Make: Volume 78 — Robo Boats

Stories about success often focus on the end result — the “big win” that makes all those pesky failures along the way have meaning. But for makers, the failures are just as important — sometimes even more so — than the end result, because of what was learned along the way.

In our cover story, we follow a group of friends who set out to send an autonomous boat across the Atlantic a decade ago. Their boat never made it, but that failure set them on a course to launch their own startup for self-navigating vessels. And they give you tips on building your own!

From there, get busy building by using the principles of tension and symmetry to make an “impossible” tensegrity planter. Then, update a classic Magic 8-Ball with a Raspberry Pi and divine your fortune with a set of custom GIF reactions.

Plus, 32 projects you can build:

  • Make VR haptic gloves on a budget
  • Build a CO2 logger to help fight Covid-19
  • Learn to use generative design in Fusion 360
  • Send and receive sound using a beam of light
  • Build articulated wings for over-the-top cosplay or Halloween
  • And much more!

On the cover: Seasats’ new autonomous boat is a professional-grade ASV born from a decade-old DIY build.

Table of Contents


Welcome: The Imperfect Prototype

Stories we tell about success too often focus on the finish line and gloss over the important steps of how we got there.Page 05

Made on Earth

Backyard builds from around the globe.Page 06


The Joy of Coding

Meet the team behind the streaming robotics-education platform CodeJoy.Page 16

Minoring in the Majors

How a self-described beginner got crash course in making via the Make: Learning Labs.Page 20

Fresh Air

DIY CO₂ monitors can help clear the air of coronavirus.Page 24

Ocean Science

How to Track a Shark

Chasing chompers with the latest tech.Page 44


Botanical Engineering

Leverage the principles of tension and symmetry to make this seemingly impossible planter.Page 46

Grit Stash

Banish the jumble of random sheets and mystery grits, and get your sandpapers in order.Page 52

The Magic GIF-Ball

Ask and behold your future told — in memes — with this new twist on a classic toy. Page 62

Budget VR Haptic Gloves

Use your hands in virtual reality and feel the objects you touch, for about 50 bucks in parts.Page 68

Cellphone Smart Gate

Build this LTE-enabled opener to activate your garage or gate from anywhere.Page 72

Remaking History: Robert Boyle and the Air Pump

Re-create the vacuum pump that became the symbol of the Scientific Revolution. Page 78

Amateur Scientist: Listening to Light

Make a photophone to send and receive sound on a beam of modulated sunlight. Page 84

1+2+3 Virtual Half-Pipe

Turn an old skateboard into a versatile sit-or-stand swing. Page 89

Toy Inventor’s Notebook: A Can Full of Tone

Build a guitarist’s tone toy — in a can! Page 90

House of Fun

Plug-and-play microcontrollers make home automation easy, at Halloween or anytime. Page 92

Wicked Wings

Rise above the rest by adding articulating wings to your next costume.Page 98

Little Props and Horrors

Tis the season … to spook the neighborhood. Page 100

Skill Builder

Generative Design

Use the power of AI to build biomimetic, optimized CAD models within Fusion 360. Page 102

Antennas in the Wild

Get the skinny on radio antennas with this primer and field guide. Page 112



Gear up with the latest tools and kits for makers.Page 122

Over the Top

Unnecessary Inventions

Product designer Matt Benedetto spends his off time dreaming up outlandish contraptions.Page 128