DIY for the Weekend: Dancing Dolphins, Talking Puppets, and an Electric You

Have you ever wanted to know how ‘electric’ or ‘resistive’ you really are? Have a wall of dancing dolphins or a talking puppet? Whatever electronics project you’d like to try – we’ve got the resources you need!

Making Everyday Electronics Work: a Do-It-Yourself Guide will help you learn the basics of electricity, about everyday electronics, and what makes them work – or not. Author Stan Gibilisco starts with the basics by explaining direct current, alternative current, working his way through magnetic force, semiconductors and vacuum tubes. Each section has “Did you know?”, “Fact or Myth?” and “For Nerds Only” boxes and sidebars. And, since I’m sure you don’t want to be electrocuted, there are also warnings about dangers of which you will want to be aware!

Multimeter (Voltmeter) available for check out from our Tool Library
Multimeter available in our Tool Library

Gibilisco talks about building and stocking your workbench. He includes a detailed list of what you’ll need to have a well-stocked place to experiment. One of the items mentioned is a multimeter. We have one in our Tool Library – ready for you to check out!

Now that you are ‘grounded’ in the basics of electricity and everyday electronics, you can move on to the experiments that Gibilisco provides.. You can start by building a wet cell using distilled white vinegar, table salt and other items from your workbench. And, once you’ve created the wet cell, Gibilisco will walk you through using the left-over items to test both how electric and resistive you are!


Dancing Dolphins. Electronics Projects for Dummies
Dancing Dolphins. Electronics Projects for Dummies

Or maybe you’d like to have a wall of Dancing Dolphins….or birds…. or spaceships…. Using the dancing dolphins as an example, Electronics Projects for Dummies will teach you everything you need to know about putting the schematic together and building “a circuit with a porpoise.” (their words, not mine. Really). From making the circuit, the dolphins and the lighting, Electronics Projects for Dummies walks you through each of the steps, complete with photos to help you through the process.

Murmuring Merlin. Electronics Projects for Dummies
Murmuring Merlin. Electronics Projects for Dummies

Talking puppets (or just about anything else) more your style? You can learn about working with sound synthesizer chips and have fun making a “Murmuring Merlin” puppet. The project that is demonstrated in Electronics Projects for Dummies uses a wizard hand puppet. You can program the synthesizer chip to say anything you’d like.  Have anything you’d like to say to your roommate?

If you want to try your hand at making light dance to music, controlling a Go-Kart “infrared style,” or making your own metal detector, Electronics Projects for Dummies will help you through.


Have fun using these projects and your new knowledge as a jumping off point for your own projects and ideas!


Gibilisco, Stan. 2014. Making everyday electronics work: a do-it-yourself guide. New York : McGraw-Hill Education. Engineering Library TK7819 .G37 2014.

Ham Radio. February 24, 2008. Ham Radio.

Boysen, Earl. 2006. Electronics projects for dummies. Hoboken, NJ : Wiley. Engineering Library TK7819 .M38 2006

Other Resources:

Giblisco, Stan. 2005. Electronics demystified. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TK7819 .G35 2005

Giblisco, Stan. 2011. Teach yourself electricity and electronics. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TK7819 .G38 2011

Nuts & volts magazine. Corona, CA : T & L Publications.  Journal. Engineering Library No call number

DIY for the Weekend: Light Up Your Halloween Costume!

Okay, so Halloween is tomorrow and you still don’t have any really good ideas for a costume…

Want a costume that lights up? LED eyelashes? Or maybe a mask that will control your music wirelessly? We have the resources to help you turn your bright idea into the perfect costume.

You are a Super Hero and need to contact your Super Hero partner. Make: Wearable Electronics will help you learn the skills necessary to create your own super hero communicator cuffs. Each pair of cuffs has an electronic switch and when the wrists are crossed, a wireless signal is sent to your partner’s cuffs. The transmitted signal causes the cuffs to light up, letting your partner know you need them. Or maybe you want to let them know you found the best Halloween candy at the party….

"Dream Squawk" mask created by Amy Khoshbi.
“Dream Squawk” mask created by Amy Khoshbi.


