TP Shooters

Fling objects across the room! Attack your enemies and defend your friends using only materials you have in your homes!

- Toilet paper tubes
- Balloons
- Tape
- Soft items for launching (i.e., puffballs, marshmallows, etc)

Step 1:  Tie a knot in the end of your balloon

Step 2: Cut the tip (unknotted) off the end of the balloon

Step 3: Fit the balloon around the bottom of the toilet paper role.

Step 4: Attach balloon with sturdy tape

Step 5: Decorate your shooter

Step 6: Blastoff! Launch soft items across the room!

Simple Kaleidoscopes

-3 mirrors of the same size or reflective Mylar in the same size
-Lots of fun, colorful stuff to look at when the kaleidoscope is assembled



Step 1: Assemble your mirrors or Mylar: Lay 3 equal size strips side by side mirrorside down, leaving a small gap between them. Tape the mirrors together using masking tape by putting tape on the right side of the mirrors when they are laying flat. Then flip it so the mirror side is up, and tape them into a triangle (mirror side in, tape on the outside) and set the prism aside.

Step 2: Decorate your kaleidoscope by covering the outside with origami paper, or paper you decorate.

Step 3: Look at cool stuff through the bottom of your kaleidoscope!

For more information, see this blog post!

3D Book Creation

From Flickr user sharynmorrow
From Flickr user sharynmorrow

Red and blue pens
Paper folded into a small book
3D glasses


Simply draw your drawing in blue and outline with the red marker, leaving a little bit of space between lines. Then, put on your 3D glasses and check it out!

An anaglyph is made of two images on top of each other, but a little offset, made of read and blue. The space between the 2 images is called parallax. To create a 3D effect, we must use red and cyan filters over our eyes. The eye with the red filter will not filter the red image but will block the blue one; the eye with the blue filter will block the red image but will no filter the blue one: each eye sees a separate image. The brain must, therefore, analyze two different images to create one image. This is called stereoscopic vision.

Whirling Watcher

Image from the Exploratorium Teacher Institute
Image from the Exploratorium Teacher Institute

Stroboscope template
Paper plate


1. Rub the glue stick on the back of a paper plate.
2. Center the pattern on the back on the plate. Then press the pattern down, making sure it’s firmly attached.
3. Roughly cut away some of the extra paper. Then cut again, using the edge of the circle as your guide.
4. Cut along the sides of all the black marks, bend the marks back, then cut them off.
5. Push the pushpin through the center of your reinforced pattern.
6. Hold the pencil up to the back of your pattern, and push the pushpin into the side of the pencil eraser. Don’t push too hard—the pattern should be able to spin freely. You’ve now made a stroboscope.
7. Stand in front of a wall mirror, or put a hand mirror flat on a table and bend over to face it.
8. Put the back of the stroboscope really close to one eye, and look through one of the slits. Focus on one of the horses reflected in the mirror. Then spin the stroboscope and watch the horse gallop!  You may need to close one of your eyes.


When the stroboscope is spinning, you see a small area of the pattern’s reflection each time a slit passes your eye. Your visual system holds onto the image seen through a slit for about a tenth of a second—long enough for one image to merge into the next one. This phenomenon, called persistence of vision, creates the illusion of a galloping horse.
TV and movies rely on the same phenomenon. The images on your TV seem continuous, but in reality, a new image flashes on your screen thirty times a second. It’s your eye-brain system that blends these images into a seemingly uninterrupted stream of movement.


Template and explanation provided by the Exploratorium:

Naturalistic Observation

Image courtesy of Flickr user Swallowtail Garden Seeds
Image courtesy of Flickr user Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Art supplies
You Eyes!

It’s the practice of observing things (animals—including humans—or plants) in their environment without intervention (disturbing them). It can be a great way to capture living things in art!

