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Wreck Your Halls

The folks over at Lifehacker have a weekend project involving, 8 LEDs, a 9V battery, and a Ryobi fan. The result from this DIYer-lovers mix is a spinning electric “death” wreath. Moo-ha-ha; oops, wrong holiday. Happy holidays.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Sclipo)

Halloween Project: Put a Flying Bat in Your Belfry


Are you looking for a way to put some fright into your Halloween night? How about a flying bat circling around the heads of your guests? Armed with only a multimeter and couple of short lengths of wire, you can easily transform the WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly into a frightening dive-bombing bat—sans remote control. Yes, you can leave the radio control transmitter at home (except for recharging the bat’s internal LiPoly battery), because this bat takes to wing on its own terms.

Cost: $57.69
Time: 1 HOUR
Difficulty: EASY


WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly (RadioShack #60-167; $49.99)
(2) 1-inch lengths of wire (All Electronics #CCBL-10; $1.75)
Multimeter (All Electronics #AMM-241; $5.95)


Flat black paint
Scrap paper


Step 1. Carefully separate the Dragonfly’s two foam body halves. One blue “eye” LEDs has been glued into each one of these foam halves. You can elect to leave these LEDs intact, remove them, or swap them out with a pair of red LEDs. I elected to remove them—for conserving battery power.


Step 2. Use your multimeter to identify the main motor’s positive (+) and negative (-) connection points on the Dragonfly’s printed circuit board (PCB). These points should be labeled M+ and M- (or, M1+ and M1-), respectively. You might have to “unearth” the M- connection point from under a mound of glue gunk.


Step 3. Locate the ON positive (+) terminal and the ON negative (-) terminal on the Dragonfly’s power switch. Double-check that these terminals are in the ON position and not the OFF position on the switch.

Step 4. Solder a wire from the motor’s M+ connection point to the switch’s ON + terminal. Solder another wire from the motor’s M- connection point to the switch’s ON - terminal.

Step 5. Test the switch’s operation. When you flick it ON, you should receive full power wing flapping from the Dragonfly. Your bat is almost ready to take flight. You can switch the power OFF.


Step 6. Align the two foam body halves and glue them back together. Ensure that the gears and armatures move freely. Paint the foam body and tail flat black. Fashion two bat ears from the scrap paper and glue them into place.


Step 7. Switch the bat ON and launch it into flight. You should strive for a circular flight path. Try twisting the entire tail assembly to obtain the desired flight path.

Happy Halloween!


5-Minute Project Video: Parabolic Cookware Wi-Fi Antenna


Here we have yours truly demonstrating a quick and easy way to greatly enhance your computer's ability to detect and connect to Wi-Fi networks both near and far with a piece of Asian parabolic cookware. Yes, the steamer basket we used is perhaps not the most Asian member of the parabolic cookware family, but this project is most famously done using a wok or deep-fry strainer, and the term stuck. Basically anything parabola-shaped and made of metal soft enough to puncture will work to some extent—experimentation will determine which yields the best pickup.

And if you want to get really precise, you can plot the focal point of your improvised antenna and position the Wi-Fi USB stick there for greater reception. Much more info can be found here. —John Mahoney

As always, our 5 Minute Projects are available in video podcast form—subscribe here.

5-Minute Project Video: A Musical Stash For Your Cash

Jake demonstrates how to keep prying coworkers out of your secret stuff with this Altoids-tin storage box, complete with an "alarm" fashioned out of the guts of one of those musical greeting cards. Ah, the "sound of punishment." Enjoy.

If you haven't yet, subscribe to our 5-Minute Projects video podcast via iTunes or our RSS feed.

5-Minute Project Video: Peephole Fisheye Lens

One from the "why didn't I think of THAT" department: a fisheye lens from a standard peephole just like in your front door. You can pick up a peephole (sans door) for around $10 at most hardware stores and be shooting cool ultra-wide-angle, amusingly distorted images with your point-and-shoot digicam in the time it takes to simply tape it to your lens. Adding similar capabilities to a fancier DSLR can easily cost 50 times as much. Yay, cheapness! —John Mahoney

5-Minute Project Video: Snooper-Proof Wallet

As more and more credit cards and other documents come equipped with RFID tags—the tiny radio-frequency identification chips that beam your account or ID info to readers used by various services (public transportation, toll road fees, etc)—the more speculation has surfaced on how malicious ID thieves could potentially use similar readers to lift your personal data without your knowledge. Thankfully, it's pretty simple to keep your info protected right in your wallet. Web editor Megan Miller demonstrates above. —John Mahoney

5-Minute Project Video: Old Hard Drive = New Fridge Magnet

Chances are, if you've been using computers for more than a few years, you've encountered a hard disk failure at some point or another. And if you don't have your data backed up, these failures can be heartbreaking to say the least.

To help you forget about the loss of those priceless photos of your child's first steps and the great American novel you were writing in your spare time, know this: a dead hard drive is a great source of some sweet and powerful magnets! Behold:


At the base of the arm that rapidly whisks back and forth over the spinning data platters inside your hard disk are two strong rare-earth magnets (the area labeled "actuator" in this drawing). At the end of the actuator arm is a coil which acts as an electromagnet, moving back and forth within the magnetic field created by the rare-earth magnets allowing for quick and precise movements without any moving parts. These are your prize—all it takes is a special star-shaped Torx screwdriver set and a little patience to reveal them. Check out the video above to see how it's done. —John Mahoney

Illustration: Surachit

Introducing the PopSci 5-Minute Project Videos: Bottle Cap Tripod

Hello and welcome to our new recurring video feature--the PopSci 5-Minute Project. In every issue of the magazine, we highlight a quick and easy project that anyone could tackle in the time it takes to, well, read this blog post. We'll be expanding our favorites here into handy instructional video form here on the How 2.0 blog, showing you first-hand how to build some seriously useful stuff—and it's so easy, even the clumsiest of the clumsy can succeed. To prove that point, the PopSci 5 team is made up of editors from all walks of the DIY circle—from How 2.0 editor Mike Haney (who definitely knows his way around a soldering iron) all the way down the spectrum to folks rating fairly low on the handiness spectrum (like yours truly). If we can do it, so can you! And you don't even need a custom PopSci jumpsuit (although it definitely helps). Yes, we wear them around the office all the time.

First up is PopSci's deputy editor Jake Ward and the bottle cap tripod. When we first spotted this over on Jake Ludington's MediaBlab blog, we were hooked—such an easy and inexpensive way to utilize the often-overlooked tripod mount on the bottom of your digital point-and-shoot to take beautiful, rock-solid shots in low light (thanks Jake!). So check out our video how-to above, and stay tuned right here for more 5-Minute Project videos rolling out in the coming days. —John Mahoney

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