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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.

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)!

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In preparation for the contest, we’re offering excerpts from the Alex Rider books, highlighting the fantastic, clever (and entirely fictional) gadgets used by Alex. Up this week is the Radio Mouth Brace from Scorpia.

Radio mouth brace:This brace is a simple and easy-to-use tracking device. The radio transmitter is held on a circuit board printed over the top of the brace so that it lies against the roof of the mouth. The metal loops that hold it in place act as an antenna.

When it is worn, the brace transmits a steady and powerful signal, which is constantly monitored by MI6’s network of radio towers. Each tower analyzes the direction and strength of the signal, and by putting this information together, the location of the wearer can be pinpointed. The accuracy of the system depends on the amount of information available, but it is usually as close as one hundred feet.

A tiny switch built into the underside of the brace changes the frequency of the radio signal being produced. This is often used as a distress call.

The brace operates on kinetic power, in the same way as some modern watches. At the back of the device, in a hollow molded to the roof of the wearer’s mouth, is a small, flat box containing a capacitor, a small weight, and a microgenerator. As the wearer’s head moves, the weight moves back and forth, causing the generator to spin. This produces enough current to keep the capacitor charged and the radio signal transmitting.

You can download the high-res schematic for the bike pump and download a sample chapter from Scorpia to see how Alex uses it to get out of trouble.

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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Becky Stern

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


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