Toy and Game Expo: Young Inventor Challenge 2013

Our first Young Inventor Challenge was held at the Toy and Game Expo on November 2, 2013.  The Young Inventor Challenge provides an opportunity for youth ages 6 to 18 to showcase their own original toy and game inventions to industry professionals, members of the media and the general public.  Each entrant was asked to create a poster display and bring their prototype to the event.  We had space at the expo where the entrants could set up their entries and share their inventions.


This year we had  had three game entries and one toy entry.  Only three entrants were able to participate during the day itself.


One of our game entries was a card game.  Denver, age 9, invented a card game for two or more players called Simple 7.  Each player uses their own deck of cards and deals seven cards in a set pattern and starts subtracting.  This game was fast, fun, and educational too!  It gave the players a good chance to practice some basic math skills.

Danica, age 8, entered a board game for two players called Alien Attack. Each player chooses which planet they are from and then rolls a die to advance to the other player's home row.  On the way, you collect rare minerals and watch out for asteroid hits and alien attacks.  This is an enjoyable game.  Danica put a lot of effort into her prototype.  I liked the bright colours of the board and the glittery rocks that were the rare minerals.

Thiernault, age 8, entered the third game into the challenge, Carnivorous Jungle Ants. Unfortunately, Thiernault couldn't attend the challenge but was able to send his prototype and poster board in for display.  Thiernault's dad is a game designer and we were all impressed with the quality of the prototype.  There were pieces re-used from other games and some good printed materials.  It gave all of the inventor's good ideas for next year!

And finally, our one toy entrant was my son, Nanik, age 11.  Nanik dreamed of life-sized building bricks and thought it would be safest if they were made of something soft. So he invented Felt Forts which are giant soft blocks that are held together with magnets.  Nanik sewed the bricks himself and experimented with different types of magnets.  He's still looking for the perfect solution but brought three of his prototype bricks in for display.

At the end of the day all of the entrants who attended received some great prizes donated by Filosofia.  They were excited and inspired after spending the day at the Toy and Game Expo.  All of them pledged to come back with new inventions next year.

You can see more photos and watch a video recap of Canada's first Toy and Game Expo!





October 31, 2013


Young Inventor Challenge ›

Toy and Game Expo YIC: Poster Board Display

Okay, the prototype's done and you've registered for the Young Inventor Challenge.  Have you put together your Poster Board Display yet?  If you have, good for you!  If you haven't, don't panic, here are some tips for putting your display together:

1.  Use a folding 3-panel board.  You can buy one at the store or make one yourself!

2.  Put the name of your invention front and center.  It should be the first thing you see when you look at the display.

3.  Use bright colours to draw attention to your prototype.

4.  Make sure the information you are presenting is clear.   If you've worked your way through the Inventor's Workbook, you already have all the information you need to put on your display.

5.  Have fun putting together your display!  Take a break and take a step back.  Try looking at your display from across the room to see what catches your eye.

Good luck working with your displays.  We're looking forward to meeting everyone on Saturday!

October 08, 2013


Workshops ›

Motors and Movement Workshop - September 2013

September's Motors and Movement workshop was lots of fun.  We used DC motors to build doodling robots and vibration motors to build Gami-Bots .

We used corks to offset the motors of the doodling robots and make them vibrate and draw.  We explored different ways of causing the vibrations that got the cup to move.



It was fun to decorate them and see everything move around.



The Gami-Bots were fun too.  The vibration motors work the same way as our doodling robot offset motors work but you don't have to fiddle around with a cork to get them vibrating, the offset weight is already attached.  The trick with the Gami-Bots is balancing the motor and the battery so they don't nose dive.  Once we had that figured out they moved really fast and we had to work hard to keep them on the table!

Don't forget to register for our next class,  Break and Make , on October 22!

September 29, 2013


Events › Ideas › Projects ›

Projects for Kids at Maker Faire 2013 - New York

( More on Maker Faire at Maker Junior at Maker Faire 2013 - New York )

There were over 650 exhibitors at the Maker Faire in New York City.  Many thanks to Jeff at Stem Design Labs for helping out at the booth so I could get away.

The Maker Junior booth was in the Young Maker's tent.  Around us were lots of schools demonstrating what their students were doing.  The United Nations International School is a private school in New York that has a maker space called the CoLaboratory.  They were showing some cardboard quiz games that I really liked.

In the booth behind us, the Marymount School was displaying some student projects that included clothing  made from recycled materials.  Take a close look at this project to see what the flag is made from.

Farther back in the tent was the Brooklyn Robot Foundry.  They have afterschool classes, summer sessions and birthday parties for kids to build robots.  This robot, that was built at one of their summer sessions, gives free hugs!

My son and I also had a chance to talk with Mike Carroll, who's created a character and written a book about Dewey Mac, a 12-yr old detective who creates gadgets.  Mike was giving away Dewey Mac's Lie Detector kits.  You can be sure we're going to try this out.

