Maker Bracelets

1) Paracord Emergency Bracelets

I’ve recently fallen in love with paracord. It’s strong (it was designed to be parachute cord) yet not overly thick and comes in bright colours. You can use it to make bracelets out of 8+ feet of cord. So, if you’re ever in an emergency situation just unravel it and you have a lifeline, tow line, or whatever it is you need. These are called “emergency paracord bracelets” and there are lots of tutorials on the Internet on how to make one.

So, when I was trying to think up maker programs that can be done inexpensively in only 45 minutes for our maker club at work, I naturally got to thinking about paracord.

The kids ended up all making one to take home, but in order to make it “maker” I started with an exercise to show them how paracord works and how different knots should be used for different situations. The tutorial that follows is also available on Instructables.

Materials:

  • paracord rope
  • thicker rope (does not matter what kind, by the more slippery the material the better)
  • a bucket with weights in it (we just used paint cans for weights)
  • large print-outs of how to make different knots: buntline hitch, half hitch, square knot, sheet bend, zeppelin bend

1) Have one approximately 2 ft long piece of each type of rope per group of kids (we had them into teams of two, but whatever works)

2) Talk a little bit about what paracord is and give some examples of situations where one would need such a strong rope and need to know which knots to use (i.e.: towing objects, creating a life line to save someone from drowning, etc.)

3) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best to tie the two pieces of rope together: square knot (not good for anything with weight to it) vs. sheet bend (ropes of unequal size, therefore the right answer) vs. zeppelin bend (two ropes of same size)

4) Have the teams decide amongst themselves which knot is best for tying to the bucket: buntline hitch (best) vs. half hitch (too weak)

5) Let the teams take turns tying one end of their rope to the bucket and hoisting it up by the other end. There should be fairly obvious strain and slippage of the knots if the wrong knot(s) have been used, which you can point out. The team that got the most right wins. In lieu of actual prizes, which we are getting low on, we just let the winning team get first choice of which colour of paracord they wanted to make their bracelet.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this turned out as a program. The kids got really into it, debating which knot they thought would work best, and coming up with testing methods on their own, such as tug-of-war to test the knot’s strength. Definitely maker!

 

2) Bottle Cap Bracelets

In a few weeks from now, we will be having another craft event. It doesn’t have to be maker per see, since the theme is just “art, community, and history,” but I think the program I came up with has some elements of it all the same. We’ll be making personalized bracelets from bottle caps. Participants will be able to get creative and find images that they like or resonate with using donated magazines from a variety of cultures, religions, and interests. After all, diversity and multiculturalism are big part of the community my library is located in.

All I did was take a bottle cap, cut out an image to fit inside and then used mod podge to glue it to the bottom and seal it in. Not surprisingly, I used a scene with sheep as my image for the sample ūüėõ

I then used the metal punch from my jewellery making kit (available for under $20 at most beading or craft stores if you don’t already have one) to poke holes in the side for split or jump rings and simply used rainbow loom elastics to make the bracelet part. You could also use hemp or leather or just link multiple bottle caps together if you have enough of them.

Making Maker Programs

In case you haven’t heard, maker culture is here, it is awesome, and it is an integral part of the future of libraries (don’t believe me? Read this).

Over the past 6 months or so a colleague and I have introduced a maker program for kids at our library called. We¬†choose science, technology, and art activities that are¬†self-directed, allowing the children to use their imagination and inventive skills. We’ve done everything from making musical stairs and game controllers out of MaKey MaKey, to making boats out of recycled material and then having a contest to see which boat can float the most potatoes, to creating stamps for making prints, to making and launching foam rockets.

This past Wednesday we experimented with¬†squishy circuits. Squishy Circuits is a project that came out of the Thomas Lab at St. Thomas University’s School of Engineering (watch the TED Talk here) with the goal of exposing children to electricity, physics, and engineering¬†in a fun and interactive way – with LEDs, toy motors and buzzers, and dough!

A Creeper from Minecraft with a glowing heart (LED covered in conductive dough) created by one of our kids.

