MAKE 29: DIY Superhuman

We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability -- and doesn't help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people's abilities or enable new "superpowers" are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE 29, the "DIY Superhuman" issue, explains how.

Video Preview

Take a tour of Volume 29 with the editors of MAKE.

Table of Contents

blue pdf icon = PDF OF ARTICLE     red content icon = DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCES     orange content icon = SLIDESHOWS AND EXTRAS

Made on Earth

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Dead Laptops by Jon Kalish

Chicago-based artist Michael Dinges’ work is reminiscent of scrimshaw and trench art – he decorates the plastic shells of discarded laptops. Page 18

» Slap Shot to the Moon by Rachel Hobson

Jeff Stone and his wife, Susan, made a telescope out of hockey sticks. Page 20

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Pipe Dreams by Sean Michael Ragan

Dasparkhotel is a pay-what-you-want travel lodge with five rooms, each built from a 20,000-pound section of 7-foot-diameter concrete drain pipe. Page 21

» Solar Dune Buggy by Laura Kiniry

Brothers Michael and Kenny Ham have a goal: to create cheap electric vehicles that get people interested in renewable energy. Page 22

» Organ Donor by Goli Mohammadi

Multitalented maker Matthew Borgatti built a MIDI-powered organ. Page 23

» Gravity Harps for Bjork by Andy Cavatorta

Andy Cavatorta collaborated with Bjork to design and build gravity harps. Page 24

Icon for Slideshows and Extras » DIY Segway by Jerry James Stone

Mechanical engineering student Charles Guan built a homemade Segway, called the Segfault. Page 25


» High-Pressure Foam Rocket by Rick Schertle

Make a high-flying air rocket with some foam and a few household items. Page 123

» Paper Clip Record Player by Phil Bowie

Got a turntable that still turns? Got an old vinyl record? Make this pocket player in a few minutes for less than a penny. Page 155


» Kyle Machulis: Hardware Hacker by Gary Wolf

Reverse engineering guru works to unlock our personal data. Page 32

» Good Vibrations: Groovy Mechanical Sound Players by Bob Knetzger

A look back at the all-mechanical marvels that made fun sounds for over 100 years. Page 36


» Meet Carol Reiley by Todd Lappin

Surgical roboticist by day, health hardware hacker by night. Page 40

» Air Guitar Hero by Robert Armiger, Carol Reiley

Drop the controller and shred songs using the electrical signals from your arm muscles. Page 44

» Pulse Sensor by Joel Murphy, Yury Gitman

A wearable device to give your projects a live heartbeat. Page 52

» Gateways to the Soul by Zach Lieberman, Luis Cruz

Two systems, EyeWriter and Eyeboard, let people draw, write, and connect using only their eyes. Page 57

» See Inside Your Own Eyes by Michael Mauser

The Shadowscope, the Transilluminator, the Light Swirler, and the Brain Scanner give you a personal glimpse into your own eyes. Page 62

» North Paw and Heart Spark by Jon Kalish

Sensebridge makes devices that let people feel direction and see their heartbeat. Page 68

» DIY Blood Pressure Monitor by Garrick Orchard, Alex Russell, Carol Reiley

Make a blood pressure tester that’s tough, smart, and mobile. Page 70

» Tacit: A Haptic Wrist Rangefinder by Steve Hoefer

This ultrasonic “bat glove” lets you feel things at a distance. Page 78

» We Have the Technology

A roundup of technologies that allow you to mod your bod.

Brain Rave
EEG Your Ride
Last Straw
Future Geniuses
Chem Lab on the Cheap
Smart Shoes
Highly Textured
Magnetic Touch
3D-Printable Trautman Hook
Lego My Hand
On Wings of DEMONS Page 82


» Tiny Wanderer by Doug Paradis

Starter robot autonomously navigates with a $2 microcontroller. Page 88

» Geiger Counter by John Iovine

This radiation detector clicks, flashes, logs radioactivity levels, and shares its data with the world. Page 100

» Better Nerf Gun by Simon Jansen

Build a metal foam-dart gun that blows away store-bought plastic models. Page 112


» Experiment on Yourself by Dale Dougherty

History is full of quirky tales of scientists who were first in line to try their own experiments. Page 11

Maker's Calendar

» Maker's Calendar by William Gurstelle

Our favorite events from around the world. Page 15

Making Trouble

» MENTORing Kids Into Makers by Saul Griffith

Makers, let’s make education better, together. Page 16

Making Makers

» Real Tools for Kids by AnnMarie Thomas

Many students reach their first year of college without much experience with tools. Page 27

Country Scientist

» Track the Leading Greenhouse Gas by Forrest Mims III

For as little as $20, you can begin tracking the atmosphere’s most important greenhouse gas, water vapor. Page 28

Make Free

» The Half-Life of Stuff by Cory Doctorow

When code doesn’t work, we erase it. When stuff doesn’t work, most of it goes to landfill. Page 31

Skill Builder

» Kinect Hacking by Joshua Blake

Go from handwaving to coding with the Microsoft Kinect SDK. Page 124

DIY: Outdoors

» $4 Hot Air Balloon by Jesse Brumberger

Up, up, and away, with Scotch tape and a painter’s drop cloth. Page 134

DIY: Workshop

» Hovercraft Shop Vac by Bill Wells

Page 138

DIY: Home

» iStand by Larry Cotton

Build a sturdy, multi-position iPad stand for cheap. Page 140

» Bent-Wire Crank Toy by Lea E. Albaugh, Matt Mets

Learn these tricks and turn plain wire into a head-bobbing toy. Page 144

» Making Bar Soap by Alastair Bland

Wash your hands of the toxins found in commercial soaps. Page 147

DIY: Circuits

» The Bobbinator by Andrew Lewis

Make inexpensive linear actuators out of sewing machine bobbins. Page 150

DIY: Music

» Easy Sunburst Guitar by Steve Lodefink

Build a kit electric guitar and finish it like the pros. Page 152


Icon for PDF of Article » The Pneumatic Kids by Saul Griffith

Build your own air-powered muscles with everyday items. Page 156

Electronics: Fun and Fundamentals

» Improbable Slots Carnival Game by Charles Platt

Customize it and calculate your odds of winning the big teddy. Page 158

Toy Inventor's Notebook

» Root Beer Pong Bot by Bob Knetzger

Here’s a “noninvasive hack” that takes advantage of ReCon 6.0 Programmable Rover’s cool features while adding a fun new function to make a “Root Beer Pong Bot.” Page 161


» Toolbox

Bend PVC like a champ, outsmart your cards, geek out on Lego, and fly a tiny chopper. Page 162


Icon for Slideshows and Extras » Danger!

Page 164

Heirloom Technology

» Instant Cozy Kimono Robe by Tim Anderson

Everyone loves this robe, and there’s room in it for everyone! Page 170

Remaking History

» The Tuning Fork by William Gurstelle

Build the 18th-century tool that replaced faulty pitch pipes. Page 172


» My Arduino-Equipped Still by Jay Settle

Jay Settle combines a 1920s copper still with 21st Century Arduino technology. Page 176