Review: “Make: School’s Out Summer Fun Guide” from O’Reilly

You may or may not be familiar with MAKE magazine. If you are and you’re a parent, you already know that the School’s Out Summer Fun Guide is for you. If you aren’t familiar with MAKE, I’ll try to summarize. They bring together a community of people who like to make things – all sorts of things. They make things from the simplest of crafts all the way up to full on projects that require welding, printing your own circuit boards, soldering pieces together, and wiring it all up. The projects published by MAKE magazine are usually within the realm of possibility for the dedicated do-it-yourselfer, though sometimes the price for materials or time involved may be somewhat high. The people who like to make things tend to get the most satisfaction out of the projects they’ve made because they could do it themselves.

I really enjoyed this particular issue of Make. It’s aimed at families – kids and adults working together to make things. The issue is partially in 3-D. If you buy the printed copy, you’ll get your own set of 3D glasses to look at the various pictures printed throughout the magazine. To make it even better, one of the first articles directs you to a website filled with 3D imagery as well as instructions on how to make your own 3D pictures. Steve White contributed his own experiences putting together a 3D movie and photo rig using two webcams and some parts that are relatively easy to find. After this quick foray into 3D imagery, the magazine quickly hits its main target – Summer Fun.

The editors broke down Summer Fun projects into 8 categories: Combat, Outdoors, Rainy Day, Craft, Music, Pranks, Flight, and Electronics. This section was both great and disappointing. It was great because it gave some wonderful instructions for 8 projects and a lot of inspiring pictures for more. It was disappointing because the remainder of the many projects were to be found online and not in the magazine itself. (To be fair, including those would have turned this magazine into a book.) The online projects include some basic things such as slingshots, kid-safe bamboo swords, stilts, circuits made out of play-dough, drum kits, invisible ink printing, and quite a bit more. There are a lot of great ideas for parents and kids to work together to build some great toys and projects. The Flight section points to a lot of great Rocket projects – water and air for the kids.

Those articles are great for the kids – inspiration on things they can build with some adult help. However, the part I appreciated more than the projects was towards the end of the magazine. Six children who like to make things were profiled, along with their projects. Make interviewed I-Wei Huang, one of the Skylanders artists, for advice on how to stay creative all your life. Several educators then gave their best tips for building and making with kids. If you’re not quite sure how to get started or why you might want to encourage your kids to build things, this is a great read.

Overall, I really liked this magazine. The minor disappointment of having so many projects online was offset by the number of articles and projects that are inspiring to the younger generation. I know that this is something my kid will appreciate and find inspiring. I know that I’m ready to get a list of parts together and get building now.

** I was provided with a review copy of this magazine by O’Reilly in return for an unbiased interview. This did not influence my opinion in any way. (I was actually considering buying a copy of this for myself before being offered the chance to review it.)

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