Picking the right tools

We were recently asked to review a new bench power supply, and we realized that this would be a great opportunity to talk about picking the right tools for the job.

Before receiving Yescom's fancy $100 power supply, we'd spent years working with a salvaged power supply. Instead of  variable 0-30V, it was fixed at 12V. Instead of 5 Amp max, ours peaked at 2. And our old one definitely didn't have a display showing how much current the circuit is drawing. The Yescom power supply was a HUGE upgrade that's saved us a lot of time.

But there was one thing our power supply had going for it - it was free. And so, for a long time, we were able to invest the money we'd saved on the tool into parts - Arduinos, LEDs, and lots of duct tape.

There comes a point in every hacker's life where salvaged tools and duct tape aren't enough, where the limitations of your tools prevent you from building to your full potential. But, like photographers and cameras, or gamers and video cards, we're subject to a lot of marketing that tells us "This new tool is all you need to become better!" - which simply isn't the case (just take a look at these photos taken on an ancient iPhone 4s). Tools make you more efficient, and make your life easier - but they don't make you a better maker.

Yescom's power supply offers a lot of useful features for a good price. If you have the money to spend and work on enough projects that the money spent is worth the time saved, go for it - it's a great investment.

If you're still sharpening your skills and working on projects for fun, don't worry about spending all of your money on professional tools just yet. Heck, go ahead and make your own power supply - you'll learn a ton along the way!

Invention Update

Hey all,

We haven't been posting, but we haven't stopped hacking! Many of our projects are still in development, so we decided to release a quick update on what's been going on for your reading pleasure.

 

DIY PCBs

Rapid prototyping of PCBs has been the holy grail of electrical engineering for quite some time - and PCB fab has always been a choice between fast and cheap. Experimentation with our Shapeoko CNC milling machine leads us to believe that the two don't need to be mutually exclusive. We also found a couple novel techniques for finishing after the traces have been made - we'll share them as soon as we perfect them.

 

Projector Projects

Remember when tablets were so expensive, they were a symbol of status? Today, you can buy a tablet for less than $50, which makes them accessible for all kinds of awesome hacks. We're also seeing this trend for projectors, and we've been helping that trend along in the best possible way... you'll hopefully see more of this soon.

 

Vacuum Chambers and Thin Films

In a fit of fevered youtube video watching, we've discovered the not-just-for-big-industries fabrication technique of thin film vacuum deposition. This technique allows you to coat materials in molecularly-thin metallic layers and is used to produce produce mirror surfaces, transparent conductive surfaces, and even chip-style transistors.


We've since purchased a vacuum pump from The DIY Outlet and have been working on preparing a vacuum chamber and supporting electronics suitable for sputtering. The vacuum pump has worked quite well, and even came with enough oil to get started.

 

Wish us luck!

How to Build A 35mph Electric Bike on the Cheap

Here at Fabricate, we like moving fast. We also like quick hacks that people can afford. So when we found that we could retrofit a standard road bicycle with a 1kW motor for $750 (compared to thousands for a standard electric bicycle conversion kit), we were sold!

The DIY Electric Bike Conversion Kit:

DIY-Electric-Bike-Kit.jpg

As with most large purchases, this is one you'll want to do online - we found a very affordable electric bike kit that get you a 40V 1kW hub motor, controller, LCD display, throttle, and weatherproof rear bag. The wheel even has an inner tube, so you simply have to add some air and the wheel is ready to go!

The other expensive item was a battery to drive the motor; we went with a 20Ah 48V battery that only cost $400 and came with its own charger. It's massive, heavy, and doesn't have any kind of wire connector at the end of the leads, so a little soldering and a leftover connector pulled from spare parts were required to get it mated with the power connector on the controller. That being said, it's cheap, and has a lot of capacity. You could also try running your bike with 4 LiPo batteries in series for $140, but you'll only get 3Ah of capacity.

