Category Archives: Education

BAMF2014: BreadBoardManiac

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire.

Not that I’m normally one to get excited about electronic breadboards, but I’ve had to change my mind after seeing these at Maker Faire. These breadboards by BreadBoardManiac are some of the finest electronics accessories that I’ve ever seen.  Not only do they snap to Lego bricks (making one heck of a cool building set), but they are also super-thin and double-sided, so that you can insert components from both sides. They suggest that you can use that feature to make multi-layer breadboards with vertical interconnects, but perhaps that is a bit of a stretch.

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Their handmade limited edition wooden breadboards are perhaps even cooler, and were made available as part of this kickstarter project earlier in the year. This is what I’d expect kids in school to learn electronics with, and it sure would be nice if a production version became available in the future. It looks like there’s also a flexible breadboard under development, amongst other types.  I can hardly wait to get my hands on all of these.

Open Make at The Tech

Open Make @ The Tech logoWe’ll be at The Tech museum in San Jose this Saturday, April 26, for an Open Make session with the theme of “Flow.” The event is in collaboration with the Maker Education Initiative.

Open Make activities run from 10 am to 2 pm and are free with museum admission.

Previous Open Make posts:

Cameo on CNN Explains 3D Printing

Our friend AnnMarie, who is an engineering professor, wrote to say,

I keep showing the short CNN explains 3D printing video in talks I have to give to students, and always love that you and Windell are walking through the MakerBot store in it!

We were highly amused as we had never seen the clip, which was published in 2013. The footage must have been shot just after the 2012 NY Maker Faire. Having been featured in Wired Magazine for our own 3D printer, it is perhaps appropriate that when the video cuts to us, the narrator says,

The people at the forefront of this movement, they say they want this to be as common in peoples homes as the toaster oven.

(We show up for about one second at 1:35.)

From the Mailbag: on STEAM Education

Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt
Trevor wrote in:

I’ve probably said it a million times, but I don’t think I’ve told you guys. You’re amazing. When it’s time for a new project I jump over to EMSL first. I use your projects to demonstrate a lot of STEAM principles at my Makerspace, and proudly wear my EMSL STEAM shirt every Saturday morning when I’m teaching our Makerspace Cadets class. (It’s a fun sciencey/makey/artsy class for kids). Keep up the great work. :)

Thank you for the kind words, and for your dedication to your students!

Robots in the Central Valley

Rows of busy pits

Friday was a busy day in the pits at the Central Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The teams got their robots unpacked, inspected, and ran practice rounds prior to matches this weekend. We’re here with Fremont Robotics, and we’ll be taking pictures throughout the weekend and posting them (tagged by team number where identifiable) in this flickr set.

On the field

The challenge this year is fun to watch: the robots score goals with large exercise balls and earn extra points for passing to team members and throwing the ball over a beam. The event is free to attend and open to the public, so if you’re near Madera, California this weekend, we’d love to see you here!

Extreme Learning at the Institute for the Future

Not long ago, I participated in a workshop at the Institute for the Future on what they are calling Extreme Learning. They have just launched a site to provide resources for alternative learning paths and to share stories of extreme learners (like mine in the video above). On the extreme learners site, there are more stories from the workshop participants, who were a fascinating group from diverse backgrounds. This project is a part of the Future of Learning program.

Hackerspace Field Trip

Photo by David Prewitt

From the Lenoir News-Topic, middle school students got to build Egg-Bot derivatives at their local hackerspace:

“I think this is one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on,” one of the sixth-graders said, unprompted by any of the adults (or reporters) in the room. “This one, you actually build something.”

Erector Rocket Launcher Set

Erector-Rocket 2

We recently acquired this beautiful Erector Rocket Launcher Set from 1958. While not quite complete, it is still tantalizing with its girders, nuts, bolts and motor. The printing on the metal box is beautiful.

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The motor is labeled “Erector Electric Engine” and features a clever mechanical gear shifter.

While our set did not come with instructions, there are online resources for vintage building sets, and Girders & Gears has a thorough description and pictures of a more complete set. They also have instructions available for download, which include the following practical warning:

CAUTION: Be sure there is no one in front of the launcher when the rocket is fired.


The Peek-O-Book is a close relative of the Snap-O-Lantern. The book occasionally opens and peeks out with its LED eyes before snapping shut again to look like a normal book on a shelf.


A compartment is cut into the pages of the book and the circuitry is hidden inside.

What's inside

The orange LED eyes are affixed to a small piece of wood which is then glued to the cover of the book so that they just fit inside the compartment. The rest of the electronics are nestled inside the compartment.

Exploratorium Art of Tinkering

We made the Peek-O-Book for The Art of Tinkering book release party at the Exploratorium Afterdark event last week. Many of the tinkerers featured in the book were invited to hack a copy of the book. The cabinets in the Tinkering studio were packed full of hacked books and projects from the book. You can see pictures of some of the other hacked books in our photo set.

Call for Reimagined Science Kits

The SPARK (Science Play and Research Kit) Competition is requesting submissions for what they are calling “Reimagining the Chemistry Set of the 21st Century.”

To be clear, we’re interested in science beyond chemistry. We borrow this term to capture the spirit and magic of what the classic chemistry set spawned in the 1940s – 60s. We’re looking for ideas that can engage kids as young as 8 and inspire people who are 88. We’re looking for ideas that encourage kids to explore, create, build and question. We’re looking for ideas that honor kids’ curiosity about how things work.

We’ve delved into that spirit with our posts on Vintage Chemistry Manuals and Vintage Chemistry Sets. We also see it in our community in groups like Public Lab, with projects like Thermal Photography. It is exciting to see this contest trying to promote that spark of curiosity. Submissions are due in January, and we’re looking forward to seeing the winners when they’re announced in February. In the meantime, we would like to hear what you want to see in science kits for the future.