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New Review: littleBits Starter Kit

The littleBits kit is like Lego for basic circuits. Each “bit” is a small circuit board that enables a single electronics component or electronic function, like a potentiometer, light sensor, LED, or motor. The bits snap together magnetically with edge connectors that are color-coded to indicate their general role within... Read more »

New Review: Learn to Solder Skill Badge

Thousands of people mastered soldering for the first time at this year’s Maker Faire events in the Maker Shed’s “Learn to Solder” tents, with the helpful coaching of Mitch Altman, Jimmie Rodgers, and dozens of other hackerspace volunteers. Participants left the Maker Shed with smiles on their faces, new skills,... Read more »

New Review: Astra 1

Hobby rocketry leader Estes Industries makes more than a dozen inexpensive launch sets (launch pad/rod, launch controller) for beginners, but their included rockets are either pre-built or not much of a challenge. For a good first build, I’d instead suggest the Quest Astra 1. Its balsa fins are mounted “through... Read more »

New Review: Thingamagoop 2

Analog voltage-controlled oscillators (AVOs) make a variety of intriguing hums, beeps, buzzes, and loops, controlled by buttons, knobs, and sensors. These are fantastic group projects because once the soldering irons are all put down, you get an excellent payoff: you can have an impromptu concert. Bleep Labs, run by Austin,... Read more »

New Review: Energy Wiz

Aimed at kids 8 and up, this kit has real heart. Its 48-page workbook and components (solar cell, buzzer, two motors, LED, capacitor, copper rivets, pinwheel, etc.) take you through lessons and fun experiments that teach the basics: What is energy, as distinct from force? What forms does it take?... Read more »

New Review: ElectroPUFF Craft Lamp Dimmer Kit

This soft, whimsical pompom connects to any incandescent lamp and controls light levels with just a gentle tap. IFM’s patented electronic textiles are the magic behind it. Conductive yarns that sense your touch are combined with recycled carpet fibers to form the soft switch. This kit appeals to kids, grandmas, science geeks... Read more »

New Review: Eskimold Igloo Building Kit

This is loads of fun — a way to get the kids out of the house during the winter, or make a cheap little ice fishing house that’s disposable. Any type of snow can be compacted into this nifty device to quickly create hundreds of perfectly formed, slanted, stackable igloo... Read more »