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Make: Ultimate Kit Guide special issue

01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Make: Ultimate Kit Guide special issue in the USA - or Buy Make: Ultimate Kit Guide special issue in the UK

author pic

pub: O'Reilly. 98 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 9.99 (US). ISSN: 1556-2336.

check out websites: , and and

‘Make: Ultimate Kit Guide’ is primarily aimed at the US market and its kit guide definitely so but as the designs are battery powered as opposed to needing the mains, would make them work on both sides of the Atlantic or, indeed, any parts of the world.

The editors of this quarterly magazine from which this is a special focuses on currently available electronic kits and unusually, some non-electronic kits, are intent in developing your interest in playing with and even scratch-building from said components for all ages. They happily remind you that the likes of the Apple computer started off with such enthusiasm and want to encourage people to come forward who have a passion for such things to show off their kits.

As you might have noted with me wiring a TARDIS and a Martian war machine models for lights in the past few years, I do the occasional dabble myself. Even occasionally building the odd kit from Maplin although very few of their products extend to the range shown in this special. Lucky Americans. Here you can make anything from digital games to mobile tanks and robots. There are also kits for making musical instruments and alcoholic beverages. Granted the prices vary to the complexity as well but ‘Make’s team do apprise how well these gadgets work and steer you on anything you need to know. Many of these kits also don’t require solder, just a decent set of narrow-nosed pliers, so you can encourage an interest in your kids if they have an inkling that way.

Apart from the reviews, there are a few feature articles. One of the most interesting is a kit for third world hospitals giving them all the necessary bits and bobs to scratch-build or repair their equipment. Considering how much of their equipment is cast-offs and much of it needing repair, the people behind these MEDIKits have found the people in the Third World are actually very good at improvising and repairing damage and seek such supplies as something they can most benefit from. Having a few bits and bobs that would make this easier is commonsense and just makes improvisation easier.

Each mag comes with a free gift, in this case it’s a SuperCap Racer, and a website link to show you how to build it. With that temptation, I thought I would take the plunge on your behalf and you should see the results here.

The website link:- gives instructions to put it together. Although I think some of the pin placements are rather close together and in the opening soldering a third hand to hold the solder isn’t a bad idea, you’ll have a confidence boost seeing it work. Always remember if the solder joint is grey it’s a dry joint, so keep it shiny. Try it out on a Formica surface as opposed to a vinyl for the best effect to demonstrate it moving. Quite nifty for a freebie and you’ll learn what a super-capacitor of the ‘SuperCap’ name can do in a simple circuit to power the two legs.

I really must look at the regular issue of ‘Make’ as I hope there are more features instructing you on how to understand the basics of electronics to help you scratch-build something.

If you’re getting the inkling to be inventive and want to know what’s out there and you live across the pond then this magazine should be worth a look. Although I couldn’t see anything I could improvise a use for with a model kit doesn’t mean that something isn’t out there for you. If nothing else, a little practice in putting such kits together will improve your soldering technique and having an end product that works is always something to show off.

GF Willmetts

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