Making Makers

Cool stuff from Obtanium! Cup play house, UFO not included.


How is it some people make stuff and some do not? I have spent the last 5 years encouraging kids to make way cool stuff out of “obtanium” (commonly recycled materials)! I started to look at the why and the how of what I was doing that encouraged kids and supported them in making things. Growing up, if there was something I wanted, my parents would say, “How could you make something like that with what you find around to make it with.” I took the challenge.

Then later on, I realized that kids needed to understand everyday materials like a carpenter or a artisan knows their medium in order to create something. With this blog, I am listing activities that help kids get to know these items in order to build awesome stuff with them! Print them out, cut them up. Use them in random or in ordered ways!

Functional “Fixedness.”

If you only see a cup as a thing to contain something else. That is all it will be!

Your challenge: Cups can become anything one can imagine. Create something using cups that others will say “wow” when they see it. Then send a pic of your creation to share with others. 



Fun kids make recyclable cup play house
Plastic Cup play house for an eraser. UFO sold separately!

What would be good for long term real world projects?


Essence of the Projects Focus 

  1. Clean water
  2. Environment
  3. Clean energy
  4. Approaching zero-waste lifestyle
  5. Alternative construction resources


  • Clean water


List 5 Ingredients/Subtopics

Vacuum distillation

  • How could I purify water?
  • How can I desalinate water?
  • How can I make water that I can drink?

Bacterial purification

  • Could I use bacteria to clean water?
  • Could bacteria remove contaminants from water?
  • Could bacteria remove plastic from the water supply?

Physical filtration

  • Can plants filter water?
  • Can filters be made out of more recyclable materials.
  • Could recyclable materials be used to make more productive filters.

Harvesting water from plants

  • Can plants be used to harvest water?
  • Is there a species of plant that is easier to collect water from?
  • Is there an easy way to put plants in the production system of clean water.

Harvesting water from the environment

  • Can natural features be used to collect water without processing.
  • Is there a way to gather clean water from air.
  • What is the natural filtration system for water in nature and how can we mimic it.



  • Environment


List 5 Ingredients/Subtopics

Yes yes ecology

  • Can we make animal shelters from recyclables.
  • Could I help endangered animals by using recyclables.
  • How can I improve my local environment


  • Can I make seed bombs that will increase biodiversity.
  • Can waste help.
  • How can I make an impact

Rebuilding and planting after disaster

  • How can I help.
  • How can I have an impact.
  • How can I use recyclable materials to help

Urban climate engineering

  • How can nanoparticles help
  • Can I use reclaimed materials to change local temperature
  • Could planting on roofs and walls change the heat Island.


  • Could we use architecture help cool the planet
  • Can I use the ground the cool things
  • Can I use the environment to cool things


  • Clean energy


List 5 Ingredients/Subtopics

Heat engines

  • Could I use the heat from the environment to make electricity.
  • Could I use the heat from the sun to make electricity
  • Could I use the heat  to make electricity

Hydrogen fuel cells

  • Where can I get hydrogen?
  • Why is it a zero carbon emission
  • Could I use it to make a battery

Bio-fuel cells

  • What can I make diesel fuel from
  • Can I make electricity from biowaste
  • Can I make a gas from bio waste


  • Can I use Heat in order cool something else off
  • Can sound used to cool things
  • Can I use rubber bands?

 Wind water and solar

  • Can I use wind or solar to make a personal power source
  • Could I make clothes that use solar or wind or mechanical energy to power my cell phone
  • Could I make my bike charge all of my electronics?




  • Approaching a zero-waste lifestyle


List 5 Ingredients/Subtopics

hygiene products

  • What are safety razor and are they for girls
  • Make biodegradable soap
  • Can I make Toothpaste

Upcycling turning recycled materials into something useful

  • Plastic container into gardens
  • Tires into raised bed.
  • Turn into clothing?