Make: Wearable Electronics will help you learn Lilypad Arduino and Xbee – which are used to make the cuffs – and so much more.  Maybe you want to make a  “Dream Squawk” mask which allows you to control music and sound wirelessly. That could really amp up your party…..


"Tron: Quorra Costume" by Syuzi Pakchyan
“Tron: Quorra Costume” by Syuzi Pakchyan


How about Quorra from Tron: Legacy? This costume also uses LilyPad and Cool Neon‘s LED ribbon.  LilyPad was designed specifically for e-textiles and clothing and Make: Wearable Electronics provides experiments so you are able to try those new LilyPad skills.

Starboards are flexible circuits that can be sewn directly into garments. Creator Meredith Scheff also offers low resistance (2.5 ohms per yard) solderable conductive thread. It is a conductive thread that is also solderable and it strong enough to be used like regular sewing thread.


Space Face LED Galaxy Makeup
Space Face LED Galaxy Makeup

Wear Space Face Galaxy Light Up Makeup, inspired by the constellation Cassiopeia, and you could be the star of the evening. This spacey headpiece uses 5 FLORA NeoPixels. Make:Wearable Electronics has an example to help you get started using this versatile module. It is wearable, sewable, easily wired, individually addressable, ultra-bright, multicolored LEDs – what’s not to love?

Butterfly Dress designed by Alexander Reeder
Butterfly Dress designed by Alexander Reeder



Perhaps you are going dressed as a “social butterfly.” What could be better than a dress with butterflies that actually flap their wings? If you are interested in wearable tech that utilizes motors, both Make: Wearable Electronics and Making Things Move: DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists, and Artists can help you learn to do just that!



LED Eyelashes
LED Eyelashes by Soomi Park

How about LED eyelashes to go with your butterfly dress? Again, LillyPad is used to build those LED eyelashes that will brighten your eyes! Make: Wearable Electronics also also explains how to work with Aniomagic – an e-textile toolkit that is similar to LilyPad and FLORA. Use Aniomagic to create a light-up bracelet, belts and almost anything else you can dream up to go with those bright eyes and butterfly wings!
Want to have the brightest brain in the room? Create your own “Thinking Cap.” It is biometric-data-driven, and responds to fluctuations in EEG signals.



Whatever bright idea you have about a wearable tech costume – we’ve got the resources – information on everything from circuits and batteries to conductive materials and how to make your ideas wearable!

Happy Halloween!!!



Hartman, Kate. 2014. Make: wearable electronics. Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media. Engineering Library QA76.592 .H37 2014.

DIY: Superhero Communicator Cuffs. 2012. OCAD University.

Light Up Your Life With LEDs, Sewable Circuitry. May 29, 2011. Wired.

Roberts, Dustyn. 2011. Making things move: DIY mechanisms for inventors, hobbyists, and artists. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TJ147 .R56 2011

XBee Buying Guide. Sparkfun Electronics. Accessed: Oct. 27, 2015

About LilyPad. LilyPad. Accessed: Oct. 27, 2015

Cool Neon Lighting. 2011. Cool Neon EL Wire.

SparkFun Inventor’s Kit. SparkFun Electronics. Accessed Oct. 27, 2015

How-To: Space Face LED Galaxy Makeup. Oct. 10, 2013.  Maker Media.

LED Galaxy Makeup – SPACE FACE. youtube. Oct. 9, 2013.


Other resources:

LED Eyelash_Soomi Park. youtube. July 20, 2009

Mom’s Homemade ‘Star Wars’ Costumes Will Blow You Away. Oct. 27, 2015. Yahoo! News. abc Good Morning America.

El Nino Costume with Lightning and Real Rain. Oct. 26, 2015.

DIY for the Weekend: Build Your Own BB-8!

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away….


Halloween is nearly here, The Force Awakens® is in the not too distant future – who doesn’t want a BB-8 to help celebrate?

If you’d like to make your own, working BB-8®Make: Technology On Your Time has all the info you need! Author Christian Poulsen, said “As I watched it [BB-8] roll around [at the Star Wars® Celebration], my only thought was, ‘Need!’ So, I made one.”

