In the first few years of Make: and the self-identified maker movement, there were a number of projects that we featured in our newly minted magazine that became iconic and served as project ambassadors to this exciting new endeavor. These projects tended to be simple, clever, and whimsical; to embody something of the spirit of a new maker ethos. Here are ten of those early projects, as interesting, relevant, and infinitely makeable today as they were a decade ago.
Mark Frauenfelder’s vibrobots project in Make: was a perfect early example of a big bang for the buck project. We realized early on that the best beginner projects, the ones that got people really excited about making, were the ones that were just involved enough to make you feel like you’d accomplished something, but not so complicated as to frustrate the newbie. And, they were especially good when you ended up with something really cool to show off to your friends. The vibrobot hit all of these sweet spots.
Mousey the Junkbot
This was my first project in Make:, in Volume 02. In it, I showed you how to turn an analog computer mouse into a light-seeking robot. This combination of re-purposing ubiquitous technology in a clever way and having a cute, feisty little robot as a result made this one of the first of Make:‘s iconic projects. Mousey even enjoyed 15 minutes of fame when she appeared on The Colbert Report (and hilariously leaped to her destruction during the segment).
Cigar Box Guitar
The cigar box guitar is another example of a wonderfully whimsical and fun re-purposing of a throw-away into something useful and cool. After this project, we followed it up with a cracker box amp, oil can and license plate guitars, and numerous other variations on the theme.
This project from Eric Wilhelm of Instructables, became iconic for both Make: and Instructables. This is a super-easy project that’s perfect to do in a classroom, workshop, or other group setting. And, when you’re done, you get to blow mini-marshmallows in each other’s faces. What’s not to love?
LED Throwies, basically attaching an LED to a battery and magnet so that you can throw the bundle and have it stick to a metal surface, began life as a “1+2+3” column entry in Make: Volume 06. It quickly went viral (at least to the extent such things did in 2006) and a million variations on the theme bloomed. Soon, there were LED Floaties, motion-sensing Throwies, LED Swimmies, Extreme LED Throwies, and many more. LED Throwies were also one of the first workshops Make: did at Maker Faires, tech cons, and other places where we showed off the magazine and what we were up to.
Created by Evil Mad Scientist Labs, the Bristlebot was another example of a super-clever yet super-simple project that really tickled the fancies of those who encountered them. A bristlebot is a variation on the vibrobot which uses the bristles of a toothbrush as little feet that are motivated by an eccentric-weight pager motor mounted on top.
The MintyBoost was one of Adafruit’s first kits, a simple charging circuit, housed in a mint tin, that allowed you to recharge your cellphone on two AA batteries. It was not only one of the iconic early projects in Make:, it was one of the first successful kits that helped launch Adafruit, and it helped inspire a whole mint tin project craze in the process.
Soda Bottle Rocket
Appearing in Make: Volume 05, Steve Lodefink’s Soda Bottle Rocket project was the beginning of many popular rocketry and other flight and projectile projects.
Mini Fume Extractor
While most of these projects are whimsical, where you end up with a fun toy to play with and show off, this project by Marc de Vinck had you making an everyday workbench tool, a small fume extractor, housed in a mint tin.
This is one of my all-time favorite projects because it demonstrates just how little “smarts” a machine has to have to be able to navigate a space and behave like a robot. In fact, it has no smarts at all, just two cross-wired touch-switch whiskers that fire opposing DC motors and allow the little critter to back away and avoid obstacles. This is bottom-up bots at its most rock bottom.