1. First, observe! Look out the window. Make a list of what you see. What colors? Shapes? Movements? Do you notice anything different from last time you looked out this window, or other similar plants or animals?
2. Sketch what you see. Pay attention to details! Don’t worry about backgrounds, unless it enhances your drawing.
3. If you know something about what you’re drawing, draw more about it—ie does a cardinal eat berries? Do squirrels nest in Sweet Gum trees?
4. You are observing the outside world. Make sure you really LOOK at what you are drawing. Don’t assume a brown bird is just gray. Does it have black stripes? Or does the brown look a little more gray in the light? Draw what you see.
5. Notice the way light falls on things. What colors are the shadows? Do you see any white where the sun hits? Leave it white!
6. Think about perspective. Things are smaller the farther away they are. Hold out your pencil to measure things in relation to each other—ie is that branch really as long as the trunk?
7. Sketch loosely and lightly first, and then go for detail.
8. Have fun! Don’t worry about making it perfect, just draw as best you can. 

Also, draw from inside or outside! Go sit next to what you want to draw and look at it from all angles (if possible). Or, take a picture to refer to it later.

Paper helicopter

Image courtesy of Exploratorium
Image courtesy of Exploratorium

Helicopter template
Paper clips

1. Cut out the template (Download the template here!). Then cut along the solid lines.
2. Fold the A piece towards you and the B piece away from you.
3. Fold C and D towards each other so they rest on top of each other.
4. Fold the bottom up and put a paperclip on it.
5. Hold the helicopter by the paperclip and throw it as high as you can into the air.
6. Make a target and see how close to the middle you can get!
7. See what color combinations you can get by coloring A and B!


When the helicopter falls, air pushes up against the blades, bending them up just a little. When air pushes upward on the slanted blade, some of that thrust becomes a sideways, or horizontal, push.
Because there are two blades, each getting the same push but in opposite directions, the helicopter goes sideways. The two opposing thrusts work together to cause the toy to spin.

Template and explanation provided by the Exploratorium:

Maker Family Challenges!

We have been hosting some fun open-ended programs that the whole family can do together which can easily be replicated at home.

Build a Boat

Can you build a boat that floats? Use recycled materials, things from outside, and whatever else you can dream of. Take it further by trying to build a boat out of heavy materials, have the boat carry something, or put the boat in running water.

Things to think about:

What is Buoyancy?
Boats, canoes, ships, kayaks, and rafts all have one thing in common- they are used for transport on seas and rivers, because they float.  It’s easy to figure out that if they are made out of wood they will float, because wood floats in water. However, when you see a huge cargo ship or a cruise-liner that looks like a floating building on the water, you can’t help but wonder why this massive chunk of metal doesn’t sink.

The Archimedes principle
A long time ago in ancient Greece, a mathematician named Archimedes was taking a bath. When he got in, a certain amount of water got displaced and overflowed over the rim of the tub. Archimedes figured out that if the weight of the object being placed in the water is less that the weight of the water displaced, the object will float. This is known as buoyancy or the Archimedes principle.

How ships float
A ship made out of metal is able to remain lighter than the amount of water it displaces, because it is not a complete solid. The very bottom of the ship, called the hull, is hollow and therefore adds support to the ship without adding any mass.
When a ship is fully loaded, there is a maximum amount of weight it can carry before the weight of the ship increases past the amount of water it displaces.

Egg Drop

Using materials you find around the house, can you make a wrapping that will protect an egg when dropped from a great height (ie your window? Your stairs? A tree?)?

Things to think about:

What is Gravity?
Gravity is a powerful force that has a fundamental impact on the way we live our lives. Even walking, which we take for granted, is not possible without gravity. Gravity provides the necessary downward force on our bodies which creates friction between our feet and the ground, allowing us to walk (push our body weight forward with one leg and then the other).

When other forces are combined with gravity, such as motion (the movement of an object), inertia (the tendency of an object to resist change with regard to movement based on its mass), or power (the ability to exert energy over time), it may be impossible to prevent an impact which will cause damage.

Force = Mass times acceleration. The egg will accelerate based on the pull of gravity. How much it accelerates depends on the height from which the egg was dropped and the mass of the egg and protector. Force will increase with larger masses and higher heights.

What is momentum?
Momentum is a measure of an object’s tendency to move at constant speed along a straight path. Momentum depends on speed and mass.