 

Installing Your Electric Bike Kit:

_MG_3256.jpg

Installation is fairly simple if you know what you're doing... but we were still learning when we attempted the kit for the first time. The instructions provided with the kit didn't actually match the parts we received, so we had to guess a few steps. We removed the front wheel, bolted the hub motor in place, attached the display and throttle and ran all the wires to the back of the bike where the rear bag was Velcro'd into place.

A quick test while suspending the front of the bike read a speed of over 40mph! Unfortunately we didn't secure the front wheel well enough... it slipped off slightly, juked, and damaged the internal hall effect sensors that track the motor's rotation. After another week's wait and one replacement wheel later, we were good to go - it was time to take it on the road!

 

Impressions:

_MG_3276.jpg

We did a quick test outside in a parking lot to get a feel for the handling. Let me tell you - people stop to look at this thing. During our parking lot test we had several people ask about the motor and how it worked, and we were only testing at around 10mph!

We took it to a circular bike track nearby so we could safely test it at higher speeds. Without any pedaling we managed to hit a reliable top speed of 32mph - and on a bicycle, this is wind-whippingly, eyes-dryingly fast. It was actually hard to lean into turns due to the gyroscopic forces on the wheel!

If you'll be taking this on the streets, you'll want to have good brakes - disc brakes are preferable, but if you're upgrading an old bike (like we did), you'll want to check with your local bike shop to brakes capable of handling the extra weight and speed.



Conclusion:

We set out looking for a powered way to get around without breaking the bank, and we succeeded - for half the cost of an entry level motorcycle and without the cost of gas, licensing*, and insurance, we now have a street legal bike that'll get us from A to B with minimal effort. 

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions!

 

*A note on licensing (thank you to Aidan Garnier for pointing this out): different localities have different regulations when it comes to electric bikes / motorcycles. Make sure to call your local DMV before taking it out on the streets! Fortunately, the kit does come with the technology to work with the two most common rules - a maximum speed limit, and controlling your speed via peddling (Peddle Assist) instead of with a throttle.

Idea: Music Licensing v2.0

We find it fascinating, how YouTube has become a central location for listening to music.

Equally so, as filmmakers, we're constantly struggling to find good, free music to include in our videos.

Then, we came across YouTube channels like MrSuicideSheep, who showcases music from small artists - and it occurred to us: why not create a system that lets filmmakers use musician's music, while still compensating them for their music?

Today, that's done by striking a deal with the musician directly, but small filmmakers and musicians don't have time for that.

Instead, you could use the system that YouTube already uses for catching copyright violations to, well, eliminate copyright violations. Instead of blocking these "violators," you simply give some (or all, depending how much of the original content they used) back to its creators. Did you use a 3 Doors Down song in your new sports video? No worries - 10% of your ad revenue will automatically be credited to their account. Did you rip off an entire episode of Dr. Who? Well, maybe you should be creating your own content...but, in the mean time, all the ad revenue from that video will go straight to the BBC.

It's been obvious for a long time that the music/video industry is in hefty need of overhaul. Instead of fighting it, trying to stop people from copy things...we should reward it. We've seen more and more how sharing great content benefits the small guys, the up-and-comers who are passionate about their work. Making it easier to share things (and for hard-working artists to get credit / a cut of the $) would definitely be a move in the right direction!

Startup idea giveaway: Tenant Trainer

We're giving away another startup idea that we think is really interesting, but simply don't have time to pursue. If you do end up looking into it, or even trying it out, let us know!

Here's the problem:

In most apartment buildings, landlords pay for services that are included (as a flat rate) in tenant's rent - maintenance, garbage, water, having a property manager around to answer questions...

Of course, the tenants don't care about any of that. It's a well-known phenomenon that when people don't pay for something, they don't respect it. If you aren't paying for the water, you won't be as quick to turn the faucet off. Or, if you don't pay for repairs to your sink garbage disposal, you might care less about what you shove down it.

On the other hand, the landlord does pay for that water and those repairs, and he'd love a way to get you to care, too.

