What says “family get-together” more perfectly than volatile, asphyxiating gas? Every year, Professor Fzz and his family get together over the Easter holiday and issue an “Easter Challenge.” Last year, they made an Egg Cannon. This year, they built a hydrogen balloon and suspended camera rig to take pictures of granddad’s house. I guess because part of the challenge awarded extra points for the “use of mad science,” they even produced their own hydrogen!

This summer, we’re going to be doing some content programming here on Make: Online around the concept of the MAKEcation, doing fun, educational, and geeky tech, science, and craft projects together with your family, as an alternative to the family get-away. This idea of issuing a family challenge to make and use something is really cool — altho the hydrogen production might be a little over the top for most. You might wanna think through that “use of mad science” clause in your challenge.

If you have fun ideas for family challenges and MAKEcation plans, we’d love to hear about them in the Comments.

Reconnaissance Balloon

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • Timm Murray

    Eh? I don’t think Hydrogen is poisonous. In a pure-H2 environment, you’ll die from lack of oxygen just like you would if you were underwater for too long, but it’s not chemically toxic.

    • Brandon Wardlaw

      You’re correct. Hydrogen is certainly not poisonous.

  • Gareth Branwyn


    I know hydrogen toxicity is not likely to occur under these conditions. It was more artistic license to make the joke of family functions frequently being volatile and poisonous. I change it to “asphyxiating.”

  • AlmostThere

    I considered Hydrogen for my Almost There Weather Balloon Project (http://www.GeoCities.com/Almost_There_Weather_Balloon/) but decided that Hydrogen is WAY too dangerous. It burns very hot, with an almost invisible flame. Even a little six inch party balloon filled with hydrogen goes of louder than a gun shot (look for videos on YouTube.com)

  • rajesh

    how to get balloon for this