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Tag Archives: Educational

Origo – A 3D Printer Designed For Ten Year Olds… Also, Me

Origo 3D Printer (Image courtesy Origo)
By Andrew Liszewski

As a kid I loved construction toys like LEGO, K’nex, Ramagon, Construx, Lincoln Logs, Zaks and even Pipeworks. With a little imagination they could become whatever I wanted them to be. But once again, today’s kids have it way easier. The Origo is billed as a 3D printer designed for ten years old. So it can literally create whatever they can imagine, out of plastic. The finished product might not look as polished as something they bought at the toy store, but it would have the unique advantage of being something they created. Like a 3D low-poly bunny wearing Optimus Prime’s helmet, as seen in the product shot above. And I’m particularly keen on the fact that models can be designed in 3DTin, an easy to use 3D modeling app that runs in your browser.

Of course it still can’t compete with toys like LEGO for the simple fact that they’re real, and this is still just a concept that Joris Peels and Artur Tchoukanov really hope to make a reality some day. They’ve documented their progress on the Origo website, and while the most recent prototype certainly looks like something designed for kids, they’ve got a long way to go. There’s no doubt that one day kid-friendly 3D printers will be as ubiquitous and easy to use as say, Easy Bake Ovens. But will the Origo be the first?

[ Origo ] VIA [ Make ]

Periodic Table Building Blocks Encourage Subconscious Learning

Periodic Table Building Blocks (Image courtesy UncommonGoods)
By Andrew Liszewski

If your kid is at the age when they’re even remotely interested in playing with building blocks, I’m pretty sure they’re not even close to being literate yet. But it’s never too early to push them towards academic excellence, so forego those alphabet blocks in favor of this colorful set which features 20 wooden blocks printed with every element of the periodic table. Including their name, atomic number and symbol. While building forts and castles, on a subconscious level they could be on their way to becoming the next Alfred Nobel. The sets are handmade in Grand Rapids, Michigan and are available from UncommonGoods for $40.

[ Periodic Table Building Blocks ] VIA [ GeekAlerts ]

Monday Morning Physics Fun – Eddy Currents Demonstrated

By Andrew Liszewski

I know for a lot of people, Monday morning isn’t exactly the time when their brain is functioning at full capacity. But I thought this video demonstrating Eddy currents was certainly worth sharing. The demonstrator is simply dropping a small stack of neodymium magnets down a thick-walled section of copper pipe. And even though the magnets aren’t attracted to the pipe, their descent is still slowed dramatically on the way down. Either that, or this is a brilliant hoax, and that pipe is actually a mile long.

And since I’m one of those persons whose brain doesn’t fully kick in until late Tuesday, I’m including Wikipedia’s description of Eddy currents if you’re curious as to what’s supposedly going on here:

Eddy currents (also called Foucault currents[1]) are currents induced in conductors, when a conductor is exposed to a changing magnetic field due to relative motion of the field source and conductor; or due to variations of the field with time. This can cause a circulating flow of electrons, or a current, within the body of the conductor. These circulating eddies of current have inductance and thus induce magnetic fields. These fields can cause repulsive, attractive,[2] propulsion and drag effects.

[ YouTube – Copper Pipe Magnet ] & [ Wikipedia – Eddy Current ]

NASA’s ‘Getting A Feel For Lunar Craters’ Book Features Tactile Diagrams Of The Moon For The Visually Impaired

NASA's 'Getting A Feel For Lunar Craters' Book (Image courtesy NASA)
By Andrew Liszewski

After a visually impaired student signed up for one of professor David Hurd’s introductory astronomy courses at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, he started creating tactile astronomy tools so they could partly experience what celestial objects were like. And his latest effort, a new book called Getting A Feel For Lunar Craters, allows the blind and visually impaired to experience the surface of the Earth’s moon with tactile diagrams and braille descriptions that lets readers feel the various craters, crags and other landmarks that dot its surface.

The 17 page book was created by David with assistance from the NASA Lunar Science Institute, and as far as I can tell is available for free from NASA’s website, though you’ll have to wait for the second reprinting of the book which will be ready in a couple of months. In the meantime though, text-only and audio file versions of the book can be downloaded from their site, if you’re curious.

[ NASA – Getting A Feel For Lunar Craters ] VIA [ Medgadget ]

Ion Audio Piano Apprentice Ditches The Teacher

Ion Audio Piano Apprentice (Image courtesy Ion Audio)
By Andrew Liszewski

It’s not going to instill as much discipline when it comes practising as having an actual person teaching you to play, but Ion Audio’s new Piano Apprentice will at least let you learn at your own pace. It features a 25 note keyboard with touch-sensitive keys that light up showing you exactly which ones you should be playing. And if that’s not enough to get you tickling the ivories like a concert pianist, the Piano Apprentice has an accompanying free app for your iPad, which docks just above the keyboard, showing you how and where you should be placing your hands. For portability it can be powered by 4 x AA batteries or an optional AC adapter, and it should be available sometime in September for ~$100.