Here's the idea:

A tenant training program that, when completed, gives tenants a small (maybe $5/mo) discount on their rent. The training would cover things like how to conserve water, how to better maintain your sink disposal - and, if it's shown to be effective, the environmental impact of conserving water. Essentially, get the tenant to be more aware of their actions, so that they save the landlord money. In return, they get back a portion of the money they save the landlord...and everyone wins!

How to start:

Find a couple of landlords and talk with them about the problems they face with tenants. Lots of repair requests? Too many noise issues? People leaving garbage around and smelling up the building? - Then, ask them how much they'd be willing to pay to get their tenants to be aware of these issues. If they're feeling financial pain from these issues, you've hit startup gold!

 

There's startup idea for the day. What're you waiting for? Go start a company!

Startup idea: Eliminate physical addresses

Perhaps it's just a problem that college students have when they move to a new dorm every year - but I don't think so.

You see, physical addresses are incredibly problematic - not the least of which is that they're impossible to change. If I subscribe to several magazines, then move, I have to call up each magazine individually to change my address in their files. Plus Amazon.com, my bank, phone company, etc etc etc. Moving is a huge hassle, and having to change addresses in so many places certainly doesn't help. Or, if you have a summer and a winter home, how do you tell every service that you're connected to to send packages to one location in the summer and the other in the winter?

Another problem with addresses involve privacy. If you give someone your mailing address, odds are that you are also telling them where you live. Who knows what will happen to that information when the company's servers get hacked?

Now, in the online world, changing "addresses" is easy. You just point your old email address to your new one, or email everyone in your address book. One click, and done. You can even give different addresses to different people (many people create separate email accounts for spam) and set up complex forwarding rules. None of this is possible with a mailing address.

 

I challenge you, the budding entrepreneur, to solve this. Create a service where you create psuedo addresses for people that they can give out to businesses and other people. At any point, they can change the end point of this psuedo address, and all of their new mail will immediately be sent to their new address.

The most obvious challenge is around shipping costs. If their mail is sent to you, then you send it out again, someone has to pay for that extra postage. Maybe you market it to the rich and privacy-concerned who don't mind footing the bill. Or, maybe you make it entirely virtual, and work with online retailers and/or the post office to integrate your digital address book system with theirs, so that the packages go straight to their correct destination.

 

I used to believe that physical mail was on its way out - but I was wrong. Emails have replaced letters, its true. But online shopping - and package shipping - is at an all time high. It is becoming easier and easier to get a product sent to you than to go out to the store and buy it, and that trend is only going to continue. One day, 3D replicators will eliminate this need - but the ability to 3D print sneakers and electronics at home is easily 30-50 years away. That's a lot of time for you to be rolling in money, and a lot of time for humans to deal with the broken physical address system.

Want to get acquired by Google? Here's your idea.

With all this hype over how Snapchat refused a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, it's worth pointing out that there are still plenty of ideas floating around that could score you an acquisition offer from a major company like Google or Facebook.

Image courtesy of iphonehacks.com

Image courtesy of iphonehacks.com

So, want to get acquired by Google for billions of dollars? Here's an idea to get you started:

Finding the best route between locations still hasn't been solved. It's true, Google Maps does a good job - but Google's definitely willing to pay to improve it, especially with competitors like Apple Maps on the scene.

How could you improve Google Maps navigation? Give users more control over preferences - and give them more options and combinations. Let me tell the map program that I'd like to get from Pittsburgh, PA to New York City in the cheapest way possible, then have it propose flights and buses. Not only that, have it be intelligent about it. If I take a flight from PIT airport, it should know that I'll need to get there somehow, and provide the options of taking the airport shuttle or getting a taxi.

We're long past the technological point where we should have to coordinate our travel on multiple websites - why, then, does Google Maps not integrate with forms of transportation besides mass transit and driving? Specifically, flights, trains, taxis, and intercity buses all need to be included before it can really become a single hub for all transportation needs.

So, what're you waiting for? Go make this and get acquired by Google! Or, if you have any questions or ideas, feel free to share them in the comments.

