Off-beat channels inspire learning and prototypes
No more having to call my dad to ask for help when I need to fix something at home. Broken dryer belt? YouTube. Plumbing problems? YouTube. (Lawn mower problems? Call Dad. He is a savant when it comes to small engines.)
There is so much video content to help show us how to fix or do anything that YouTube has become our de facto teacher and mentor. I even use it to get inspiration and techniques for building prototypes.
Dork alert: One of my favorite things to watch on YouTube is the Japanese TV show “Plamo Tsukurou” (www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTliYxgbCmycfhlbqpw_mHSAMjAmgTiyj), in which ridiculously talented model makers build plastic model cars, planes, tanks and robots. It is all in Japanese with no subtitles, and each episode shows the complete build of one model.
I find it fascinating to watch them trim, sand, paint and detail the models. The best is Episode 11, in which my favorite modeler does a Tamiya kit of a Ferrari Formula One car. I watched this episode for the third time recently. I always glean some painting or finishing technique that I can apply to the prototypes we make in the Enventys Partners shop in Charlotte.
This show is probably not for everyone, but there are many other channels to help and inspire inventors. Here are some of my other favorite YouTube channels that can help you with your next prototype, or inspire you to build something just for fun:
Simone Giertz (www.youtube.com/channel/UC3KEoMzNz8eYnwBC34RaKCQ)
The self-professed “Queen of Sh*tty Robots,” Simone Giertz is one of the funniest hackers on the web. The Swede’s forte is building robots that attempt to help her perform mundane daily tasks.
She cobbles together motors and robotic arms to help her put on lipstick, paint her nails and chop vegetables. Her episodes are filled with funny outtakes as she continues to refine her gadgets; all end in pseudo-success while making a mess of her intended goal. She has been a guest on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and regularly works with Adam Savage, formerly of the TV show “MythBusters,” on his YouTube channel “Tested.”
Her most viewed robot video is “The Breakfast Machine”: A robotic arm, with the help of some duct tape, flings Cheerios all over the table before finally spooning one piece of cereal into her mouth. Obsessed with becoming an astronaut, she has a series of videos of her astronaut training that includes her most viewed video—in which she locked herself in the bathroom for 48 hours.
The Backyard Scientist (https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBackyardScientist)
“The Backyard Scientist” mixes high voltage and molten metal to create some extreme videos that show the fun side of physics. In his weekly videos, he performs unique experiments in his suburban back yard—such as adding rocket power to fidget spinners—and has gotten his channel to more than 2 million subscribers.
The videos are often dangerous experiments that only the most experienced maker should attempt to re-create. The video that first drew me was “Wood Burning with Lightning. Lichtenburg Figures!”, in which he uses the magnetron from a microwave to send 2,000 volts through a piece of wood. The result is a beautiful fractal pattern that gets burned into the wood from both sides of the board. His most viewed video came when he poured molten aluminum into a watermelon, resulting in an amazing sculpture that looks like pieces of coral.
Joseph’s Machines (https://www.youtube.com/user/allonewordplease)
“Joseph’s Machines” is funny, clever and inspiring. His Rube Goldberg videos show the machines he makes to accomplish mundane tasks.
My favorites are in his sub-category, “Life Devices,” in which he creates machines to make his daily routine more efficient. In “The Stamp Licker—Life Device #1,” he uses a combination of onions, a mechanical pencil sharpener and a pint glass to seal an envelope. “Fool-Proof Roast Turkey—Life Device #5” is another must-watch. His use of ordinary components in unordinary ways will set your mind alight with new ways to think about your prototyping challenges.
Hosted by unibrowed Canadian Mehdi Sadaghdar, ElectroBOOM is a “Do not try this at home”-style channel that will teach you about the often curious nature of electricity. Sadaghdar performs wacky and sometimes outright dangerous stunts to show the power and curious nature of electricity. His one million subscribers proves how entertaining and skillful his videos are.
In “Dangers of Using Electronics in Bathroom, the Case of the Teenage Girl,” he explains how you can get electrocuted in a bathtub, how to restore a submerged mobile phone, and solves a wrongful death case all in the same video. Perhaps the most impressive and potentially useful video is when he shows how to jump-start a car using only AA batteries.
In nearly all of his videos, he finds some way to shock himself so you don’t have to. When you finally stop laughing, you realize how much you just learned about ohms and volts.
The AddOhms channel is all about explaining electronics in simple language. If you don’t know a capacitor from your left hand, this series is for you. Host James Lewis walks through fundamental electronics concepts—such as how to draw schematics, the difference between AC and DC power, and how brushed and brushless motors work. The soothing tone and supporting Sharpie drawings in the videos help demystify electronic concepts.
Although the channel’s most popular video, “MOSFETS and How to Use Them,” is not as overtly entertaining as pouring molten aluminum, the practical knowledge it provides will help you understand circuits better and give you some great vocabulary for your next cocktail party.
Dragon Innovation (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfo1-oOnGqp1UgygGqlZL4A)
Dragon Innovation is a product development firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that has helped bring to life hit products such as the Pebble watch and the Makerbot 3D printer. Founder Scott Miller is a former Disney Imagineer with years of experience in bringing products to market, including the original Roomba.
The standout playlist among the channel’s 51 videos is Miller’s 13-part, 18-episode Design for Manufacturing course. This treasure trove of information breaks down how to select a manufacturer, project management and project costs, as well as an overview of a number of different manufacturing techniques. The lectures are great, and the slide decks from them are available on Slideshare. This is a must-see series for any inventor aspiring to see his or her invention through to manufacturing.