Issue 46 of Make provides 3 different approaches to building your own BB-8. The 1st is a DIY by Poulsen. The 2nd is by Kurt Zimmerman who shares the ups and downs of his BB-8 project, and the 3rd is written by Casey Kuhns and explores the way in which a team of engineers and artists created a BB-8 that looks and sounds like the real thing. The 3rd BB-8 design is all open source.

Embedding the magnet
Embedding the magnet


Poulsen estimates it will take one day to complete and cost somewhere between $150 and $200. Beginning with working with a Sphero toy, embedding the magnet, painting, and adding the magnets and felt, Poulsen walks you the process step-by-step. Each of the steps is accompanied by full-color photographs.


And if you really want to go all out with your Star Wars® costuming, MORE Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius has step-by-step instructions for making your own light saber!

Have fun making your own BB-8 and have a fun and safe Halloween!


Star Wars® BB-8 Droid made from a Sphero & Magnets


Make: Technology on Your Time
Make: Technology on Your Time

Poulsen, Christian. 2015: Aug/Sept. Building Your Own BB-8. Make: Technology On Your Time.  2015; pg. 58- 61

Make This Mini Star Wars BB-8 Ball Droid with a Hacked Sphero. 2015. Maker Media.

Iannini, Robert E. 2006. MORE electronic gadgets for the evil genius. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TK9965 .I253 2006.



Other Resources:

Sphero. 2015. Sphero.

This is the Droid You’re Looking For.  Sphero. Date accessed October 22, 2015.

Progress Report: Secretive Club Designing, 3D Printing a Full-Size BB-8. Oct. 23, 2015. Maker Media.

Halloween costumes.

DIY for the Weekend: Build Your Own Trebuchet!!

A trebuchet is a medieval engine of war with a sling for hurling missiles. As Halloween comes around, wouldn’t you like to spend your weekend building your very own pumpkin-launching trebuchet?

Trebuchets have been around since the middle ages and were often used to throw objects at the enemy’s fortress. Usually it was large rocks, but often dead and rotting livestock were thrown. Depending on the size of the trebuchet you build, you will probably be throwing smaller objects, like tennis balls. Or pumpkins….

A trebuchet
A trebuchet

There is a difference between a trebuchet and a catapult. A trebuchet uses a sling and has a counter-weight which, as it is dropped, forces the long arm up to pull the sling and the projectile along a slide at the base. The counter-weight uses the pull of gravity to provide the force necessary for the arm to swing upwards. The sling increases the length of the arm and the performance. The catapult uses a leaf spring mechanism to release the long arm. A rope is wrapped around a rotating drum and when the spring mechanism is released, so is the arm and the projectile. A catapult has a cup at the end rather than a sling.

In 15 Dangerously Mad Projects for the Evil Genius, author Simon Monk says, “The trebuchet takes its energy from the weight that falls as the arm swings. The ‘potential’ energy is transferred to the arm and sling of the trebuchet and is released as kinetic energy in the tennis ball.”

When you know the energy stored in the weight and how far the projectile can be thrown, the energy going into the system and the energy released can be measured.  Input energy can be calculated using the formula: E=mgh where ‘m’ is the mass of the weight, ‘g’ is the gravitational acceleration on Earth (9.8) and ‘h’ is the height.  You can also calculate the amount of energy transferred to the tennis ball using the distance it traveled and its weight. E=1|2 mv2 where d=v2|g v2=dg. You can then calculate the efficiency of the catapult by dividing the energy transferred by the energy input.  From this, you are then able to calculate the efficiency of your trebuchet!

Model of the da Vinci catapult
Model of the da Vinci catapult

Sometime in the 1480s, Leonardo da Vinci drafted two designs that would improve on the catapult. There were drawbacks to each of the designs and included the considerable cost to produce the steel mechanism and the swing arm tension would have been tremendous. It is believed that neither of the catapults were built during his lifetime. However, if you’d like to see a life-size working model of his catapult check out the DVD Doing da Vinci from our DVD collection. In this 2-DVD collection, 4 builders and engineers tackle building some of da Vinci’s never-before-built designs.

Monk says, “It’s a simple design that should only take a few hours to construct and needs little in the way of special tools or equipment.” A list of materials needed is listed and instructions are clearly laid out, including how to make the weight from a plastic cereal container filled with wet sand. The sling is made with rope and a patch of square cloth. Monk also says, “A reasonably strong material like denim is ideal. The Evil Genius’ minions can often be found wearing jeans with large patches of cloth removed. The Evil Genius tells them that this is the latest fashion and the minions are pleased.” (pg. 20).