As pointed out by /u/printf_the_musical on reddit, a good place to start would be to look at Google's General Transit Feed Specification, which enables mass transit organizations to share their route data in a usable way.

Rethinking Basic Controls

Our lives are filled with controls - switches, knobs, buttons - to control all of the devices and machines that we use in our life. Set the temperature on the stove, enter a time for the microwave, get the sink's water at just the right temperature. Turn on your TV, your lights, adjust the volume of your speakers. ...

As I said, we live in a world of controls. And it's been an area of intense study - to the point where there are industrial design handbooks that tell you the exact size for a knob to be, with what type of ridges, so that it's as easy as possible for the human hand to use it.

And it's very important that we've perfected these controls - imagine a nuclear power plan operator accidentally causing a meltdown because a knob didn't work the way he expected!

But, just because they're good now doesn't mean that they can't get better. A lot better. These industrial controls have worked well, because they've been the best we have. 

Until now. Watch as a group of hackers, in just a few hours, made it possible to control a light using hand gestures: 

It's true that these gestures might be slightly less "intuitive" than just flicking a switch. However, the devices in our lives are becoming increasingly complicated, to the point that our old control methods simply don't work. Imagine trying to design a physical control system for a lightbulb with variable color - you'd need at least three knobs! (For red, green and blue - or hue, saturation and luminance)

And this is where innovation is needed. For all of the amazing new gadgets that are coming out (the Pebble, Lockitron, Lifx, etc), the number of options and inputs under our control is growing exponentially. It's up to us to figure out how to deal with it!

Simplifying Circuits - The Intelligent Breadboard

Learning Electrical Engineering is incredibly valuable - even if you don't end up designing processors for Intel, Electrical Engineering gives you the tools to understand and control your own world. Power go out in a room? You'd know that you probably blew a fuse from drawing too much current. Lighting in your bathroom too dim? You'd be able to install your own lighting circuit, skipping on paying contractors hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A non-intelligent breadboard, courtesy of weebly.com

A non-intelligent breadboard, courtesy of weebly.com

But, there's a problem. Electrical Engineering is really hard to learn, especially if you aren't currently in college. 

That's where we as inventors come in, saving the day by creating products that make it easier to understand the theories and practices of working with electronics. 

Specifically, today's idea centers around designing circuits on a breadboard. This tends to be a very labor intensive process: when something doesn't work as expected, you have to go around and probe every point until you find the bug. But what if circuit design was more like coding, where every point was constantly monitored? What if your breadboard was hooked up to a computer screen, showing you what's happening at every point. You could even incorporate intelligent alerts and fallbacks, so that if an anomaly is detected, it shuts the circuit off before you fry a valuable component.

Not only would this make the entire process easier and faster for those new to Electrical Engineering, it would also save circuit designers money by preventing accidental part damage.

This is certainly not the easiest project we've suggested on this blog - but, that just means that it'll be harder for other people to duplicate it if you do succeed! 

We've been thinking through how this would work a fair bit, so if you're interested, feel free to comment or contact us and we'll be happy to share more detailed thoughts with you

Mobile App Idea: Location-based Conversation Starter

Meeting people is hard. That's why there's such a big market for dating websites. But there's a big problem with dating websites, and social networks in general - they don't apply to right now. Location-based dating would be a great conversation starter

What do I mean by that? Well, if you start talking to someone you like, you have to arrange a time to meet them. This is because these websites only match you on general location (ie you are both in the same city).

Another interpretation of this would be to focus less on finding the "perfect" match, and more on finding someone who is physically close enough to meet right now.

Such an app could work as follows:

You are connected to another random nearby user via chat. If there's enough people using the app, you could begin to match people by interests, and share this matched interest with both people.

If both people strike it off and want to meet, they could choose to share their location with each other to meet up in person.

 

It's really that simple. But such a conversation starter/dating system could be incredibly powerful because people crave human connection, and this would dramatically reduce barriers, increasing the speed at which you can discover and meet new people.