I had to adapt the Squishy Circuits program to our library’s environment. Our demographics are such that we get a lot of younger children as opposed to adolescents and teens, many of whom struggle in school for reasons as varied as socio-economics and being newcomers to Canada. Socio-economics is also why many of the kids in our neighbourhood are not familiar with electronics and technology.¬†Hence I needed to keep our Squishy Circuits program simple and be sure I gave them a little bit of preamble on the basics of circuits, and show them a couple of examples of squishy circuits I made in advance. Though many people involved in maker culture will tell you this goes against the investigative spirit of maker culture and its focus on learning through doing and learning from failure, I can tell you that if I didn’t do this the kids wouldn’t have had¬†the slightest idea what to do and therefore had no starting point from which to start experimenting – they would just leave in frustration. It has happened before. Through trial and error I found that once I do this preamble, they get it and are fully willing and able to experiment and explore on their own. They might need a little more coaching and/or reminding here and there of the science or concept behind what we are doing, but by the end they usually all get it.

So, without further adieu, here is my program outline as a pdf:

Squishy Circuits as a public library kids program

It¬†covers the teaching method I used in order to communicate to the kids the concepts necessary to understanding how to make use of the dough and electronics. It also talks about safety concerns and the materials you’ll need. Below I go over how to find and assemble the electronic components if it’s not something you are familiar with (how to know which battery packs to get, what voltage should the LEDs and motors require, how to solder, etc.). Unfortunately the Squishy Circuits website doesn’t cover this. But believe me, the materials are all readily available and no great knowledge of electricity and electronics is required. This whole tutorial is also available on Instructables.

These battery packs, toy motors, and LED lights I bought at an electronics hobby store because I found them there at the best price (budgets are always a concern for libraries!) however if you take apart many toys and gadgets, you’ll find these items inside.

If you find you have bare wire ends like this

     or this    

then you will need to solder terminals on. Terminals can be bought very cheaply at hobby and electronics stores, or online. I used fork shaped ones like this

but really, you could use spade or circle shapes too. It doesn’t matter.¬†I like the ones with an end that is meant to be crimped to the wire with needle nose pliers or a wire crimper (see photo). It just makes the soldering part easier because the terminal will be kept somewhat in place. Heck, if you are really good and the terminal holds on its own after crimping, you might not even need to solder. But, if you have super steady hands, or a second set of hands to help you, then go ahead and try the flat end ones! Just don’t buy terminals with a plastic end. You will have nothing to solder to!

A soldering iron and solder can be bought at an hobby/electronics store, or a hardware store. A cheap soldering iron will do the job just fine, and any solder is good as long as it is not a super thick gauge and it is not acid flux. No clean is ideal, and lead-free is not, but these are not hard-and-fast rules.

I promise that¬†soldering is not that difficult. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. Here is a great tutorial.

A quick note: if you find you have some sort of specific end to a battery pack, like the one below, you can still use it. You will just need a wire stripper/crimper to cut the end off and strip back some of the black and red coating to reveal the wire in order to be able to solder it to a terminal.

In terms of what kind of battery pack to get, it is actually not a huge deal. 4 x AA is ideal, but we were able to get 2 x AAA to work, though the battery wires had to be placed very close to motor or LED light within the dough in order to work. Also, the lower the volt requirement for the LEDs and motors, the easier they will be to make run.

The dough instructions are of course very simple. Just follow the directions on the Squishy Circuits website.

Et voilà!

That’s it, now you can get makin’ :

Make your own purse from duct tape

Just a quick post to share a free craft pattern I’ve developed.

At work we needed to have programs for the tweens and teens this summer that were of a creative, crafty, makey variety. So, I thought about duct tape, simply because it’s easy to make cool stuff with and it comes in some pretty neat colours and patterns now.

Then I thought “what can we make with it?” It had to be simple but useful. I decided on clutches and/or wallets (made the same way but a smaller size). I spent some time Googling, some time looking at books like this one.

But I wasn’t really finding what I wanted. This and this were the closest, but no real instructions were given.

So, I wrote Make your own clutch.

Here are some pictures of the fun the kids had, and how super creative they were!

 (cropped to remove faces for privacy. These are kids after all)
Copy of clutch craft 3

Copy of clutch craft 7

Copy of clutch craft 5

clutch craft 9

Copy of clutch craft 6