My children like to pretend like they are flying rockets and space ships and will turn anything around them into controls, buttons and communicators. It is hard on me, because they are very inconsistent. One minute the blue Lego is the turbo button the next minute the banana is the eject lever. I never know what the objects around me are going to set off. 

So to help with this terrible situation I decided to make something to assist with the imaginative process.

I used mostly parts on hand and scavenged so it only cost me a few bucks for some buttons, the joystick and the aluminum. If you had to buy everything I'm guessing the project would cost $30-40. There is a lot of room for expansion of features and improvements on the design, but here is a good first draft to work from. 

  • Joystick operated Acceleration Vector Resonator (patent pending) with audio feedback and vector indicator (beepy beeps and blinky lights)
  •  Launch Status Indicator with turny knob and more blinky lights
  • Com-Link packet messaging system (really it just records your voice and plays it back)
  • Heads Up Display for targeting and tracking popcorn meteors
There are cooler toys out there for the money (and time), but my kids know that I built this one. So it is a great way to have fun, teach your kids about trying new things, and show them that creativity and effort can have cool results. 

Step 1: The "Enclosure"

Enclosure Materials:

  • 1/4 inch thick Plexiglass sheet, at least 24" x 24" -- bottom plate
  • 1/8 inch thick plexiglass sheet, at least 12" x 6" -- top panel
  • 1 inch aluminum angle bar -- bottom trim
*The actual thicknesses don't matter. Mine weren't exactly those thicknesses, but somewhere close.

  • heat gun
  • ruler
  • straight edges (framing square, metal level, finished shelving, something that won't be harmed by high temps)
  • acrylic cutting tool or alternative
  • some clamps

For the case I decided to use acrylic. I took two pieces of Plexiglass and used one for the bottom (1/4") and one for the top (1/8").
I cut the 1/8" piece down to about 10" x 6". Cutting acrylic is not as easy as it looks. Careful use of a straight edge and some clamps is advised. If you have a table saw or something that might be a better option. I don't have one.

I wanted to put four bends in the acrylic sheet roughly spaced at 1", 2" and 5 1/2". To do this I clamped down the sheet on top of a straight edged piece of shelving and heated it with a heat gun. I held the gun much closer than you see in the photo and kept it moving evenly right across the intended bend point. Every ten seconds or so I would apply gentle pressure to the free end of the sheet to see if it was flexible yet. It seems good to be patient and just keep heating and pushing slowly to get the desired angle evenly across the sheet. If you see bubbles forming in the acrylic, stop immediately. You've over heated it and it is now producing fumes that are combustible. 

This method produced a bend with probably a 1/4 "  radius. If you want a tighter angle you may want to use a straight edge on top of the free end of your sheet to push more evenly and closely to your bend point. For the effect I wanted I just pushed along the edge of the sheet with the heel of my hand. 

To connect the top and bottom pieces I wanted to make it removable for future enhancements and repairs. I used a piece of aluminum. This is addressed in a later step.

<p>For the next level...</p><p><a href="http://makezine.com/video/making-fun-mission-control-desk/" rel="nofollow">http://makezine.com/video/making-fun-mission-contr...</a></p><p>Okay, it is actually skipping several levels. </p>
this is great! my dad made something similar for me and my cousins when we we're kids, I'm going to make one for mine now!
<p>I could see using something like this in model rocketry use some servos to aim the rocket add in a tablet or cell phone with gps and usb host ability or blue tooth use the joystick to aim the rocket and make some program to predict the path of the rocket using engine info weight and drag. IE simplified NASA on a small scale could also put a data logger and a camera in rocket. If you have a smart phone the additional cost would only be $20-30 for parts. and there are millions of help with making software for smart phones. cant wait to see the comments on this idea</p>
Cool definitely would have played with when I was a kid
good build I like.

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