The Winter Coat that Generates Power from Cold

Winter coats are designed to retain heat and resist cold exteriors.

Thermocouples / thermopiles take a temperature gradient and convert it to usable electricity.

There's a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: install a thermopile into a winter jacket that will keep you warm while powering your gadgets!

A winter coat could power your gadgets using the temperature gradient

There are a few things you could do with this power. Have some built in wearable electronics - perhaps add a thermometer and display to show the temperature. Or, you could store the charge in a battery that you could then use to recharge gadgets via USB (which would be great for people hiking and adventuring in cold places). Or, if your goal was to be fashionable and not practical, you could use the thermocouple power to light the jacket with LEDs or EL wire.

How do thermocouples work? Well, it's true that they convert a temperature gradient to power. Unfortunately, due to the Peltier effect, this conversion will reduce the warmth of the jacket when it gets converted into electrical energy. So, you'll need a thicker jacket than normal - but, you'll be getting power without any extra effort, so it's definitely worth it for adventurers who need power!

As it gets colder here in Pittsburgh, we're considering making one of these for ourselves. As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Frost Flowers - In Your Home!

Frost flowers - they've been a curiosity of plant-lovers and scientists alike. frost flowers

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Frost flowers are floral phenomena that occur in freezing air, when the soil is not yet frozen. Under the right conditions, cold air causes expansion of the sap within plants, which causes tiny cracks to form in their stems. Water from inside the plant is then drawn into these cracks and freezes. This process continues until the frost builds up into amazing shapes!

One thing that makes frost flowers so fascinating is their fragility - they only form under very specific conditions, and a light touch causes them to crumble. They occur naturally in the wild, but are incredibly rare.

So why not make a container that can provide the right conditions for these beauties to form and that protects them from damage? We think it'd be interesting to create a clear acrylic box that cools to right around freezing, but keeps the soil warm so that frost flowers can form. And as long as they're in the box, they stay fresh and out of harm's way!

Suggestions? Comments? If you build it, we want to know!

Papercraft with LEDs

It's getting easier and easier for makers to build papercraft art - plans and layouts are strewn about the web and available for download. But what if you want to craft something more unique? Well, thanks to software like Pepakura, anyone can take a 3D model and turn it into a paper masterpiece. But what if we wanted to go further? Add lights, of course!

papercraft craft idea: lights!

Image by

Adding LED lighting is a great way to enhance your creations. Papercraft cars could have working headlights, or your next awesome abstract construction could have subtle lighting effects. We're personally going to try adding some high-power LEDs to a few (nerdy) designs in order to liven up the living room a bit.

Think of any other cool additions to papercraft art? Leave us a suggestion in the comments below!

Looking for a fun weekend project? Build a rail gun!

The awesome, futuristic rail gun - why not build your own?Rail gun is an awesome, dangerous weapon - and a cool science experiment.

Using electromagnets and super capacitors, you can launch pocket change at 100's of feet per second. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot actually. With that much electricity, it's easy to melt wires and catch things on fire. But building a rail gun is for the good of science, so it's worth the risk.


Tip: If you want to launch a penny at the speed of a bullet, you'll need 650 Amps. Make sure to get thick enough wire!

DIY Idea: 3D Printed Rollerblade Shoe Attachment

Recently, someone posted an instructables on how to 3D print your own pair of roller blades. But, having an entirely separate set of roller blades is rather clunky. If you have access to a 3D printer, why not take it a step further, and craft roller blades that simply clip on to your shoes? Imagine being able to pull them out of your backpack, clip them on, and rocket off!

If you try this, we'd love to hear about it!

Anti-Radiation Pants

You know how some people think that the radiation from their cell phones is bad for them? (We aren't agreeing or denying) - What they need is a pair of pants that protects them from this harmful radiation! Or, if custom pants designed around your smartphone is a bit too much to bite - just make a radiation-proof pocket liner! You could make it one-sided, so that they still get reception while protecting themselves....

Or, two sided, so that they can protect RFID security badges and passports from techno-thieves trying to read the information off them!

Perfect for the health-concerned vegan AND the security-serious businessman. What are you waiting for!

The Skill Tree of Life

A personal favorite idea of ours is the Skill Tree of Life - basically a website where people list their skills and attempt to improve them, themed as an RPG skill tree. This would be a similar idea to Fitocracy, which does an amazing job at keeping you interested in physical exercise. But Fitocracy doesn’t cater to musicians, programmers, and other niche skills that people want to track and show off to their friends. This would be the be-all, end-all of skills tracking and sharing.

Thoughts? Comments? Drop us a line! And as always: if you build it, we want to see it!

Toy Tinkering: NERF Magazine Rail

In our ever-growing fascination with soft foam projectile weapons, we’ve come to realize that carrying large mags of NERF darts can be kind of a pain. If only there was some attach point for NERF guns that you could stick your clip to…

Turns out, most NERF models have rail clips for attaching other superflous things like scopes and lasers, but no one has used them to hold extra darts. We’d love to see/hear some other creative uses for the rail attachments - drop us a comment below!

Fabri-hack: Backpack from Clothes

Ever spend time before vacation trying to cram all your clothes into a suitcase, knowing you won’t end up using any of it during the trip? Well, there’s a smarter way. Just make your luggage out of clothes!

In addition to traveling lighter, a jacket-pack or suit-case (it felt good coming up with that pun) offers additional space, since you won’t have to pack those clothes for the trip.

Safe travels, and happy creating!

Our Next Great Idea: Hacked Stilts

For an idea so simple - taking some wooden poles and strapping them to your legs - stilts haven’t been improved upon much in the past few centuries. 

What if you made your stilts out of (playable) organ pipes? Or maybe make the length auto-adjusting so you can step into them and raise yourself up comfortably? There’s also a lot of artistic room, here: persistence of vision using LEDs or kinetic sculpture attachments are particular favorites of ours.

The sky’s the limit here, or at least as high as your stilts can reach!

Hack Idea: Budget slow-motion film system

When most people think of slow motion movie effects, they think of big, expensive, complicated cameras. But, with the newest GoPro able to shoot at 240fps, it doesn’t have to be that way. So, here’s the plan. Attach the GoPro to a ceiling fan for Matrix-style bullet time rotating around the subject. Or, if you want something linear, set it up to slide along some PVC pipe.

It’s not quite Hollywood quality special effects - but it’s definitely not Hollywood budget, either!