Anyone visiting our home will stumble upon numerous unique creations designed by our three boys: bats with five-foot wingspans made of paper and masking tape, daggers whittled from sticks, bug zoos designed with wine corks and popsicle sticks, night vision goggles consisting of toilet paper tubes and duct tape, snake traps constructed from cardboard and string, and a two-pronged lice comb that my oldest son made for his kindergarten teacher out of wooden skewers and Scotch tape.
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.
Picture it: there you are, trapped in the middle of Chicago-O’Hare on a four-hour layover, alone but for your two cranky and travel-weary kids. Somehow your phone is bricked, your laptop charger is fried, the TV’s are all playing infomercials, and the hand-held games are in the checked luggage. (Also imagine the airport’s out of both Benadryl and whisky—shame on you for thinking it! Bad parent.)
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. How will you survive?
Your only hope is to go boy scout versus doomsday survivalist on it.. Remember: you’re resourceful, resilient, always prepared, etc., etc.. You’d turn the Alaskan wilderness into a backyard barbecue with naught but a hatchet and a tarp. So too with Chicago-O’Hare. Your hatchet is a pencil (you know, the pointy thing that leaves a trail of graphite when scratched against a light-colored surface of certain friction), and your tarp is paper.
Here are six options for using said paper and pencil to merrily kill nearly infinite time. (Your first puzzle is trying to determine where one column’s caption stops and the next starts.)
Cardboard: the ultimate material. This is the voyage of the Boulder Cardboard Challenge. Its four-hour mission: to explore strange new creations, to seek out new experiences and creative challenges, to go boldly where no maker has gone before.
“Cardboard is great: you use your brain for designing and your hands for making,” says Mary Anne Zacek, co-founder of MakerBoulder.com. Inspired by the video Caine’s Arcade (above) and a satellite of the Imagination Foundation’s Global Cardboard Challenge, the Boulder Cardboard Challenge will go off October 11, 10:00am-2:00pm at Horizons K-8. Sign up as a team or as a lone-wolf cardboard cow-person (used as the gender-neutral term for “cowboy”). There will be creative challenges. There will be prizes awarded in what the registration page promises are “exciting categories!” The event is free for the first infinity participants to register HERE.
So get right on it.
“Cardboard is such an easy way to get kids being creative and designing whatever they want to design. They’ll be able to make arcade games or outfits for box trolls or mazes for Spheros or…whatever we can imagine!” Zacek says.
MakerBoulder has been collecting a truly awesome amount of cardboard but more is even awesomer so please consider BYOC; tape and scissors also appreciated. There will be pizza and too-healthy Boulder-ish juice drinks for sale and you are welcome to bring your own snacks as well.
Oh, and if you’re not among the 4,441,607 people who have viewed the Caine’s Arcade video on YouTube, you should really give it a click. You will cry. Plan accordingly.
“Really, it’s going to be a super fun morning of Creative Play!” Zacek says. Be like Mary Anne.
Come on down to the Boulder Cardboard Challenge and have yourself a good time.
What’s that you say? A Mini Maker Faire in Boulder? Shut your mouth! No really, it’s true: MakerBoulder and Make Magazine are excited to bring the Boulder Mini Maker Faire to Boulder County Fairgrounds on January 31 and February 1, 2015. Details at MakerBoulder.com.
Conventional wisdom holds you’re born with perfect pitch or you’re not. The conventional wisdom is wrong. Here’s how to train perfect pitch.
For my book Brain Trust, I interviewed Diana Deutsch, University of California San Diego professor and president of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, and she said the trick is pairing pitch with meaning — early!
There are things that every Maker needs: a good hammer, a good workspace, a good joke…and of course one good card trick. You may not have the opportunity to demonstrate it often — all the better! But when you need it, you need it. Here, in case you don’t have it yet, is a truly awesome card trick.
Last week a friend ended up on my doorstep. She has 3 plum trees in Wheatridge, Colorado and she had 5 pounds of plums – for me. For me this was akin to wishing for a pony – and then getting it. It was a lovely gesture and plums are great eats and all, but now I have to do something with plums. Five pounds of them.
I’m a canner, I admit it. A cabinet full of Ball jars full of different foods is my nirvana. My mom chastises me for this, saying that canning is so violent on the food. But I say that anything that is left to stew in its juices for a few months is awesome. I’m kind of a foodie, so just putting plums up in jars was never really an option; I had to step it up a notch.
That’s where the booze comes in.
Earning a world record allows paper-plane designers to own football teams and yacht off the Croatian coast. And according to aerospace engineer and record holder Ken Blackburn, you need master only three things in your quest for paper-plane glory: good folds, a good throw and good design.
Let’s polish off the first two in a couple words: Good folds are extremely crisp, reducing the plane’s profile and thus its drag. They also make the plane perfectly symmetrical. And a good throw means different things for different planes (we’ll get into specs later), but for a world-record attempt, you use a baseball-style throw to launch the plane straight up, as high as possible — there’s video of Blackburn’s Georgia Dome launch and subsequent 27.6-second, world-record flight online at paperplane.org.
Now to design, wherein lies the true makery of paper planes.
Flashback with me: squiggly lines, squiggly lines, squiggly lines. We’re at the Denver Mini Maker Faire in early May, 2014. The National Western Complex is busy with inquisitive children, adults, childlike adults and even a couple childish adults all buzzing with the excitement of various hands-on activities and demonstrations. MakerBoulder.com had a booth at the Faire — it was one of our first incarnations. And in addition to a Makey Makey and a couple other jazz-hands attention grabbers, we had selected an engaging little craft: a clever pinwheel made out of simple straws, tape and some soft wire.