MIDAS: Multifunction In-Dorm Automation System

MIDAS AutomationAh, to have attended MIT instead of a small liberal arts school in Connecticut. I could have been matching memorized decimal places of Pi over Hot Pockets with my friends, instead of drinking Dubra vodka and painting the walls of my dormitory with vomit. I could’ve been pop-riveting together homemade robots, instead of skipping Philosophy class to buy elaborate glass bongs. And for goodness sake, I could’ve collaborated on the MIDAS system that several students at MIT hacked together to fully automate their dorm room.

The idea is simple, but the execution is not. Wire your dorm room to respond to different “modes,” including Party Mode, Sleep Mode, and Study Mode, which are activated either at the push of one, giant, satisfying button, or via voice commands. LED screens, lights, strobes, fog machines, projected audio visualizations, blinds, music, and security systems are all activated at once, turning a normal dorm room into party central at the push of a button (be sure to check out the video to see what I mean). The whole thing, including MP3 playlists and security cameras, is also controllable over the Web.

The authors have documented their project in painstaking detail, including future plans for an “intruder alert” mode…wherein the door will close and lock, the blinds will be drawn, text message alerts will be sent to the owners of the room, and all the lights will be turned off…except for one spotlight illuminating this creepy mannequin.

Sigh. And to think the best I could come up with in 1998 was a wall-mounted webcam. No word on whether MIDAS will be released to the public, but this is an exciting project just the same.

Build Your Own Magnetic Spice Rack

spicerack.jpgOkay, so this one skews a bit, um, domestic for our usual taste. But if you’re anything like us, you’ve got a cluttered drawer or cabinet full of crusted over, dusty spice bottles. Trying to find a pinch of chili powder while you’re making a caffeinated rib-eye can mess up your whole process. Luckily, Amber at My Aim is True came up with a great, simple solution, particularly if you have a stove with a metal back. She found tiny flat metal containers, hot glued magnets to the back, and presto: attractive, functional spice management, that’s easily within reach wile you’re doin’ your culinary thang. Nitpickers may note that storing spices near heat and light will soften their natural flavor…but I bet you’ll never notice.

Build Your Own NES Hard Drive Enclosure

Zelda DriveFirst thing’s first: We definitely don’t condone the destruction of working vintage technology. So for god’s sake, if you have old 8-bit NES games you don’t want, sell ‘em on eBay like everybody else. If on the other hand, you’ve already been collecting vintage games, and have 200 copies of that dual Mario Bros/Duck Hunt cartridge, by all means, bust it apart and make a cool laptop hard drive enclosure with it. It’s just a matter of knowing which screws to pull out and which plastic bits to file down. Enjoy, and please…save the Zeldas for those that love them.

41 Hilarious Science Fair Experiments

sciencefair.jpgCheck out this collection of 41 hilarious real science fair projects, and pity the science teachers of the world. My favorite part is how, most of the time, the student matches the experiment perfectly. “Do video games affect you,” is matched by an utterly blank-looking kid in a black sweatshirt with a skull on it, while the classic experiment of yesteryear, “Crystal meth: Friend or Foe” has two pre-teens sitting next to it who look like they can’t wait to get out into the world and decide for themselves.

When I was in the 7th grade, I faked an elaborate science project that charted the rate of radish germination after exposure to various toxic substances. The entire thing was foolproof, complete with charts, graphs, and photos, until on of the judges explained to me that “germination” doesn’t occur in radishes. Burn. You couldn’t pay me enough to be 13 again.

Build Your Own Tic-Tac Box LED Torch Lamp

Tic-Tac LED TorchOver at Grynx, Chris J. has posted instructions and a dead-simple schematic for building your own LED mini torch flashlight from an empty Tic-Tac box. Turns out all you need are a few batteries, an LED light, and a 27Ω resistor, meaning that those with ANY soldering experience can toss together a simple, elegant LED flashlight of their own. No word yet on whether or not this project will fit inside the new “Tic-Tac BOLD!” cases, which are a little sleeker with their round edges. Worst case is, you get to eat lots of delicious Tic-Tacs. Check it out!

