Do you like tinkering and electronics? Are you also extremely bored and don’t feel like building anything of consequence? This article will cover four bizarre and arguably useless projects. They may not serve a big purpose in your life but they are relatively inexpensive, attractive, and a lot of fun to build and use.
Steampunk Violin Beetle
Steampunk is very popular right now – it’s a beautiful combination of futuristic machinery and industrialized Western civilization that looks like it should be on the set of a Jules Verne film. This is a project for Steampunk lovers and tinkerers alike. It’s basically a beetle with flapping wings – the interesting twist is, the body and wings are made from an old violin. The beetle has a fully articulated body, including legs and wings. If you wanted to, you could even wear the beetle on your back. It doesn’t really do anything apart from look interesting. It’s lovely to look at when it’s assembled so it’s totally worth the time and effort to build. It would be absolutely perfect for a Steampunk costume for a convention or Halloween. The thing that makes the beetle function is something called Arduino. The Arduino is an open-source, single board microcontroller. You can buy the board pre-assembled or in pieces with instructions for the higher-level tinkerers, who want a challenge. Another single board controller you can use is Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi was originally built as a very simple computer for students to use but due to its ease of use and power, you can use it for these kind projects as well. For some of the detailed work, it would be worth looking for soldering accessories such as a flux pen, which will prevent the solder beading and allow it to flow smoothly, making an excellent replacement for the look of pewter.
The second project is for programmers. Retaliation uses a script which detects when a programmer has made a programming error.
When the error is recognized Retaliation fires foam darts at them. This system also uses the Arduino single-board controller. It’s hilarious, very inexpensive, relatively easy to make and would probably motivate workers to double check their work as well!
The third project is a massive Rube Goldberg that lights Hanukkah candles. Rube Goldberg machines are arguably one of the coolest, albeit totally useless, things on earth. For those who don’t know what they are, you basically build a giant, complicated machine that completes a mundane task. That may sound like a waste of time, but Rube Goldberg machines are extremely fun to build and watch in action – they really look like giant machines. This Rube Goldberg machine is special because it uses nitroglycerin and robots.
Obviously a university department has access to the robots, terminal blocks and all the complicated machinery and high explosives you could ever want and you are not going to have access to those things at home, but you can build a less ambitious Rube Goldberg of your own using pretty much anything you own. That’s the beauty of the Rube Goldberg – they’re thrifty, fun to build and fun to watch.
This next project without a doubt wins the most useless project award. It’s a box with a switch.
When you flip the switch an arm comes out and flips the switch back. It’s a simple and funny project that somehow manages to be very cool. It’s simple to build yourself but nonetheless, people will now sell you either a kit or a finished model.
So if you’re a novice-level tinkerer with some spare time try one of these useless but impressive-looking projects. They may not be ground-breaking or accomplish very much, but they’re funny, and in the case of the violin beetle, very beautiful.
Christopher Parkinson’s interest in electronics stemmed from an early age, watching his father using a multimeter to assess why his Scaletrix which had stopped working. At that time this was the most fantastic thing he had ever seen (bear in mind he was 6 and hence very easily impressed). He went on to study microprocessor design theory before working for a company repairing mobile phones.