What is acceleration?
Acceleration is how much your speed changes in a certain amount of time. 

What is impact?
Impact is the high force (or shock) applied over a short period of time when 2 or more objects collide (like an egg and the floor). The effect depends on the relative velocity (or speed).

Family Self Portraits

Using collage or other art materials, capture an image of yourself. Then, cut out your art piece out and put it together with your family's images to create a portrait of everyone! Supplies could include scraps of paper, pencils, pens, mirrors, glue, and more.

Things to think about

What is a self- portrait?
A self-portrait is an artistic representation of yourself! Who do you think you are? Who do other people see you as? What are some things that inspire you? 

What is collage?
Collage is the technique of using images or materials that are pre-made and arranging them any way you like! Examples are: cutting pictures out of a magazine or book, ripping or cutting colorful paper, etc.

Duct Tape Lunch Box

Make a Duct Tape Lunch Box!
Make a Duct Tape Lunch Box!


Duct tape (2 colors if using a contrasting color for the edges)
Print Two copies of the Lunchbox Template
1 X 1 inch piece of Self-sticking Velcro

1. Print two pieces of the template. Fold along all edges that say "fold." 
2. Tape the two template pieces together in the middle with scotch tape.
3. Place strips of duct tape on BOTH sides of the template. One side should be in a contrasting color for the inside of the lunch box. ape the other roll to the first roll, with the aluminum foil on the end and the filter in between the rolls.
4. Stand your lunch box up so that you can tape up the sides with one long strip for each side. Tape along the bottom edge with your contrasting color, if you've chosen one.
5. Place your piece of self-sticking Velcro along the middle on both side of your lunch box.
6. Pack your lunch in your DIY Duct Tape Lunch Box!

Build a Camera Obscura!

2 paper rolls (recycled toilet paper rolls work!)
Duct tape
Aluminum foil
Coffee filters

1. Cut out a square of aluminum foil to cover the bottom of one of the rolls. Tape it on so that it is flat and smooth, and then put a pinhole in the middle of it using the thumbtack.
2. Cut out a piece of coffee filter that to cover the other side of the roll. Tape it on.
3. Tape the other roll to the first roll, with the aluminum foil on the end and the filter in between the rolls.
4. Cover the outside of the rolls with aluminum foil to make sure no light gets in (don’t cover the pinhole!). That may include taping over the ends a little bit.
5. Take your camera obscura outside (if it’s not too cold), or just look out the window when the sun is up (if it’s dark, it won’t work!). Cup one of your hands around the open end of the camera obscura and put it up to your eye.
6. You will see a shadowy reflection of what’s outside, except upside down! You can even make one of these out of a dark room!

Light travels in a straight line and when some of the rays reflected from a bright subject (ie outside) pass through a small hole in thin material (ie aluminum foil) they do not scatter but cross and reform as an upside down image on a flat surface held parallel to the hole (ie the coffee filter).


Here are some alternative ways to make them!

Sew n' Glow - LED bracelets!

Image from ATX DIY
Image from ATX DIY

Adapted from


  • Sew-On Snaps- Make sure they are metal and not coated with paint, they need to conduct electricity.  Magnetic snaps would also work
  • Needle – Needs to have a relatively small head
  • Conductive Thread –thinner is better
  • Strip of Felt – or any sewable, non-conductive material or fabric—felt is easy because you don’t have to hem!
  • LED – 10 mm work
  • Surface Mount Battery Holder
  • CR2032 Lithium 3Volt Battery
  • Permanent marker – Preferably a colored one.
  • Lighter – Optional, for burning ends of thread, I suppose a match would also work.
  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Scissors – for clipping thread
  • Needle threader


The main thing is to make sure your stitches are nice and even, tightly pulled, and not tangled.

1. CHECK THE LED: Identify the positive lead (the little wires that look like legs on the LED are the leads) – it’s the longer of the two wires.  Now find the positive side of the battery (it should be labeled with a +).  Place the LED over the battery so that the positive lead is touching the positive side of the battery, and the negative lead is touching the negative side of the battery.  The LED should light up – if not, your battery might be dead, your LED might be bad (not very likely), or you’re doing it wrong (make sure the leads are only touching the corresponding side of the battery and not accidentally touching the opposite side).

