How to make your own high-tech Christmas gifts - Instructables in New Scientist
It's easier than you might think. The web has a swarm of sites that show you how to make this year's must-have gadgets from heaps of electronic components and old junk. So there is no excuse not to give your mum that digital photo frame she wants or your nephew a dancing teddy. Not only might you save money and keep tech junk from the dump, your friends and family are more likely to cherish a home-made present than something acquired with a wave of a bank card. At least, so says Eric Wilhelm, who has created Instructables.com, a website forum for people to share their home-made projects.
While studying for a PhD in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wilhelm took up kite surfing. It was an expensive hobby, though, and Wilhelm couldn't afford to buy his own gear. So he began designing his own, hand-sewing the kites and building the surfboards. "Half of the equipment performed beautifully, half failed spectacularly," recalls Wilhelm, who began documenting his designs on his own website.
Soon Wilhelm was inundated with notes from kite-surf dudes asking for advice, sharing their ideas and swapping photographs. Dealing with all the correspondence was time-consuming, and he realised that people like him needed a better way to share their projects online: Instructables was born.
Today the site has step-by-step instructions for 17,000 projects, with as many as 20 new ones added each day. Here you can find out how to make a robot like the one in the movie Wall-E, a flashlight from a Chapstick and an iPod speaker from a tin of mints. More than 350,000 fans rate other people's projects, suggest improvements and add their own photographs and videos. The most popular projects have been compiled in a book, The Best of Instructables.
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