Friday Finds: Cool Products!

For today’s batch of internet inspiration, we’ve got a pile of wonderfully clever home gadgets. Starting at top left, there’s (1) a soda bottle drip catcher, (2) a bathtub desk, (3), the “Hamdogger”, (4) a thumb page-holder, (5) an umbrella pot, (6) the “Lay ‘n Go” lego mat, (7) a clever no-mess paintbrush, (8) the easy “Drain Changle” de-clogger, (9) anti-theft sandwich bags, (10) the “Cushy Closer”, (11) a magnet tiny parts bracelet, and (12) the owl earbud-declutterer.

All of these products are wonderfully simple and creative solutions to otherwise annoying little problems, from tangled earbuds to a crippling lack of hamburger buns. In several cases the inventions were also serendipitous discoveries. Jennifer Briggs invented the Drain Changle after accidentally clearing a clogged drain with an errant piece of floss, for example. Spending a few bucks to support creators like her is a fantastic idea, but with a bit of creative adaptation and DIY spirit, these gadgets would also all make fun home projects as well. So feel free to get your hands dirty and impress your friends; although enjoying other people’s creativity is okay too.

Happy Friday!

T-5 Days ’til MAKER CAMP!

Want to have some fun from July 16th to August 24th? Well, MAKE Magazine has teamed up with Google to put on Maker Camp. It’s a free, open, online summer camp featuring a project-a-day for thirty days. Each week has got four days of projects, followed by a live-cast field trip to some crazy place like CERN, the Ford Motors R&D Lab, and the MakerBot homebase. Expert counselors will lead each project, and campers can tune in via Hangout to ask questions and share stories. It’s technically intended for teens, but nobody’s gonna tell me I can’t build a chemical rocket or a desktop biosphere. All you need to do to be part of the fun is sign up on Google+ (clever, Google, clever) and then check back in when you want to build something. The projects are all kid-friendly and can be built (mostly) from household supplies.

In the spirit of keeping this blog somewhat professional, I should probably say that this is an exciting event because it’s got potential to get kids thinking, inventing, and working with their hands. The opportunity to tie together a broader community of Makers and tinkerers is pretty cool too, given how important networks are for bringing creative ideas to life. At the same time, I could just be honest:

Rockets. Like woah.

To get in on the fun, head over to Google+ and follow MAKE.

I’d Scan That!

As QR codes have become more common, they’ve begun to fade in the eyes of consumers. Getting people to pull out their phones and scan over to the advertiser’s website is taking a bit more work, but with a 30% tolerance in readability some designers have taken license to play. I recently came across this fun compilation on Mashable of some of the most creative designs out there, with more at BitRebels.

Update: Click on through for some fun concept re-designs of those ubiquitous UPC bar codes.

Happy Fourth, Everybody!

To celebrate we’ve got a super fun DIY project from Grathio LabsMatchstick Rockets! Check out his great instructional on Vimeo, or head straight to the lab for the step-by-step and downloadable PDF. Remember, aim away from your face and never play with fire.

From the look of it, Grathio Labs is a great place for all sorts of fun. A Jeep-mounted potato cannon? Now THAT’S how we celebrate America!

DIY: Hanging Planters

While any DIY project can be fun, the best ones are those that are 1) cheap, and 2) let you show off something beautiful to friends. Homemade hanging planters aren’t a new idea (this is also a reblog of a reblog, eesh), but I’ve recently rediscovered a love of growing things and am looking forward to hanging a couple of these in my window. Check out the article at Apartment Therapy and the original tutorial at Hangar 29.

Image Credit: Apartment Therapy

TEDLuck: A Recipe for Geekin’ Out

Last week my housemates and I hosted our second “TEDLuck” event, which is designed around the idea of bringing together a diverse group of people to share in good food and wine while geeking out over a handful of TED talks. Our theme for the night was “Stories”, so we watched Billy Collins’ illustrated poems in “Everyday Moments Caught in Time” and Sarah Kay’s spoken word “If I Should Have a Daughter” while enjoying a hearty potluck dinner of pasta, salads, butternut squash, and wine.

From the perspective of creativity theory, the event works well because it brings together a diverse set of viewpoints, adds just a small dose of structure, and then allows the discussion to flow as it will. The group is thus on a collaborative mission (see last post) to learn and explore interesting ideas. From the perspective of the people involved, the event works well just because the food is delicious and it’s a fun way to hang out with people after a long day. Here’s the recipe, if you want to organize one yourself:

  1. Select a theme. So far we’ve done “technology” and “stories”.
  2. Get your group. We had 7 for the first and 10 for the second, but I think smaller groups would work well too.
  3. Select three TED talks or other similar videos roughly related to your theme. You can browse all of the talks at TED.com, and there’s no shortage of bloggers who have sorted and tagged their favorites as well.
  4. Have everybody bring over a dish, give everyone a glass of wine, and sit down to enjoy some talks! We’ve tried discussing each talk individually as well as waiting until the end; the best approach seems to be to let the discussion flow organically.

Both TEDLucks that we’ve held held have been fantastic, fun, and enlightening evenings. If you host your own and have suggestions or improvements, let me know! We’ll probably run another within the next couple of weeks on the topic of community or citizenship; themes that resonate with personal experience and don’t presuppose a correct answer (e.g., “sustainability”) seem to be the most exciting.