[ Ion Audio Piano Apprentice ] VIA [ Chip Chick ]

I Might Not Have A Need For A 20-Foot, $350,000 Animatronic Triceratops Now, But Who Knows What The Future Holds?

Animatronic Triceratops (Image courtesy Hammacher Schlemmer)
By Andrew Liszewski

My gut instinct is that I can probably do without this 20-foot animatronic Triceratops available from none other than Hammacher Schlemmer. But I’m worried that if I don’t act now, I might not find one again at the low, low price of just $350,000. Especially one that was featured at the The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and is not only animated, but actually responds to motion and onlookers.

Motion-activated cameras installed into each eye work in unison with customized interactive software that enables the Cretaceous creature to recognize multiple subjects’ facial features. Once identified, subjects’ tracked movements trigger a set of responses: it sways its tri-horned head right, left, up, and down, stomps and scuffs its right forelimb, and opens its jaws while growling–all powered by digitally controlled servos and silent, pneumatic air-activated cams. Its exterior is crafted by professional sculptors from polyurethane foam and textured silicone over a steel and aluminum frame, replicating the beast’s massive horned frill, powerful hindquarters, and tapered tail with convincing realism. The rumbles that issue from a hidden 1,000-watt speaker are based on paleontological approximations of what sounds the original 67 million year-old saurian might have vocalized.

And even though I don’t have a license to charge people admission to see it, I still think it would make for a better alternative to a garden gnome.

[ Hammacher Schlemmer – The 20 Foot Animatronic Triceratops ] VIA [ The Green Head ]

R2-D2 Planetarium May Not Be Scientifically Accurate

R2-D2 Planetarium (Images courtesy Akihabara News)
By Andrew Liszewski

It’s hard to fault any product that incorporates the Star Wars Universe’s most lovable astromech droid. But something tells me this R2-D2 themed planetarium from Sega Toys isn’t quite scientifically accurate. It still looks like a fun way to light up a kid’s room, just as long as you’re ok when they ask you why they can’t see the Death Star looming overheard when they stare up at the real night sky. Available in Japan sometime in September for under $87 (¥7,000).

[ Akihabara News – [International Toy Show] Sega Toy new R2D2 Planetarium comes with its own Death Star! ]

PianoMaestro Teaching Aid Works On Any Piano

PianoMaestro (Images courtesy ARAHI PianoMaestro)
By Andrew Liszewski

If you’re learning the piano on a budget, companies like Casio have been selling electronic keyboards with follow-along light up keys for a while now. The only downside is that when you want to move on to something ‘grander’ you no longer have that help. But that’s exactly what makes the PianoMaestro system unique. It’s a software/hardware combo that uses a long strip of LEDs that can be placed on any digital or acoustic piano, from a Casio to a Steinway & Sons.

Once you’ve got it properly aligned so that the LEDs sit atop their corresponding keys on the piano, you plug it into your PC and load up the accompanying software which turns standard MIDI files into onscreen musical notation. The software is catered towards beginners so while a piece is being played back you can not only see what keys on the piano you’re supposed to play, but you can also limit it to just one hand’s part, and slow it down until you become more comfortable and proficient at playing it. At just $169 everywhere outside Australia (where it’s just $139) it’s far cheaper than years of piano lessons from a teacher. Though it seems to be lacking the one important thing you get from someone standing over your shoulder: discipline, you can find a happy medium by getting some extra instruction online via a piano tutorial at

[ PianoMaestro ] VIA [ Gizmag ]

LEGO Master Builder Academy

LEGO Master Builder Academy (Image courtesy LEGO)
By Andrew Liszewski

If I had to compile a list of the best jobs on Earth the only position that would top astronaut, caveman and ninja star tester would be a LEGO Master Builder. I mean sitting around and building things out of LEGO all day? That’s like re-living ages 4 to 23, but getting paid to do it! Unfortunately years of writing have left me with terribly mangled blogger’s fingers, so such a dream is long gone for me. But if you’ve got kids at home with an affinity for interlocking plastic bricks, LEGO’s Master Builder Academy could put them on the right track to a pretty awesome career.

There are 6 MBA kits in total, but you begin with a starter kit that includes a handbook and a 3-in-1 LEGO model. ($29.99) Besides just building the included space-themed vehicles, the MBA lessons also teach LEGO theory and design including principles like interlocking and stability, color and shape design, microscale building, balance, details, themes and even how to plan out a creation in 3D using brickpaper sketches. Once you’ve finished the first kit there are 5 others that can be purchased as a subscription, with each one arriving every two months covering other themes like robots and vehicles. ($69.99) Of course working through all of the models and handbooks doesn’t guarantee there’s a job for you at LEGO, but an online community lets you share your creations and designs, so there’s a chance your work get noticed.

[ LEGO Master Builder Academy ] VIA [ Uncrate ]