Imagine going alone to a sporting event or a concert, and using the app while you're in line to find someone who shares the interest of that sport/musician, then enjoying the event with them as a first date, or even just striking off a friendship.

As someone who has used several dating sites before and found them all lacking, I'd be happy to be one of your first users if you build such a dating site. Let us know what you think in the comments!

The Amazing Mason Jar

As a recent Wired article pointed out, you can do a lot with the humble mason jar. The humble mason jar

Speakers? Lamps? Coffee or tea making? It's all fair game.

When you think about it, a mason jar is really just a strong, reasonably sized glass container. It's actually a fun brainstorming exercise - what could you do with a mason jar? Capture bugs? Hold your toothbrushes?

Actually, yes, that'll be today's idea - not a project idea, but a brainstorming exercise. Come up with 5+ creative uses for mason jars and share them in the comments!

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 tektonten.blogspot.com

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!

Build your own Cloak of Scintillating Auras!

Like the infamous Dungeons and Dragons/World of Warcraft item, you too can have your own Cloak of Scintillating Auras. All it takes is a bit of cloth, some patience, and a lot of LEDs! For those of us who are less inclined to Role Playing Games, what exactly is a Cloak of Scintillating Auras?

It's a cloak that rapidly changes colors - supposedly to stun your enemies, but in real life the use cases range from looking awesome all the way to looking awesome at parties. (Did I mention that it makes you look awesome?)

A Cloak of Scintillating Auras

If you're one with deeper pockets, you can build your cloak out of fiber optic cloth. You'll end up with a giant sheet of cloth that glows evenly in any color you desire.

Unfortunately, that option would cost several hundred dollars.

Good thing there's EL wire! For less than $10 a strand, you can get a bunch of strands of glowing wire to line your cape with. It's cheap, and you get cool strands of light on your cloak! However, EL wire can't switch color, so you'd need a lot of strands to achieve a scintillating look. If you want to even out the appearance, you could use some glow in the dark fabric paint (That exists? Who knew!)

A third option would be to use strips of LEDS - unlike the EL wire, you can get RGB color LEDs. Not only that, you can cut these strips up and wire them together in whatever length you want. You could cover your entire cape in a decent grid of multicolor LEDs for only $50! (plus, they come with a handy controller with built-in flashing patterns)

 

Needless to say, if you build a cloak of scintillating auras, let us know! We'd love to see - and share - it!

Website idea: Practice presenting by speaking

Google recently announced a new voice API for JavaScript that lets you do dead simple voice recognition in the browser (the demo, Chrome only) We've tossed around plenty of ideas of audio interfaces. Our first thoughts were how to make Google Glass for your ears.

But, we eventually realized that that will never work. Why? Ears just aren't that good at absorbing information quickly. Any time you need to output something to the user, it'll be much faster to show them than tell them.

However, audio really shines when it comes to input. We shifted gears to thinking about unique cases for input via audio (since using your voice to type was solved long ago by Dragon Naturally Speaking)

If you want to do well in life, you should practice presenting and public speaking

And that's how we came up with this startup website idea: a website where you give it the text for a speech, presentation, acting script, or some other spoken piece you need to memorize. Then, you start practicing out loud. It listens and follows along, and whenever you pause for too long, provides a hint at what to say next.

I've done plenty of speaking competitions - and this is exactly what you do to practice  presenting (only, with another person following along and providing the hints). The ability to present yourself and be a confident public speaker is useful whether you're a CEO or someone asking for a raise. Something that enables people to practice presenting alone would be a great way to get started and build confidence!

It's tough to say how much money there would be in a product that makes it easier to practice presenting. But, if you really wanted to turn this idea into a startup or small business, you could use this website idea as your launching point for a whole suite of things focused around presentations, actors, or even singers!

Let us know what you think in the comments

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!

Startup idea: 3D Printed Modular Mounting System

Looking for a startup idea? Look no further! There's been some experimentation in the 3D printing community with smartphone mounts.

