Building your own LEGO Land

For more than sixty years, LEGOs have allowed children all over the world to create worlds of their own. Although most sets come with a predetermined set of specs to follow, much of the fun lies in veering away from those designs. You might start out making a fire station and wind up constructing a small fortress. Or you might begin with a mansion and then add on propellers. The appeal of LEGOs has always been that the possibilities are endless. What begins as a simple pile of bricks can easily turn into a complex work of art. Wouldn't it be great if you could create life-size things with LEGOs? It used to be a dream, but now it's one step closer to becoming reality. The following stories are about how professionals use LEGOs and 3D printing to create real-world designs.

Building a City

Many factors have to be considered in urban planning: location, population, environmental concerns, potential growth. In addition to those factors, planners must consider the design area. Architects want their buildings to be aesthetically pleasing in addition to being functional. The difficulty lies in getting a clear idea of the visuals from a static set of blueprints. That's where LEGO comes in.

lego city
Image via City Lab

At the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a new public display allows Boston residents to shape a city as they see fit. MIT's display features a 3D projection of the city laid out on an interactive board. Citizens then use LEGO pieces to shape an area of the city, to which the projection automatically adjusts itself. This allows Boston citizens to see very quickly how construction proposals would positively or negatively affect the city.

According to Chris Zegras, professor of Transportation and Urban Planning at MIT, the purpose of the project is to bridge the gap between city planners and the average citizen. "Our ultimate objective is this idea of co-creation," explains Zegras. "Having producers and consumers work intimately together in the production of a good creates a better good. We would like that to happen in how we produce 21st-century transit systems."

Happy Camper

When kids create LEGO automobiles, they're usually variations of the cars their parents drive or re-creations of vehicles from films and television shows they've watched. Whatever the design, both parents and kids wish they could build their own vehicle and take it for a test drive. At the recent Motorhome and Caravan Show in the United Kingdom, one such vehicle really was taken out on the road.

lego camper
Image via Guinness World Records

One of the highlights of the show was the display of life-sized caravan camper built from 215,158 LEGO pieces, setting a Guinness World Record for the largest caravan built with interlocking bricks. The camper was built over 12 weeks, and required more than a thousand man hours. As impressive as it is in design, what really sets the camper apart is that it's fully functional. It features a sink with running water, a working refrigerator, and even a bed, among other amenities. The camper will next be shown alongside its real-life counterpart at BRICK, a British LEGO fan event, in late October, before being displayed in London in early December.

Did you play with LEGOs as a kid? How about as an adult? Share your stories in the comments below!

Autumn Activities for Kids

As the leaves begin to turn brown, and kids head back to school, it becomes clear that summer is over. But you can still help your kids to make the most of their after-school hours. Here are some creative projects specially designed to help you and your children get the most out of the fall season.

Pages and Petals

Your little ones may not have finished their summer reading list, but they’ll certainly be hitting the books now. One way to make sure those books aren’t left behind in lockers or desks is to personalize them. With a few household items, you and your kids can create these floral bookmarks.

floral bookmark
Image via PBS

Friend-finder

One of the most admirable traits of children is their ability to make friends easily. One classic schoolyard method is trading friendship bracelets. If your children are a bit too young for the complex embroidery of a traditional bracelet, you might want to try a simplified glow-worm bracelet. Just think, your children could have their own googly-eyed companions to follow them wherever they go.

glow-worm bracelet
Image via PBS

For the Birds

A typical autumn school day is a lot like a typical day for a bird. Birds fly off early to learn about the world, only to fly back to the nest for food and rest. With all the care you put into your own home, why not make a separate home—or even just a feeder—for your
feathered friends

bird feeder
Image via PBS

All of the above projects and more can be found on PBS Parents. Do you have any favorite fall crafts? Share them with us in the comments!

Low Tech, Lots of Fun

It seems as though whenever a flashy new product is released, people revert back to their juvenile forms. Everyone has to have the brand new toy that parents think costs too much and might very well be forgotten once “the next big thing” comes around. This question becomes all the more pressing once you actually have kids; you don’t want them thinking that impulse purchases are all there is to life. Fortunately, the following craft projects will inspire you to put your own homegrown spin on high-tech fads.

The Watch Redefining Touch Screen

You’ve probably seen the announcement of Apple’s new smartwatch all over the news. It plays music, tracks your exercise, accepts e-mail and text messages – all that and it even actually tells time. But what if your little one doesn’t know all of their numbers yet? That won’t be a problem with these felt Apple Watches. Created by artist Hiné Mizushima, the watches will soon be for sale on her Etsy page. Mizushima’s website details the progress of creating each watch by hand.