If you prefer a smaller, desk-top version, you can make one using popsicle sticks.

You have a couple of weeks to build and fine-tune your trebuchet before Halloween! Have a fun (and safe) one!


Video from


15 Dangerously Mad Projects for the Evil Genius. Engineering Library TK9965 .M66 2011
15 Dangerously Mad Projects for the Evil Genius. Engineering Library TK9965 .M66 2011

Doing da Vinci. 2010. [Silver Spring, MD : Discovery Channel : Louisville, CO : Gaiam Americas. Engineering Circulation Desk Video record 37148 DVD.

Monk, Simon. 2011. 15 dangerously mad projects for the evil genius. New York : McGraw Hill. Engineering Library TK9965 .M66 2011

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life. Da Vinci’s Life. Date accessed, October 14, 2015.

Trebuchet. Date accessed Oct. 14, 2015

How to Build a Catapult – a Popsicle Stick Catapult. Date accessed Oct. 15, 2015

Other Resources:

Medieval Siege. 2004 [Boston] : WBBH Boston Video. Engineering Circulation Desk Video Record 39034 DVD

How to Build a Catapult. Storm the Date accessed Oct. 15, 2015.


DIY for the Weekend! Learn Game Development Programming!

Looking for a fun project for the weekend? How about learning Minecraft® mod development in 24 hours?


Sams Teach Yourself Minecraft Mod Development in 24 Hours will help you do just that! Each chapter is an “hour” and explains the entire process from “Setting up the Minecraft® development environment” to “What’s Next?” and all you need in between. At the end of each hour is a hands-on, try-it-yourself activity, workshops, and exercises which will help you hone your new skills writing mods. Java programming basics are explained as you move through each hour, making it a great way to learn to program.

Want to learn to make flaming cows, flying creepers or teleportation in Minecraft®Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins can help you do that! This book also starts at the beginning as you learn to write a Java program. Besides Java, you’ll also learn to use CanaryMod and to backup your code using Git.

Interested in expanding your game programming skills beyond creating flaming cows?  Ready to design an entire game by yourself? Fundamentals of Game Design will walk you through the different types of games, design and development, how to make your game accessible to a variety of audiences and how to make money from the games you’ve created.  Have experience with HTML? Check out HTML5 Games: Creating Fun with HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL.

Another resource which will walk you through creating your own game – from beginning to end – is Game Development with Blender.  You will get an introduction to 3D computer graphics as well as Blender in general. There are chapters devoted to animation, graphics, Python scripting, and more.

If you are ready to move on to designing mobile games, check out Holistic Mobile Game Development with Unity. The principles of art, design and code are covered and you’ll gain the multidisciplinary skills you’ll need in the independent mobile games industry. You’ll learn the process for both iOS and Android mobile devices from design to publication in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Whatever your skill level or interest in designing and programming games – we have the resources you need!

Engineering Library QA76.73 .J38 H848 2014
Engineering Library QA76.73 .J38 H848 2014


Koene, Jimmy. 2015. Sams teach yourself Minecraft mod development in 24 hours. Indianapolis, Indiana : Sams. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 K64 2015

Seidelin, Jacob. 2014. HTML5 games: creating fun with HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL. Chichester, West Suxxex, United Kingdom : Wiley. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 S433 2014 

Adams, Ernest. 2014. Fundamentals of game design. [Berkeley, California] : New Riders. Engineering Library AQ76.76 C672 A322 2014 

Felinto, Dalai. 2014. Game development with Blender. Boston, MA : Cengage Learning PTR. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 F45 2014

Baillie-de Byl, Penny. 2014. Holistic mobile game development with Unity: an all-in-one guide to implementing mechanics, art design, and programming for iOS and Android mobile games. Burlington, MA : Focal Press. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 B336 2014.

Other Resources:

Thorn, Alan. 2015. How to cheat in Unity 5: tips and tricks for game development. Burlintong, MA : Focal Press. Electronic Library Resource.

Canary: Introducing Canary: the hMod Legacy. Minecraft Forum. 2005-2015.

