Airzooka Arcade

A few years ago I met Al Stahler in San Francisco at a Maker Faire like event. Al is the creative genius behind the "Fire Ball Gallery" ( Al told me about one of his earlier projects called an "Airzooka Arcade" and the moment he described it I knew I had to make one myself. 

The Airzooka is one of my favorite toys. It requires no batteries and is tons of fun. It shoots a vortex of air a long distance. The arcade has a supply of theater fog that the user can suck up into the Airzooka and once the elastic is released, the user can send a ring (donut) of smoke flying through the air toward the target (helium balloons). 

I built my Airzooka Arcade for the 2017 Charlotte Mini Maker Faire. I exhibited with my friends from Asheville Makers. To my delight, the Airzooka Arcade was a huge hit with both kids and adults. Check out the video below.



Makey Makey and the Invention Literacy Workshop

In May 2014  I volunteered to design and lead a short Project Based Learning (PBL) experience for students at a school located in Asheville, North Carolina. Details about the project are HERE.  That project was briefly featured on WLOS, a local ABC news affiliate TV station. That appearance resulted in my being invited to speak at TEDx Greenville. That speaking appearance resulted in Makey Makey inviting me to join their team as their first VP for Education Initiatives. 

When I joined the Makey Makey team in November 2015  I was asked to design a one day Professional Development workshop for K12 educators and then establish "Training Partners" who would then deliver the workshop nationwide. 

This work has allowed me to travel throughout the US (and sometimes beyond) to work with a wide variety of inspired educators who train K12 teachers. Details about this program are HERE at the Makey Makey website. 

The Makey Makey team (a division of Joy Labz) is small and agile. Everyone on the team is smart and motivated. We're all driven to make a positive difference in the world. 



Giant Robot Costume and Adult Sized "Krazy Kar"

One of my favorite toys as a kid was a Krazy Kar. When my own kids were little they also enjoyed the Krazy Kar. Unfortunately, an adult sized Krazy Kar isn't sold so I decided to build my own (photo below). The frame is made of wood and the wheels are "garden cart" wheels that have bearings built in. 



Here's my daughter racing around the nearby North Carolina Arboretum drop off area at the end of a "science fair" where we helped exhibit with the gang from Asheville Makers.




Not long after building this adult sized Krazy Kar I started thinking about building a robot costume on top of of Krazy Kar. I built this for Maker Faire Atlanta 2015. In the video below I'm using the costume on Vermont Ave in Asheville, NC during Halloween. My wife Anne is walking beside me and she's playing the part of the wacky inventor. Anne's holding a shoe box prop made to look like it's a robot controller (she fooled a lot of people with that!). 




Here are a few more photos of my robot in action during halloween.






Here's more video of my robot costume in action during halloween 2018:



Assistive Technology -- High School Engineering Design Project using the "Makey Makey"


High school students design appropriate Assistive Technology solutions for elementary students with physical and cognitive disabilities.


Ten high school students enrolled in a year-long Computer Science course taught by Joe Speier at the Asheville School , a college preparatory school located in West Asheville. These ten students participated in a special project-based Engineering Design class taught by Tom Heck during the month of May 2014.

Working in teams, the Asheville School students designed and and built prototypes of appropriate Assistive Technology solutions for exceptional students enrolled at Hall Fletcher Elementary School (HFE) located in Asheville, NC. The design solutions were intended to help students interact with computer programs (games) in new ways. We worked closely with Kelly Blount and Amy Floyd, the HFE special education teaching team, throughout the project. This project was endorsed by Dr. Gordon Grant, who was the award winning school principal at HFE at the time.


Jason Webb developed a “DIY Assistive Technology project” outlined in detail HERE. Inspiration for this project came from Jason's work.

Lucas Steuber is a colleague of Jason Webb's, and like Jason, is also blazing a trail with DIY Assistive Technology. Lucas was very helpful throughout this project. 

The Assistive Technology prototypes we created utilized a versatile computer interface design platform called a Makey Makey which was developed at the MIT Media Lab. The Makey Makey is a $50 invention kit for the 21st century. It turns everyday objects into touchpads allowing for quick prototyping of creative Assistive Technology solutions. 

I was inspired by Purdue University's "EPICS" High School program (Engineering Projects in Community Service) which teaches human centered design and engineering by getting students out into the community to solve real problems for real people.

During this short course I introduced the students to Stanford University's Design School process


April 1-30 -- I call a list of agencies who can help me connect with a group of students with physical disabilities. These agencies include: FIRST Community Resource Center, Asheville City Schools Foundation, Buncombe County School's Progressive Education Program (PEP), Asheville City Schools Exceptional Children's Program, Care Partners, Buncombe County Schools "Special Services", Mission Children's Hospital, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, North Carolina Assistive Technology Program, Disability PartnersCarolina Pediatric Therapy, and others. I worked with Charlie Glazener, the media contact for the Asheville City Schools system to secure permission to take photos and video of the elementary students.

May 1, 2014 -- Class # 1 (90 min.) Asheville School students board a bus and travel to HFE to meet with the teachers and students. The goal for this trip was to build rapport and empathy (step #1 of the Stanford D-School process). 

May 2 -- Class # 2 (45 min.) Asheville School students are introduced to the Makey Makey.

May 8 -- Class # 3 (90 min.) Asheville School students select the game they intend to play and begin building prototype. 

May 12 -- Class # 4 (45 min.) Asheville School students refine designs and test each other's designs. Prepare for Class #5 (return to HFE). 

May 15 -- Class #5 (90 min.) Asheville School students travel to HFE by bus and meet with the students to test their prototypes (see video above). 