Build Your Own Electric Toothbrush Lock Pick

lockpick.jpgYou’ve seen it a million times in the movies. A professional crook, armed with a squeeze-type lockpick, disables a bank vault with just a few squeezes. Or maybe you’ve even seen the electric versions of these automatic lockpicks, with no squeezing required. Now, thanks to Inventgeek, it’s possible to build your own using a simple every day electric toothbrush.

This type seems best suited for padlocks, and requires a very simple parts list of an Oral-B electric toothbrush, a standard pick set, and a nine volt battery. Bear in mind that you are going to be pumping 9 volts of current through a 1.5 volt motor, so it is bound to burn out quickly…but if it opens just one lock, it’s worth it. The author is also careful to note that this project is strictly for educational purposes, and will not teach you how to pick a lock, even once you are armed with your new electric lock pick. For that, you’ll need the MIT Lockpicking Guide, which we are mirroring on this site. Enjoy.

Giant-Scale Versions of Your Favorite Snacks

Pimp My SnackKit Kat bars are amazing. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Delicious. But what if they were…bigger? Pimp My Snack takes your favorite snack foods, and radically up-samples them through reader experimentation and participation. The site seems to be based in England, so a lot of the snacks may not be familiar to a US-based audience (what the devil is a Twiglet?), but the giant-sized Pop-Tarts, hamburgers, and Baby Ruth’s make this well worth the visit. With easy-to-copy ingredients and recipes, user submissions, and an active community of food-pimpers, Pimp My Snack will have you thinking differently the next time you bust open a box of Cheez-Its.

Build Your Own Camera Image Stabilizer for One Dollar

This is one of those ideas that is so simple, it’s brilliant, and you’ll be wondering why you didn’t think of it sooner. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but YES…you can make a killer image stabilizer for your camera (digital or SLR) using just a washer and a bit of string. It’s portable, it’s cheap, and it’s ready for action shots…so stop lugging a tripod around with you. Starting now.

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Build Your Own Coke Blak Lamp

Coke BlakMy word, I have been excited about Coke Blak, the “fusion beverage” that is “Coke Effervescence Mixed with Coffee Essence,” since I first read about it. I anxiously awaited its April 5th, 2006 appearance in stores, but when that date came and went, couldn’t find it anywhere. Around the end of April, I began seeing signs in stores advertising it, which I thought surely meant I could find it on the shelf, but nope. Nothing.

I finally got my hands on my first Coke Blak at around the beginning of May 2006, and now, thankfully, it seems to be everywhere. Unfortunately, while not gross, it’s not exactly delicious either. It’s kind of like a sweeter, less repellant version of that Manhattan Special coffee soda that people from Brooklyn seem to really enjoy, but much more drinkable. And by god, after obsessing about it for so long, I am going to continue drinking it at every opportunity, whether I find it personally delicious or not.

The best thing about Coke Blak, though, is the bottle. Eight ounces of real glass, wrapped in a swirly plastic label. And it didn’t take long for “Macphile” to realize that the empty bottle would make a great lamp. Details on construction are sketchy, consisting only of a few Flickr photos, but I’m sure enterprising Geek it Yourselfers will be able to figure it out. Next step? I wanna see some chandeliers. Check it out, the effect really is quite striking. (via Make)

Build Your Own Free Cardboard Furniture

foldschool.jpgLooking for practically free dorm furniture, or disposable furniture that you can be pretty sure your kids won’t destroy? FoldSchool has three free furniture designs, including a stool, a chair, and a rocker, with step-by-step instructions and downloadable PDF plans. Made of readily-available 4mm thick cardboard, this furniture looks to be as durable as it is design-conscious. Choose the design you like, download, and turn the kids loose with paint and markers for your own customized, functional furniture. While they don’t currently have designs for adults, you can sign up for their newsletter and be updated as soon as they are available.