Nothing beats doing a DIY project. Nothing. It doesn’t matter if you dedicate your entire weekend to it or sporadically build something. The only thing that matters is the creativity and art: you could have bought something, but you chose to make it instead.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s the kind of mentality that drives entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Further, it aligns perfectly with the maker culture and philosophies that are ever-present across tech ecosystems of all shapes and sizes.
Now, not all of us are entrepreneurs. But all of us have the inherent ability to flex our creative muscles and build something. We also all enjoy tech around here, so I went out and dug up some of the coolest tech-DIY projects I could.
I tried to keep a nice diversity across both software and hardware realms as well as fun and pragmatic projects. Regardless, I think you're going to find some great solutions here to keep your mind entertained next time you've got some time to kill.
First, however, I wanted to start with something that isn’t so much a project. In reality it’s more of a tool, or catalyst, for other projects:
- Sugru: Fix, modify, and make, this stuff can be used for just about anything. The team of product designers and material scientists behind Sugru are based out of London, and to hear them tell it, Sugru feels like play-dough. However, unlike Playdough, it bonds to almost any other material and cures when exposed to air. According to the team it even stays strong and securely bonded anywhere from the freezer to a hot shower, indoor or outdoor.
Images from Sugru
Here are 9 awesome tech DIY projects:
- Makey Makey Classic: Pure and simple, plain as day, Makey Makey is fun. It's basically a small circuit board that allows you to connect nearly anything to your keyboard. You can re-designate certain keys and maps them to whatever you've hooked up. The team is also on Kickstarter right now with the Makey Makey GO, a little USB drive that connects directly into the computer for you to hook up more odd peripherals. It looks like so much fun – watch and be amused:
Video from Jay Silver's vimeo page
- Roominate: For the young DIY enthusiasts in your life. Cofounders Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen realized that they were both inspired to be engineers as a direct result of what toys they played with as kids. In the US, less than 15 percent of women enter college intending to major in a STEM fields. Not to mention, many girls’ toys lag behind in the development of spatial skills, hands-on problem solving skills, and confidence with technology. Roominate is a unique blend of building, circuits, design, crafts, storytelling, and creativity that teaches young girls about STEM while they play.
Images from Roominate
- Leviton: They offer some high quality gear for people who enjoy a good, hands-on project around the house. I dug up a good starter project from their blog, and it details how to install one of their USB wall outlets. In effect it's a standard wall outlet with two USB ports built in so you can charge your phone and keep your lamps plugged in. All you need are a few tools and the ability to follow directions, because this one's super simple to do. DO NOT FORGET to turn off the circuit breaker before you start messing around with wall outlets.
Image from Leivton's walk through guide
- Magic Crystal Mood Ball: Bruna Calheiros, while she was completing her Master's in Interactive Telecommunications, completed her first tech project. It's a fairly easy project, and super fun. All you need is some LED lights, a single temperature sensor, and an Arduino – an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. This is a perfect use-case, and Calheiros wrote a detailed guide on how to build this crystal ball.
Image from Calheiros' walk through guide
- Netvibes: Your personal dashboard of things. This software platform helps you automate your digital life, saving you time and hassle: there are lots of things you do online every day that could potentially be automated. Netvibes operates similarly to If This Than That (IFTTT) where the user picks triggers that cause one or more actions. For example, when it’s going to rain you could get a text telling you to bring an umbrella. You could also extend that function to post the weather forecast on Facebook. There are an overwhelming amount of creative and fun combinations you can play with.
Image from Netvibes homepage
- Framebridge: Framebridge is a well balanced hybrid between the digital and analog worlds, something that's difficult to accomplish. The platform was built out for the web as well as an iPhone app, and it lets users have their art and photos shipped and framed by experts. You get to avoid going to a frame shop, and it makes for a great DIY gallery art wall or art hanging project. The pieces are assembled with high-quality, designer-friendly materials, but are offered at 50 to 70 percent lower than traditional custom framing shops. Pricing is based on art size alone and ranges from $39 to $159, shipping and packing materials are provided for free. And if that weren’t cool enough, you can also frame your Instagram photos.
Image from Framebridge's Instagram
- Gamkedo: Chris DeLeon built Gamkedo to teach people how to make their own video games, which is a great way to take advantage of the software DIY project. As he says, it’s increasingly becoming a creative and technically challenging hobby for a lot of people, which is driving people to want to learn. It's especially relevant when you consider the people who are creating mobile first games on Android's open OS platform. Think of DeLeon as a personal trainer you might get at the gym, except he's teaching you how to build your own video games:
Video from Chris DeLeon's YouTube page
- GoodBarber: In a similar vein to Gamkedo, GoodBarber was built to help people build, design, and develop software. Only instead of video games, the platform helps you build an app in only four steps. It's similar to Squarspace and is filled with themes that you can lay down for your app before adding content from sources like YouTube, DailyMotion, Twitter, WordPress, or Instagram – to name a few. When that's all wrapped up, you press the ‘publish' button and voila.
Image from GoodBarber website
- Airtable: Airtable allows anyone to create custom software, no technical expertise needed. It's an online tool that gives people a software toolkit. In that way the trust is placed in the developers own creativity and ability to build solutions fitting their exact problems, rather than trying to contort themselves into an off-the-shelf, canned solution. Let’s say you wanted to build a custom sales lead CRM software for your startup. Airtable brings the power of the relational database to the mainstream, making it incredibly easy to create your own tools to better organize and harness information.
Image from Airtable
Lead Image from Sugru