May 19 -- Class #6 (45 min.) Asheville School students debrief the experience. 


Jason Webb's "Instructable" on DIY Assistive Technology HERE

Another resource from Jason HERE

Makey Makey blog post about Assistive Technology is HERE

Overview of the Makey Makey for educators of students with diverse needs HERE

DIY Ability website HERE

Makey Makey website HERE

Makey Makey "LABZ" website HERE

Makey Makey for Computer Access workshop (video) HERE  -- NOTE: A guest on this show is one of the developers of the Makey Makey!

Dr. Amy Hurst at the University of Maryland Baltimore is doing amazing work around DIY Assistive Technology.

Switch Accessible Games

Car (driving) games HERE

Learn how to download flash games HERE

RESEARCH: Evaluating Accessibility in Fabrication Tools for Children (click link below)

Download RESEARCH Evaluating Accessibility in Fabrication Tools for Children

Ultimate DIY Pressure Plate Switch is HERE


The following is a list of computer games we were prepared to play with the HFE students. 

Hopper Beetle  Download Hopper_Beetle

Ultimate Baseball  Download Ultimate_baseball

Dance Revolution  Download Dance_revolution

Dance of the Robots  Download Dance_of_the_Robots

Fruit Basket  Fruit Basket Game

Piano for Makey Makey  Piano

Bongos  Bongos

Trebuchet Launch  Download Castle-clout

Photo Gallery

 View the photo gallery of this project HERE.



Print Media

A brief mention of this project appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times. Click on the image below to enlarge.


WLOS TV, the local ABC news affiliate, did a story on this project.


Longer video showing students using the Assistive Technology devices:


more soon...

Asheville Makers Learn To Solder Workshop at the West Asheville Library

On March 20, 2014 Asheville Makers led a "Learn To Solder" event at the West Asheville Library.

It was the first free and open to the public learn how to solder event ever held in Asheville and it was a huge success.

We had students age 8 to 80 learning how to solder a blinking "robot badge"  found at the Maker Shed

Because of generous donations from area businesses, this event was free! Big thank you goes out to Efficiency Lab and On Haywood.

Thank you to all of our great soldering teachers. Without you this would not have been the great event it was. 

Avi Silverman and Tom Heck of Asheville Makers recently met with representatives of the Asheville City - Buncombe County Library System who are very excited about the Maker Movement. We'll be partnering to lead more free and open to the public events!











Nerf Assault Vehicle

Our father-son group gathers once a year for a massive Nerf dart battle in a gym. One year I build this Nerf Assault Vechicle (NAV) using a Krazy Kar and a cardboard box. The only problem was it  was too small for adults to ride so I built my own adult sized Krazy Kar which you can see HERE


ROCKETS made from paper!


Rockets made from paper and powered by compressed air are one of my favorite projects to lead with kids. 

A quick google search will point you to several launcher designs and I've included the design I most like below. Click on the link below to download the PDF.

Download Rocket_launcher_plans

Although the above plans do work, I've made some improvements to the pressurization valve and the air release system. 

Click on the photo below to view larger version of the pressurization valve (different than what is shown in the plans above).






I've replaced the 3/4 inch "ball valve" (item # 13 in the plans) with a battery operated sprinkler valve I purchased through amazon. You can find this valve at amazon by searching for:

Orbit 57100 3/4-Inch Female Pipe Threaded Auto Inline Sprinkler Valve







The above valve easily replaces the 3/4 ball valve described in the plans. The sprinkler valve works well with a simple 9 volt battery. I purchased the black plastic box that holds the battery at Radio Shack. The "launch activator" was made from PVC pipe I had laying around and the red button that completes the circuit (battery, sprinkler valve, launch activator) was purchased at Radio Shack. The battery box hinge is a piece of black duct tape. I keep the lid closed with velcro. The box is attached to the PVC pipe with a hose clamp.

The sprinkler valve is superior to the ball valve because it releases air quicker allowing you to launch rockets higher with lower air pressure. A well made paper rocket will launch hundreds of feet in the air with only 45 pounds of pressure when using the sprinkler valve. To get that same kind of elevation with the ball valve you would need a much higher pressure (90 psi). 























Below I've attached a one page PDF "template" that, if printed on a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper or card stock, allows you to make a rocket. See the video below at the bottom of this post to learn how to make a rocket from the PDF template.

Download Maker_rocket_template_022314

If this type of thing interests you than please check out MAKE Magazine and attend a Maker Faire. I'm a member of the Asheville Maker Community














Watch the video below to learn how to make a rocket using the template found above. 

Maker Training Camp

Here is an AWESOME resource for Makers:

Maker Training Camp

Description (from the website):

Today, makers seeking to learn a new skill or how to make a specific project have few options for training. Many Makerspaces offer courses, but these are frequently safety and basic use courses for specific machines and are often limited to an introductory level. YouTube videos and Massive Open Online Courses are great until you have a question for the teacher.

Today, we offer you a new way of learning: Maker Training Camps. Training Camps are collaborative online courses designed to help you learn a new skill or build a specific project. Camps use hangouts and communities to make it easy to work with other students and teachers. Have a question? Post it in the online community or attend the next weekly office hours session on a Google Hangout. Camps are generally between one and five weeks in length with a lecture, office hours and a project each week.

Our teachers are makers themselves. Some of our teachers have written Make books, some are professors, and some run businesses using what they teach. We select teachers based on whether they know their subjects, not whether they have three PhD’s.

Every lesson in a training camp is accompanied by a project to help learn. Every camp ends with a final project you can share with your entire class. You get to decide what your project is and how hard it might be.