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3-D Printing our Missing Pieces

3-D printing continues to be one of the most prolific modern technologies, used in everything from art and cuisine to construction and space travel. Yet the extent of its possible uses is only beginning to be explored. We’ve already mentioned how the technology has been used for controversial means, such as printing weapons and “transporting” items, but there have been just as many inspiring uses. With the recent news of scientists using 3-D printing to create living tissue, there has been movement to create missing body parts for those in need.

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What You Need to Know about the FAA’s new Drone Rules

19. February 2015 11:12 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects, Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

You’ve probably noticed that “drones” (unmanned miniature aircraft) have been talked about quite often these days. They’re used by the military to fight terrorism, they’re used by film-makers to capture breath-taking aerial footage, they’re even used by hobbyists as a way to show off in front of their neighbors. They’ve been parodied in shows like Parks & Recreation and South Park, and they’ve been proposed as new delivery systems for Amazon and Google.

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Radio (Shack) Silence

13. February 2015 11:55 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects, Business News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

It seems that with every passing year, there's a staple of American business that disappears forever. Whether it be a result of changing times and technologies (which led to the loss of Tower Records and Blockbuster Video), or a once-major chain no longer able to support itself (Mervyn's, Montgomery Ward), some of the most recognizable retails chains in the US have shut their doors forever.

Radio-Shack-store.jpg(via New York Times)

Now another familiar chain is in danger of disappearing: on March 5, electronics retailer Radio Shack announced that they would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closing some 1,700 stores in the US and Mexico. The chain has been struggling for quite some time, having already closed 1,100 stores in 2014. There was hope that a rumored buy-out from Amazon would get the company back on its feet, but those plans now seem uncertain.

Home of the Gadget-geek.

Though Radio Shack's history goes back to its founding in 1921, the company really came into its own during the 1970s and '80s. It became a haven for both average consumers needing the right antenna for their tv, professional electricians searching for reasonably-priced supplies, and budding gadget geeks of all stripes.

Although on-line shopping has increased the ease-of-use in finding the electronics of one's choice, there's something to be said for the interactive nature of shopping for personal electronics in person. The electronics specialists of Radio Shack paved the way for the likes of Geek Squad and the "Genius Bars" at Apple stores - the latter of which is fitting, considering the role Radio Shack equipment played in the first Apple products.

Although the chain has yet to be declared "dead", the recent activity proves that it has suffered damage from which it might never recover. Which is a shame, because it means that there's one less recognizable American business to patronize - and one less budding gadget geek to find the right wires to make their dreams come true.

Some DIY Love for Valentine's Day

Cupid's arrow is almost ready to strike again! Valentine's Day is a couple of weeks away and now is the perfect time to get crafty and creative without resorting to the usual store-bought goods. There's nothing like good chocolate or a beautiful flower bouquet, but if you want something memorable for that sweetheart in your life, it's time to go DIY. Some ideas might take a little bit of extra time, but the end results will impress whoever is special in your life.

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Crafting The Perfect Thanksgiving Feast

13. November 2014 19:53 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Everybody's favorite foodie holiday is just under two weeks away! But are you ready for your big Thanksgiving feast? No matter if you're entertaining for 5 or 50, it's always difficult to have things run without a hitch. What is your biggest struggle during Thanksgiving? Maybe it's the food, maybe it's the decor, but no matter your biggest worry, we wanted to share some tips that will help your holiday run smoothly for you and all of your guests.

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DIY Summer Activities for Kids

Now that we’ve made it into July, we’re ready to begin that long stretch of summer when kids get notoriously restless. With all that pent up energy, it’s easy to spend hours on the computer, watching TV, or playing Gameboy. But remember: it’s summer, and now’s the time to get active while the weather is warm. Rather go out and spend a ton of money on the latest high-tech gadgets, there are some fun and interactive DIY summer projects, most of which you can make with simple supplies. Some are even printable!

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Exciting Mother's Day Crafts

Mother's Day is coming up on May 11th, which means it's just a little over two weeks away! Thankfully that's plenty of time to get crafty for any of the mothers in your life. Rather than buying a simple store bought card, bouquet of flowers, or necklace, these homemade gift ideas will go a long way in creating a truly special Mother's Day experience. Some of the ideas we wanted to highlight can enhane any gift you might purchase while others are standalone projects. No matter what you decide to do, a personalized touch always goes a long way.

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