For every time someone tries to teach your kids to code, someone else shows up at Maker Faire with a 30-foot tall, fire-breathing robot made of airplane parts. Maker culture is alive and well, with the new generation of tinkerers dreaming up ways to apply traditional arts and crafts activities to engineering newfangled electronics, robotics, and, well, just plain crazy stuff. (See: 30-foot tall, fire-breathing robot made of airplane parts.) You don’t have to build Plane-zilla to inspire your kid to work with their hands and get stuff done, but with a little bit of space and a few key resources, you can build your own inventor’s lab that would make Doc Brown jealous. And no, your laptop open to a Pinterest board of “Cool Junk To Maybe Make One Day” does not count as a maker lab.
LuzBolt 3D PrinterAt the heart of any maker lab is an award-winning, high performance desktop 3D printer. Because it’s a lot easier to build anything you could possibly imagine when you have a machine whose sole function is to turn microfilaments into anything you could possibly imagine. It’s built on open source hardware, so you can even tinker with your tinkering machine.
LuzBolt 3D Printer ($1350)
Bare Conductive Paint PenThis ordinary looking pen draws with ordinary looking, water-based paint, except that it’s electrically conductive. Which means the next time your kid paints the dog blue, Rover’s eyes will literally light up when he greets you at the door. Don’t worry, the stuff washes off with soap and water (possibly unlike Rover’s new blue coat).
Bare Conductive Paint Pen ($11)
Makerbot DigitizerFrom 3D printing pioneers Makerbot comes an amazing little object that looks and functions remarkably similarly to a Star Wars holoprojector. Place any object on the tray and this 3D scanner creates a 3D model ready for printing or tweaking in any 3D modeling program. Now would be a good time to finally take that Princess Leia action figure out of its original packaging.
Makerbot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner ($750)
Make: Electronics — Complete CollectionAccording to Maker Shed, this kit contains “everything you need to get started in the wide world of electronics:” a book of basic electronics instructions and experiments (hardcover and PDF), plus 2 full kits of batteries, clips, LEDs, wires, resistors, switches, chips, boards, and hundreds of other pieces. You’re on your own to figure out how to connect it all to your flux capacitor.
Make: Electronics — Complete Collection ($255)
SugruInstead of, “If you can’t ‘Duct’ it, f—k it,” use this flexible silicone super adhesive and say, “If you can’t do it, Sugru it!” A love child of the aforementioned do-everything tape and Play Doh, Sugru is ideal for repairing beat-up old toys your kids would otherwise demand be replaced, as well as everything you break trying to fashion homemade toys for your kids to beat up.
Lix PenThe Lix Pen sounds like something Willy Wonka uses to draw pictures of Snozzberries on the wall, but it’s more like something he uses draw actual Snozzberries out of thin air. Except instant 3D-printed figures aren’t edible, so that’s not exactly right. Whatever, it’s a world of pure imagination — use yours! (And dream up something cool to draw into life with the world’s smallest 3D printing pen.)
Lix Pen ($140)
iFixit Pro Tech ToolkitThese are all the essential tools you could ever need to take apart your electronic gadgets and put them back together again. From soft plastic opening tools for prying, to precision tweezers for reaching where your fingers can’t (and your kid’s aren’t trusted), to something called a “Spudger” for poking, prying, opening connectors, and being really fun to say.
iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit ($66)
CoolboxBesides having a fantastic pun for a name, the Coolbox has a 1797 cubic inch capacity to hold all your tools, plus pass-through power, a rechargeable 5000mAh battery, Marine-grade 40w Bluetooth speakers, USB ports, a clock, LED lighting, and a built-in whiteboard. It’s basically a toolbox version of the Coolest, and with that kind of capacity you could probably fill it with ice and beers just the same.
Things Come ApartThis book of photography depicts some of the world’s most iconic designs (from the bicycle to the iPod) broken down piece by piece in midair explosions. If you’d rather save yourself the time of building a whole home maker lab and just see in vivid detail precisely what it looks like when you destroy your wife’s espresso machine, get yourself a copy.
Things Come Apart by Todd McLellan ($23)