2. Mark the long leg (the positive side) with a permanent marker.  Bend the legs of the LED using the pliers into little mustache curly-cues using the needle nose pliers.  

3.  Cut about 36 inches of conductive thread off.  Double thread your needle with a length (about 36 inches) of conductive thread and tie a knot at the end using both ends of the thread.

4. Measure your wrist using the felt.  Mark where you would want the snap to go with a marker - the marks should be on opposite sides of the felt.

5. Place your LED in the middle of the felt cuff (on the top side) and begin sewing it on working only with the positive lead (the one you marked).  Loop up through the circle a number of times being careful to pull your thread tightly in order to create a good connection between the LED and the conductive thread.  Make sure you’re sewing tight and not getting too tangled—the conductive thread tangles easily.  Pull tight carefully, checking that it’s not caught on anything!

6. Once you’ve stitched around the positive side of the LED, begin stitching out towards the end of the felt.  Use a simple straight stitch.  Sew until you get about 1 inch away from where you want the snap to go, and point your stitches downwards.

7. Flip the bracelet over and put your needle through.  Start stitching through the hole in the battery holder closest to the positive side.  Stitch up and down through the hole and the felt until it’s secure (you’ll probably only be able to pass the needle through two or three times as the hole is very small).  Again, make sure that your stitches are tight and that the thread makes good contact with the metal tab on the battery holder.

8. Tie a secure knot in the thread and clip your thread leaving a tiny tail.   You’ve just connected the positive side of the LED to the positive side of the battery holder!

9. SEWING THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF THE BATTERY HOLDER TO THE SNAP: Tie a knot at the end of your thread (or thread and knot a new length of conductive thread if you have less than a foot left).

10.  Stitch the other side (negative) of the battery holder to the felt.  Just like before, make sure your stitches are making good connections with the metal tab and you’ll probably only be able to get your needle through the hole a few times. 

11. Once the negative side of battery holder is securely stitched, stitch a few stitches out to the end of the felt.  This is where you’ll sew in one side of the snap.

12.  Take one side of the snap (I used the pointy side that pops into the hole side) and stitch it to the felt. The snap will act at the switch for your circuit – when it is connected, electricity will pass through both sides of the snap and make the circuit complete.  When the snap is disconnected, the circuit isn’t complete and electricity can’t flow through all the components.   Like always, make sure to stitch the snap in carefully, creating a tight connection between the thread and the metal snap.  Clip the end of the thread, leaving a short tail.

13. SEWING THE NEGATIVE LEAD TO THE OTHER SNAP: Thread a new length of conductive thread, making a knot in the end.  Go back to the middle of your cuff – now you’ll be sewing the negative side of the LED out to the other end of your cuff.

14.  Stitch up through the negative circle on the LED (remember, that’s the one that is not marked) and loop up and down through the felt and the LED legs a few times.

15. Now, stitch out to the other end of your cuff.  Stop when you’ve reached the point where the other snap should go so that your cuff will fit your wrist.

16.  Begin stitching the other side of the snap to the cuff – Make sure you are stitching it to the front (LED side) of the cuff.
Stitch the snap in securely and clip your thread.

17.  Now you can snap the battery into the holder.  The battery is labeled – one side with a + the other with a – .  In the SparkFun battery holders, the + side of the battery needs to face up.  Slide the battery in and push it in place.


When the snaps on your cuff are connected, the LED should light up.
If not - check the following things:
Is your battery dead?
Is your battery installed correctly in the holder (+ side facing up)?
Are all of your connections good (sometimes you have to jiggle things a little)?
Is your snap conductive and well connected?
Is the positive leg of the LED sewn to the positive side of the battery holder?
Is the negative side of the LED sewn to a snap that, when connected, is sewn to the negative side of the battery holder?
Make sure there aren’t any crossed or disconnected threads.

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