The problem with these systems is that they're always one-offs: mount an iPhone 5 to a bike, or your iPad to your wall.

That's where you, the budding entrepreneur hungry for a startup idea, come in. Create a modular mounting system!

Startup idea using a 3d printer

On one hand, you have all of the various surfaces you can mount to: bike handlebars, walls, car dashboards, helmets, tripods, etc.

On the other, you have countless pieces of technology just waiting to be mounted. iPhones, all different types of Android phones, cameras, iPads, bluetooth portable speakers, you name it. The beauty of this system is that you can create products that suite incredibly niche needs. It wouldn't make sense to create an entire product that's just for mounting the old Galaxy S2 smartphone to a bike - but, if you separate the bike mount and the Galaxy S2 clip, you're able to offer incredible diversity without a ridiculous number of individual products.

One of the more entertaining thoughts we had for this startup idea: besides mounting technology (phones, tablets, etc), you could also have mounts for relatively simple things: imagine being able to mount a cup holder to your bike handlebars!

Skeptical of how successful this startup idea could be? Just look at the GoPro action camera: they actually make most of their money selling various mounts for the camera: monopods, head straps, chest straps, car mounts, etc. Because, once people have the technology, the next question is how they'll use it. And for that, they'll need a mount!

If you're interested in this startup idea, let us know in the comments! We're giving it away for free, no strings attached, but we're always willing to help you brainstorm and develop your ideas :)

The Game Generator

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time: A programmatic game generator. Imagine taking various components of different simple puzzle games, and recombining them. For example: take the "make shapes" rule of Bejewled and combine it with the board and pieces of Chess. To attack your opponent, you have to form various shapes with your pieces!

Or take the territory conquest from Risk, but put it on a Sudoku board. Instead of a map of the world, you're playing to conquer a 9x9 grid!

A puzzle game generator

The beauty of this game generator is how many games you can draw from:

  • Risk
  • Sudoku
  • Scrabble
  • Solitaire
  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Monopoly
  • Life
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Bejewled
  • Poker

And the list goes on!

If you managed to create an algorithm that took different components of these games, you could essentially create 1,000's of novel new puzzle games at the click of a button. Then, you could even use a service like Amazon Mechanical Turk to test what your game generator outputs, have people rate each game after they play it, and narrow those 1,000's of novel new puzzle games down to a few viral gems.

To get started on thinking about how such a game generator would work, you would want to start with some puzzle games and combine them by hand. Think about how Risk plus Life would work - how do you classify different aspects of the game so that they can be recombined into a new puzzle game? Do those classifications still work when combining Sudoku and Scrabble?

It's mind-bending to think about combing strategy games with card games with word games. But the result could be something truly extraordinary, something that redefines what it means to develop games.

What do you think? We'd love to hear any thoughts you have - or, if you do attempt to build a game generator, we'll be your first beta tester!

Create a 3D circuit with water and ice

Building a 3D circuit out of water and ice? That's madness! A 3D Circuit

But, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, pure water is actually an electrical insulator. It's only when you add electrolytes and minerals does it become the electronics-destroying liquid that we're most familiar with.

Knowing that, with careful planning, you should be able to construct 3D circuitry with nothing more than carefully planned paths of frozen electrolyte-rich water among a larger bath of pure water or mineral oil.

In a weird way, it's almost like 3D printing, only with frozen water instead of plastic! That could be an interesting next step for this project (3D printing circuitry). But, before then, you'd have an important problem to solve: Circuits are warm, and ice melts when it gets warm. All else fails, you could just leave the circuit in your freezer.

Heh. If you did that, imagine the overclocking potential! Your entire circuit would serve as a huge, frozen heatsink. That's not even liquid cooling, that's ice cooling! (Though, we don't recommend trying this with your computer. Modern CPUs aren't designed to operate at freezing temperatures).

It's absolutely a crazy idea - but one that we're dying to try out. If you try making your own 3D circuit, let us know in the comments!