Ed. note: Senior Editor of MAKE magazine Phil Torrone joins us to celebrate more modern-day MacGyvers as we continue DIY week at Lifehacker. Today's makers: Christy Canida and Eric Wilhelm, the DIY gurus behind the much-loved Instructables.
It's hard to describe Instructables. It's usually called "the world's biggest show and tell", where users "crowdsource" do-it-yourself or DIY projects, from lawnmower race cars to skateboard sails. If you ever thought making and sharing DIY guides was a niche audience, think again — Instructables has over seven million uniques viewers to the site and over 45 million page views. That's a lot of DIY! Thousands of projects are posted to Instructables each month. Here's what the NY Times had to say:
...experts like Eric von Hippel, a management professor at MIT, argue that the proliferation of "user-generated" designs signals the "democratizing" of innovation. Armed with inexpensive digital tools and networks, ordinary people, he says, can band together to push their own innovations. They also can hijack existing technologies, taking them in directions only dimly envisioned by the original creators. One example is an electronic community called Instructables whose participants share methods for customising standard products in unpredictable ways.
If you have some time, just pop over to Instructables and search for something, anything; you'll likely see a how-to for it. They've even got Macgyver Instructables!
The people behind Instructables are just as prolific as their community, and Christy Canida and Eric J. Wilhelm have posted over 300 projects between them on the site. And these two are my makers of the day today. Here's what Christy and Eric say about themselves...
Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder and CEO of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to learn as much as they can and share it with those around them. In addition to his doctorate, Eric earned his SB, and SM degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where he developed methods to print electronics and micro-electromechanical systems using nanoparticles.
Pictured above: Eric wanted to climb more, but didn't have a place to climb near his home — so he built a climbing wall inside his home.
Christy Canida earned her SB in Biology from MIT, and worked in transgenic mouse labs, an aquarium, and the biotech industry before joining Instructables. She loves cutting things up, experimenting with food, and dancing in costumes.
Pictured above: Yep, that's Christy showing you how to apply elf ears — great if you're in a jam and need to find a magical ring or be hit at the next RPG night.
They just had a super cute kid recently, I'm predicting their little brainiac will be featured on Lifehacker quite a bit, likely starting in a few weeks with some type of 3D fabbed infant innovation. For now, this happy mutant is having fun in a homemade three-armed baby costume.
So what are Christy and Eric making that can save your life, make your life better, or just completely freak you out? Let's take a tour of some of my favourites.
Build a candle-powered hot air balloon using painter's plastic, balsa wood, and birthday candles. I'm almost positive this was actually in a MacGyver episode.
This marshmallow gun (marshmallow shooter) will completely surprise you with its accuracy, range and ease of construction. Plus, it's tons of fun and a lot better than any store-bought toy because it encourages modifications.
Once it's too cold to kitesurf in the water, it's time to find a frozen lake and kite on top of the water. Time to build a "traditional" Polynesian ice canoe using aluminium extrusion or whatever material you have at hand. If the water ever froze in Polynesia, I'm sure this is what their ice kite/sail craft would look like.
And of course, life's not complete until you've built a Five Foot Tall Jacob's ladder. This classic climbing arc completes any mad scientist's dungeon.
If you find yourself overrun with mice, but still want a unique and stylish mouse for your computer - Christy shows you how to make a mouse mouse. Hacked travel-size (hardware) mouse + taxidermied (wetware) mouse = Mouse Mouse! Fully functional, and furry!
Later, Christy shows you how to clean and cook a snake.
And lastly, a quick and clever hack: make a hair clip in a jam.
I just scratched the surface of the DIY prowess of these two makers, so check out Christy's and Eric's projects on Instructables, and remember, a place like Instructables is as only as good as what you make — so make something amazing and share it on Instructables, Lifehacker, MAKE — everywhere!
Phil Torrone is Senior Editor of MAKE magazine, contributing editor to Popular Science, and creative director of Adafruit Industries, where they make educational electronics and kits like the TV-B-Gone and some "other" hacky projects that sometimes make the rounds in these parts of the web. You may have seen MAKE in bookstores, public television, online, or been to one of their Maker Faires (there will be three this year, they are expecting over 100k attendees!). His personal site is http://www.braincraft.com.