here in the present and looking back at the follies of the past. But the pace of innovation in which newness steamrolls oldness means that sometimes we lose things we really should have kept. Like astronaut ice cream. We really don’t eat nearly as much astronaut ice cream as we should. And what ever happened to the band INXS? Another great historical cultural achievement that seems lost or at least marginalized in the modern era is the art of hand shadow puppets. Today is the day we change this. Join Maker Boulder in bringing back the art of the shadow puppet. These should get you started:

Read more

Why You Need to Visit the New SparkFun Building in Niwot

I’m more science geek than technology geek, but lately I’ve been doing my best — learning how to solder and code by building SparkFun kits along with my kids (6 and 8), first the WeevilEye, then Herbie the little mouse kit and now into the world of Arduino. (My daughter, Kestrel, bounces off furniture and people and walls as if she were the cue ball of a billiards trick shot, but she’ll sit and solder for a straight hour.) What this means is that instead of looking at soldering kits from the perspective of an electrical engineer who, I’m sure, sees these kits as simple teaching tools, I’m completely flabbergasted along with my kids when Herbie hits a wall and his electrical whiskers make the mouse turn. Wow! When we reach the great moment of flipping the switch to “on,” my armpits sweat.

Read more

Calculate Best Bucket Size for Halloween Haul

Want a real Halloween nightmare? Imagine filling your child’s too-small bucket in the first three houses and going home with only a small slice of your kid’s potential rake. But if you allow your little monster (or in my case, blue whale with pink and purple barnacles), to carry a big bag, you should be prepared to spend the hours and hours (and hours) needed to fill it. Bad news: there are nightmares on both ends of the bag guesstimation spectrum.

So instead of playing the equivalent of Russian roulette with your child’s Halloween bag size, use the equation below to calculate—with the power of absolute mathematical certainty (wink, wink)—the bag size that’s best for you and yours.

•  T= Total time in hours you plan to spend trick-or-treating

•  A= Trick-or-treater’s age. If over 20 (or below zero…), shame on you. You’re stealing my kid’s goodies.

•  Hc= Hours spent on costume. If store-bought translate into hours at $20/hr.

•  Pd= Population density in trick-or-treat neighborhood. Enter 1 for “rural”, 2 for “open suburban”, 3 for “tight suburban”, or 4 for “Apt or dorm”

•  Ma= Estimated median age in neighborhood. For comparison, median age in the Gaza Strip is about 15 and in Japan about 41.

•  X= Your child’s ineffable, illogical, but very real lust for candy. Enter 1-10 with 10 being “has strategized since last Halloween”

Interpretation Key:

If Bckt is less than 1, your pockets are more than enough

If 1<7, use small-size, plastic jack-’o-lantern bucket

If 7<Bckt<15, use the standard trick-or-treating bucket

If 15<Bckt<25, use a grocery bag

If 25<Bckt, use a trash bag


Want to stay up-to-date with interesting Maker articles and news? Please consider subscribing (at bottom) or joining us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+!

DIY Bionic Rock Climbing Hand (c.o. MIT’s Hugh Herr)

Here in Boulder, we actually know who Hugh Herr is: the climber who lost his legs to frostbite on Mt. Washington, designed his own climbing prostheses, and used bionic feet to send the world’s hardest thin cracks. Herr now runs a biomechatronics group at MIT’s famed Media Lab. I talked with Herr for a book I wrote and, in addition to working on balance mechanics for “real” prostheses, Herr was deep into the creation of what he called a “spider suit” — basically, the elastic-like suit holds your arms and fingers in the flexed position, augmenting your pulling strength. With elastic help, climbers will appreciate the extra pep in their pull. Or…they would if the thing actually existed commercially. Until then, I offer this (moderately harebrained) prototype, which my kids and I actually product tested one afternoon up at Flag.

Read more

Researchers Say Stochastisaurus Has “High Probability” of Being New Species

Paleontologists recently unearthed bones, likely in Montana or Wyoming, of a new dinosaur species dubbed Stochastisaurus. “Based on surrounding species and the fossils themselves, there’s an approximately 88 percent chance that Stochastisaurus was an herbivore,” says the lead researcher. The new species of dinosaur more likely than not had something interesting about its head, perhaps heavy bone plating like Pachycephalosaurus, a frill like Styracosaurus, a crest like Corythosaurus, or a hollow series of tubes like Parasaurolophus. This interesting head feature is almost exactly equally likely to have been used for defense, reproductive competition, or as an instrument of communication with other Stochastisauri.

Read more