Category Archives: Toys

Twilight Turtle: a Planetarium Night Light

Too cute for words. Start conditioning those young scientists early!

1 Comment

Filed under Astronomy, Toys

A Mechanical Marble Computer

Matthias Wandel has developed a fantastic mechanical binary adding machine using a simple series of cascaded chutes to store numbers and perform carries through mechanical toggles. Don’t miss the video embedded below to see it in operations.

Marble Adder


More details can be found on his web site: along with all manner of interesting contraptions.

1 Comment

Filed under Computer Science, Technology, Toys

Indoor Radio-Controlled Plane

Some of you may remember my post last year on the “Butterfly” living room flier from Plantraco Hobbies. Technology is marching on though, with new composite materials and ever more integrated electronics in smaller and smaller packages. Witness the latest in living room RC technology, the Carbon Butterfly. (you can purchase one at the previous link complete with controller and padded carrying case for $299) (hint…hint…anyone planning ahead for my 2007 Birthday/Christmas season…)

Carbon Butterfly
(Check out videos of the Carbon Butterfly in flight here.)

The new version above weighs in at a scarce 3 grams including all of the receiver, rudder actuator, and prop motor hardware despite the addition of the new landing gear. Smaller carbon fiber rods and a redesigned mylar-coated wing comprise the major advances. Here’s the older version for comparison (at 3.6 grams):

The new Carbon Butterfly sports a fully proportional 2-channel controller for both the throttle speed and the rudder actuator, and a nice light gear reduction to drive the prop.

Better-yet, the founder of the indoor flyer community, Michael Hendricksen, has started an indoor flier blog showing how you can make your own miniature actuators with simple coils and magnets!

Blog Image

Blog Image

Blog Image

and the Plantraco Micro-RC web site has all the supplies and components you could need to build your own miniature airplanes and helicopters and indoor flying pleasure. These sorts of things are great starter projects to get kids excited about electronics, mechanical design, and aeronautics, all at once!

1 Comment

Filed under Electronics, Toys

Matchstick Eifel Tower

I just love projects that highlight both engineering and art, particularly when they are managed with limited resources and simple tools.

eiffel tower made of matches

Check out this fantastic model made with matchsticks! Did the hobbyist is qustion, one Alexandr Pashkevich of the Ukraine, simply have too much time on his hands? You decide.

eiffel tower made of matches

eiffel tower made of matches
eiffel tower made of matches

eiffel tower made of matches

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Engineering, Toys

PicoFlyer, the Furby of 2006

It’s true that I tend to obsess about little hobby widgets. But this one is just too cool for words. A company in Norway called ProxFlyer has been developing tiny radio controlled helicopters for a few years now. More recently, they licensed some of the technology to a company called Interactive Toy Concepts which manufactured a toy for sale through Radio Shack last year. I tried to get one last year but they had sold out way before Christmas. Well, now they’ve outdone themselves. Check out their latest effort, the PicoFlyer.

Here are the stats from the ProxFlyer page:

Key specifications, components and materials used to build the small Picoflyer:



Main motors:
Tail motor:

Flight time:

    60 mm diameter (2 contra rotating 4-bladed rotors)
    Carbon rod 0.3 mm and 0.5 mm from WES-Technik
    Aramid 30 g/m2 fabric from CST, foam tape hinges
    72 mm long, 0.08 mm carbon plate, 0.3 mm rod,
    1.5 x 0.2 mm tube, brass bearings 0.7 mm from Didel

    4 x 8 mm, 11 ohm from Didel (2x)
    Plastic gears, module 0.2 from Didel (6.7 : 1)
    2.8 x 6 mm, 25 ohm from Shicoh, 0.16 grams
    1 x 3.7 V, 30 mAh Didel cell, 0.86 grams
    3 channels custom Plantraco 900 MHz radio control
    Atmel ATtiny26L with 3 x ESC
    Yaw control by differential speed of rotors
    Tail motor used for forward horizontal flight

    3.3 grams (incl. battery and control)
    Up to 1 minute, (0.5 minute continues)

Sadly, this one-off prototype isn’t for sale, but you can get a slightly larger version manufactured by ITC at Radio Shack. Get ’em while they last. I’m ordering a bunch for all my nerd friends. And I might keep one for my four-year-old. Of course I’ll have to help her learn how to fly it! Oh, and then I might also need another one for all the nifty little parts I could use on other projects….

Blog Image

Here’s a video of the little copter in action.

High cool.


Filed under Technology, Toys