Another booth we really liked was TakeItApart from Rochester, NY.  Have you ever seen the prism from inside a camera before?  I've got an old film camera that we'll be taking apart at our Break and Make class on October 22.


We are also looking forward to playing around with some Duct Tape Bling.  I found some tie-dyed patterned duct tape so we're ready to go.

This is only a small part of what there was available to see and make at the Faire. You could make LED Pinnies at the Make booth or a marshmallow gun out of PVC piping. There was a fantastic Iron Man costume, Spin Bots, Little Bits workshops, sewing, woodworking, welding, and coffee pouring robots.  We even saw a golf club that was turned into an electric guitar. It was inspiring to walk around and see the creativity and imagination at work. It's worth taking the time to find out if there is a Maker Faire happening near you!


September 25, 2013


Events › News ›

Maker Junior at Maker Faire 2013 - New York

Where to begin?  After all the fun of the Ottawa Maker Market and Mini Maker Faire, my husband encouraged me to apply for the New York Maker Faire.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to share what I've been working on and see what new ideas I could bring back.  It was all of that and more.  Much more!  I am pleased to announce that Maker Junior won the Educator's Choice ribbon at the Maker Faire.

 My son and I had a fantastic time.  We couldn't believe the size and scope of the Faire. We were happy to have a booth set up near the edge of the Young Maker's tent so we could have an entire table for the doodle bots.

The lit up conductive thread and conductive paint projects were popular, as always. The LED headbands were definitely a hit.  This little guy was happy to model all three at once.


Most importantly, it was encouraging for me to talk with parents and educators who were excited about the potential of this style of education. Whether it's in the classroom, at home, or within the community, these kinds of simple projects can empower kids to become technology "creators".

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of talking with David Gauntlett, Professor of Media and Communication, and  Co-Director of the Communications and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster.  He has a wonderful project "Making Things With Makers About Making".  This is the video he made at the Faire.  (Maker Junior comes at the 3 minute mark.)




September 20, 2013


Announcing... our new store!

Use Store in the menu above or to purchase kits from our new storefront.

Now we're off to New York City for World Maker Faire.  If you're going too, stop by our booth and say hi!

August 30, 2013


News ›

Fall 2013 Schedule

Maker Junior's Fall 2013 Schedule has been posted and workshops are now available for registration on Eventbrite.
August 09, 2013


Soft Circuit Kits

As I've been conducting workshop pilots and talking to parents, I've realized that finding the parts you need to build some of these projects can be quite difficult. The parts come from multiple sources and aren't usually priced or packaged for play and exploration. So I've started developing some kits that provide the components needed for a project at a reasonable price. My first kit is the Soft Circuits Kit. It has all the parts you need to make a soft circuit felt robot, like the one here.


Step-by-step instructions for constructing the circuit are also included.


Right now the kits are available at events. I'm in the process of getting the infrastructure set up to the sell the kits online. The next event is the Ottawa Mini Maker Faire, August 31-September 1 at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum. If you can't wait, contact me and I'll be happy to help!

July 16, 2013


Ideas ›

Inventor's Fair

Last weekend I had a chance to go the Princess Auto Parts Inventor's Fair here in Ottawa. There is an old English proverb that says "Necessity is the mother of invention". I saw that in action at the Inventor's Fair on Saturday.

This is the Mosquito Cemetery.  It uses the carbon dioxide generated by the humans and animals inside a building to attract mosquitoes to a trap on the outside of the a building. No additional carbon dioxide or fuel canisters required.

This is a rake for a gravel path:

I spoke with Wendy van der Horn. Wendy's husband, Tim, is a prolific inventor. Tim has invented a Wind Powered Generator with two turbines that can produce more energy from less wind. He was also presenting the Can Hoist and a hitch removal tool.


I also had a chance to speak to several members of the Inventors Association (Ottawa). The Inventors Association has been meeting since 1986 and draws members from all over Eastern Ontario. It's open to all adults who are interested in inventing or helping inventors succeed. It's open to adults only because signing a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) is a condition of membership. They are interested in helping inspire kids, though, and all of the inventors at the fair were happy to talk about their inventions.

My favorite invention at the fair was Tim van der Horn's hitch removal tool. Take a look at this picture, can you see how it works?

June 28, 2013


Ideas › Projects ›

Soft Circuit Prototypes

I've mentioned conductive paint before, but did you know there's conductive thread too?

E-textiles have been around for a while. Leah Buechley, an associate professor at MIT and director of the High-Low Tech Group, is a leading expert in this area and has developed the super-cool Lilypad Arduino toolkit. She's got a great tutorial online using basic components and I thought I'd give it a try.

I made this robot using a snap as a switch.

And my favourite – the component dude/tte! This was made by my 11-year old helper. The hook and eye works really well as a switch for this example, and the battery is hidden behind the figure.

Next step, finding more kids to try this out with. I wonder what they'll make?