Kid-friendly projects to fill those old cigar boxes
Do it yourself
I’ll be lucky if I can get my daughter’s bike put together on Christmas Eve, but I do love the idea of being a do-it-yourselfer. (This makes me what Martha Stewart calls a dreamer, rather than a doer.)
David Erik Nelson’s “Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make With Your Kids’’ (about $25, from No Starch Press) is the ideal guide for anyone who would like to harvest parts from old cellphones to make a robot or fashion a cookie tin and metal scraps into a $10 electric guitar.
Nelson, a sci-fi and steampunk author and a former teacher at an alternative high school, presents projects of varying complexity. Some, such as the Lock-N-Latch Treasure Chest and the PVC TeePee, are meant for smaller hands and younger minds. Others, such as the robot Jitterbug, require a bit more skill.
The Jitterbug is a BEAM robot, meaning that it behaves like a simple multicellular organism. (The acronym, Nelson says, stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics.)
The Jitterburg is photophobic: It skitters about when light is shined on it. The robot moves with the help of a vibrator motor, which you can pluck out of an old cellphone, as Nelson shows in the book.
You can also find the parts you need for each project — which should cost $10 or less — at Radio Shack and at online electronics stores.
Nelson aims to make each project in “Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred’’ an opportunity to develop a new skill that you could apply to other pursuits. Sewing, sawing, silk screen printing, and soldering: Nelson somehow manages to make then all doable.
I also learned that cigar boxes make ideal project enclosures. Nelson shows how the little wooden containers can house stomp boxes, synthesizers, amps, and a switchbox for kids to explore.
Due soon: a blood-pressure phone appThe French company Withings is moving beyond its Internet-connected Wi-Fi Body Scale in its quest to monitor everything that our bodies are up to.
The company recently released a beta Android app for use with the scale.
And Withings in January will release details about a new blood pressure monitor that iPhone and iPad users will be able to plug into their devices.
The Withings blood pressure monitor will record blood pressure, share the reading with other third party apps, and even pass the information along to your doctor, according to the company.
Withings will be exhibiting the blood pressure monitor — along with a Smart Baby Monitor — at the Consumer Electronics Show next month. The annual show will be held Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas.