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On November 17th, we’ll be launching the Alex Rider Dream Gadget Contest, to coincide with the release of the next chapter in Alex’s adventures, Crocodile Tears. The book comes out the same day that MAKE, Volume 20 (the kid-themed issue) hits newsstands! In case you’re unaware, Alex Rider is a young spy whose exploits are chronicled in a popular series of teen spy/adventure books. Alex uses all sorts of crazy high tech contraptions, made from things in his school backpack, to get out of sticky situations.

MAKE is teaming up with the Penguin Group to present The Alex Rider Dream Gadget Contest.

Attention all adventure-seekers, gadget lovers, and closet inventors. You are invited to join in the fun! If you were Alex Rider, what gadget would you want in the upcoming adventure Crocodile Tears? Design your Alex Rider dream gadget, inspired by an everyday object (i.e. an iPod, a toothpaste tube, a pen). The winning gadget will be built here at MAKE Labs. Send us a schematic, tell us what your gadget is made from, and how it works. Your entry can be a schematic, sketches, and/or an explanation by you. Remember that the winning gadget should be inspired by an everyday object that one could realistically build (as much as we wish we could create a pair of scissors that fly us to the moon)!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be offering excerpts from the Alex Rider books, highlighting the fantastic, clever (and entirely fictional) gadgets used by Alex. We’ll also be giving away a whole pile of books from the series!

The gadgets schematics we’ll be sharing with you are all from Alex Rider: The Gadgets, a special illustrated book of gadgets described in the novels. In the series, M16 agent Smithers creates these clever tools for Alex to use on his missions. First up is the high-tensile yo-yo from Stormbreaker, useful for climbing:

High-tensile yo-yo:This black plastic yo-yo, slightly larger than standard, is in fact a miracle of miniaturized engineering. When it is activated using a concealed switch, it acts as a winch, winding the cord back around the axle. It is intended to clip in an agent’s belt for use as a climbing aid. One half of the yo-yo contains the micromotor array, made from super-tough carbon fiber components. A complex micromechanical gear system delivers up to 350 watts of power.

The other half houses the highly advanced lanthanum/nickel/tin battery, which supplies as much current as a car battery yet fits into less than a tenth of the space. The battery holds enough charge to let the motor run continuously for one hour. When it is due to be recharged, the agent needs only to use the device as a yo-yo; the spinning motion runs a tiny generator in its core and will charge the unit fully in approximately fifteen minutes. The cord itself is made from an advanced form of nylon that can lift weights of up to two hundred pounds. One hundred feet of it are wound around the central axle.

Because the yo-yo may have to be used as a toy, either to recharge the battery or to pass inspection, it has been designed to function normally despite the unusually long cord; this has been achieved by using a pair of axles, inner and outer. When the yo-yo is dropped, the cord pays out to a length of one yard before the outer axle locks in place. The two sides can then spin around the inner one. Pulling the cord harder unlocks the outer axle and allows the entire hundred feet to unwind.

Check out the high-res gadget schematic of the yo-yo for more details. Alex uses it to get out of a very high-flung predicament in Stormbreaker:

He was suspended underneath the plane by a single thin white cord, twisting around and around as he was carried ever farther into the air. The wind was rushing past him, battering his face and deafening him. He couldn’t even hear the propellers, just above his head. The belt was cutting into his waist. He could hardly breathe. Desperately, he scrabbled for the yo-yo and found the control he wanted. A single button. He pressed it and the tiny powerful motor inside the yo-yo began to turn. The yo-yo rotated on his belt, pulling in the cord. Very slowly, an inch at a time, Alex was drawn up toward the plane.

To get a bigger taste of Stormbreaker, download a sample excerpt.

Disclaimer: Excerpts from Alex Rider: The Gadgets by Anthony Horowitz are fictional and for inspiration only. Readers should not attempt to recreate these gadgets.

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Book Giveaway Time!

First up, we’re giving away two copies each of Stormbreaker and Point Blank. Just leave a comment in this post and tell us why you or your kid(s) needs one of these books. Please make sure you include your email address in the comment form field (it won’t be published). All eligible comments will be closed by Noon PDT on Sunday, October 25th. The winners will be announced next week on the site. Good luck!

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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Comments

  1. Tim says:

    My son needs one of these books because I can’t help but agree with him that the books he has to read for school are “boring”. These sound like great books for him and I don’t know why we haven’t heard about Alex Rider before.

  2. sburlappp says:

    My son is a ten-year-old, Lego-robot-building, Drawdio-soldering, Make-reading Proto-Geek. That yo-yo sounds like something he would come up with himself. He’d love those books.

  3. Jenny says:

    I would love to get my hands on one of these books as a giveaway at my library. This series always flies off the shelves and I know quite a few readers who would love to get the opportunity to win this book from me! :)

  4. Kelly says:

    This would be perfect for my son! He’s into this spy genre, and it sounds as though these books add a bit of engineering/science that will juice up his desire to learn.

  5. Peter says:

    I run a book club for disadvantaged kids out of Mable’s Fables Children’s bookstore, and they all love Alex Rider. It would be great to be able to give some copies away to the group.

  6. Heather Johnson says:

    Oh, our son would love these books. He spends most of his free time inventing, creating, and imagining.

  7. Joe says:

    i am 13 and i would love to have my hands on these books because i have always wanted some of alex riders books to read because all my friends are always telling me how good they are

  8. Art says:

    My son’s goal in life, at age 12, is to grow up and and then blow up.

    He wants to make fireworks, you see. He’s fascinated by them, and gets upset if we aren’t in the front row at the local fireworks each year. As such, we’ve also build model rockets together and pinewood derby cars and so on. He has has also inspired his siblings, as each of them (and yes, my daughter included) have also built their own model rockets.

    They are all voracious readers, and so I look forward to any book that also inspires them to build things, to imagine things, and to figure things out.

    thanks
    Art Mulder

  9. russ says:

    i’ve got two boys. they like to make and destroy things. They enjoy adventure and good guy bad guy stories.

    can never have to many books.

  10. Timothy Mueller-Harder says:

    I am 12 years old and an avid techie and I would love to have the second book in this series. My cousin thinks that it is the best series ever and after he gave the first book to me, I completely agree with him. Please consider me for this giveaway.

  11. Special Agent Chris says:

    I’ve been informed that my son is currently deep undercover as a 5th grade spy somewhere within close vicinity to our home. He understands the alleged “fictional accounts of Alex Rider” are secretly documenting another young spy’s exploits and contain useful information and technology that may assist him in completing his current mission. If the Make directorate deems his mission critical, please forward said secret documents through the courier identified in this dispatch’s id information.

  12. Bethie says:

    I need to win this for my son. He needs fast past books to keep him interested and these look like they fit the bill.

  13. Ivan says:

    She’s already on a Destination Imagination Elementary Team, she makes things all the time and teaches herself just about anything I let her (The table saw is still off limits – she is 11).

    She cooks, builds, reads, makes, crochets, knits, fishes, solves hard problems, and is generally the one who figures out how to fix the things dad breaks. I wonder if she’s already undercover in my own house!

    She’d love these books.

  14. Leigh says:

    My son already runs around the house doing very similar things. Reading about these adventures will just just fuel his desire to make:

  15. Lisette says:

    I need these books because I’ve heard tons of great things about the Alex Rider series. They sound great! :)

  16. tamara riley says:

    I’d like one of these books for myself. Frankly Oprah’s book club is uninspiring.

  17. Tricia says:

    My 16-year-old son once read the book Point Blank, and he STILL talks about it, and asks me to find it so that he can read it again. He has a singular fascination with how things work, and how to make things from things he already has, and I feel that this book helped in in those thoughts.
    My 9-year-old son is now of the age to be able to appreciate a book like this, and having his big brother already recommending the first book so highly would give him a big jump-start, since he has some trouble staying on-task with his reading. Of course, a super-interesting spy story will also help a lot!
    That’s why I would absolutely love these books for my sons.
    Thank you for considering them. :)

  18. Eric Richardson says:

    He’s the type that would blaze through them in a single night and then donate them to the local library so others could read them too. He recently sped through the fabrication of a lego soccer ball kicking robot at his home school group’s robotics club, even though his group didn’t win they all had a great time making.

  19. da5idm says:

    My son loves spy books and making things. We have read all of the Artemis Fowl books. With every new issue of Make we sit down and read it together at his insistence. We can’t afford to buy a lot of books, so we use the library extensively. However, our library does not have these. It would be a great addition to my sons library.

  20. C.L.U. . says:

    I love Alex Rider! it’s my favorite book series and it would make me really happy to have these two great books in my collection. I have no money to buy them (I’m just a kid!) so please pick me to win.
    E-mail-jamestkirk98@gmail.com

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