Bunyan, Karl. 2015. Build an HTML5 game: a developer’s guide with CSS and JavaScript. San Francisco : No Starch Press. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 B856 2012

Okita, Alex. 2015. Learning C# programming with Unity 3D. Boca Raton : CRC Press. Engineering Library QA76.76 .C672 O43 2015.

DIY for the Weekend: Build A NERF® Blaster!

Who doesn’t love a NERF® blaster? And what could be better than a blaster that you build yourself and can be used either manually or autonomously?

Autonomous NERF Blaster created by Bryce Bigger
Autonomous NERF® Blaster created by Bryce Bigger

Bryce Bigger’s book, Build Your Own Autonomous NERF® Blaster is aimed towards those who are less familiar with coding and physical computing – however, if you are more knowledgeable about coding and tinkering, he provides more advanced alternatives to “level up” your project.

Both a Processing and an Arduino crash course are provided. By using open-source, cross-platform creative coding, Bigger provides an inexpensive way to begin. Lots of screen prints and step-by-step instructions will have you processing before you know it and give you “mad new skills” to take you into the Arduino crash course. Again, the many pictures and careful instructions will get you to the point where you will be able to use your new processing and Arduino skills to move to the next stage of building your own blaster!

Once you have those basic skills, Bigger will walk you, step-by-step, through understanding and setting up a motion detection system and creating the brains and eyes of the blaster are also carefully spelled out. He then explains his tinkering process and how he ended up designing the foam blaster for MailChimp®. All phases of the NERF® blaster development are explained clearly and include photographs and screen shots.

A complete list of parts (and some places where they may be purchased) is also given.

So, pull out your NERF® guns and enjoy the weekend!

NERF Sentinel from AdobeMAX Keynote from The Bigger Design on Vimeo.


Engineering Library TJ223 .P76 B544 2013
Engineering Library TJ223 .P76 B544 2013


Bigger, Bryce. 2013. Build your own autonomous NERF Blaster : programming mayhem with Processing and Arduino. New York : McGraw Hill. Engineering Library TJ223 .P76 B544 2013


DIY for the Weekend! LEGO® Ice Cream Maker!!

Want to do something totally different this weekend? Have a pile of LEGO® blocks lying around? How about making an ice cream maker!? Then, how about home-made S’mores ice cream? Want the flavor of the fire-toasted marshmallows? Try making your own liquid smoke!

Author Jeff Potter with his LEGO ice cream maker.
Author Jeff Potter with his LEGO ice cream maker.

To make the ice cream maker you’ll need a LEGO® Technic Kit, an XL motor, a large (empty) yogurt container and, of course, the LEGO© blocks. The base of ice cream is traditionally milk or cream with flavorings added. That homemade ice cream maker will agitate the base as it freezes.

If you don’t want to try your hand at making the LEGO® ice cream maker, you can use a traditional ice cream maker and then use either dry ice or liquid nitrogen for the freezing.

For S’mores ice cream, the base consists of whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, chocolate syrup, medium-sized marshmallows and liquid smoke. You can buy liquid smoke or make your own. If you buy liquid smoke the ingredients should only be “water, smoke.” Really, that’s all. Making your own liquid smoke requires about $20 in ingredients and is best done with chemistry equipment in a lab. This will allow you to create a closed system to capture the liquid smoke and to heat it safely. Buying your liquid smoke is cheaper, takes less time, and is a little safer…

Ready to make the S’mores ice cream? Combine the base ingredients, pre-chill it, put it in your LEGO® machine and it will all – including your LEGO® machine – go into your freezer. Once the base is set, stir in graham crackers, toasted and cut into pieces. Serve with hot fudge or chocolate syrup – add whipped cream, cherries or nuts if you like.  Yum….

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food, by Jeff Potter. Engineering Library TX715 .P882010
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food, by Jeff Potter. Engineering Library TX715 .P88201


For the instructions and recipes, check out Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food, by Jeff Potter.

Have fun building your Lego ice cream maker and enjoy that home-made ice cream!!


Potter, Jeff. 2010. Cooking for geeks: real science, great hacks and good food. Sebastopol, CA : O’Reilly. Engineering Library TX715 .P882010