Learn maintenance and repair

  • Auto repair
  • House repair
  • Clothes repair

Biodegradable cleaning products

  • Can I making soap?
  • Could laundry detergent be better for the environment?
  • Vinegar does it clean?

Composting and recycling

  • How can I compost in a small space
  • Can I recycle my own stuff
  • How can I leave a smaller footprint


  • Alternative construction resources


List 5 Ingredients/Subtopics


  • Could I make scoby matter be made into bricks
  • Could I use bacteria and sugar to make sand into stone blocks
  • Could bottles be made from bacteria


  • Can I make cardboard into furniture
  • Could a boat be made from cardboard
  • Could I make a structure I could last a hundred years out of cardboard

Recycled plastic

  • Could I make roofing or building material out of recycled Plastics
  • Could I make a tool from recycled Plastics
  • would covering the roads with light colored plastic cool the city’s heat island

Greener building

  • What are Earthships
  • Was the little pig on to something when he built his house from hay
  • What did the hohokam use to build with? can we do better?


  • I found this, Could it help?
  • I have this thing! Can I turn it into that?


Making with newspaper!

Making and Engineering challenges to Build imagination, teamwork, and making skills with Newspaper.

Using Newsprint

  • Make the longest tube that you can with newspaper.

  • Build the tallest structure possible using newspaper and tape.

  • Create a dome that someone can sit in.

  • Make the longest continuous strip possible from one sheet of newsprint.

  • Make a costume using newspaper and tape. Show how to make costume become 3D. Strive for a Wow! from those who see it.

  • Create three origami animals using large sheets of newsprint. Create a presentation about your origami animals.

  • Create a presentation based on newspaper headlines.

  • Create a presentation that uses a picture in the newspaper taken out of context.

  • Make a device to launch and catch crumpled newsprint balls.

  • Make the tallest tower possible that holds as much weight as possible.

  • How would you use newsprint to create a vehicle that travels?

  • Using only 4 sheets of newspaper, create a bridge from one chair to another.

Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments, or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!

Newsprint, News paper, paper construction
What would you build?

Making with Craft Sticks

engineering challenges with Craft sticks that build imagination, team work and making skills!

Using Popsicle (craft) stickscraft sticksMaking with Sticks:

  • Make the tallest structure that you can with a base that fits entirely on a notebook piece of paper.

  • Can you weave or cross-stitch the Craft sticks together to make a sturdy structure?

  • How many different ways can you attach the Craft sticks together?

  • Make the longest bridge that you can using Craft sticks.

  • Can you create a game based on the Craft sticks? How would you make game pieces, tokens, etc.?

  • Tell a story using Craft sticks to depict a scene.

  • Create a device to launch Craft sticks. How far can you launch them?

  • Create a puppet show that uses only Craft stick puppets.

  • Now try creating a presentation with Craft sticks shadow puppets. What would you use?

  • How might you communicate a message without talking, using only the Craft sticks? Try it with a friend.

  • Using craft sticks and one 3 foot piece of string, create a draw bridge that works.

  • Make a mask from craft sticks and markers.

  • Using craft sticks and paper, make a vehicle that will travel 6 feet without you touching it once it starts traveling.

Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments,or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!

craft sticks

Make with masking tape!

Making and Engineering challenges to Build imagination, teamwork, and making skills with Tape.

Masking tape challenges

  • What is the largest sticky surface that you can make with tape?

  • Create the largest non-sticky surface that you can make.

  • Can you build a bridge of tape that spans a 3 foot gap? with only 1 in pieces. How far could you go?

  • Can you think of a way to use tape to create a case to hold small objects?

  • Design and build a trap for insects and see how many you catch.

  • Use tape to convey a message. Create a presentation that features the message being important to a character and why the character thought the message was made out of tape.

  • Create the tallest structure that you can using masking tape and one other type of material.

  • Use tape to create an arch using another type of material you have.

  • Make a presentation about why tape is a necessary tool.

  • Can you suspend a small ball from the edge of a table so that it stays for more than 5 minutes?

  • With tape and newspapers, create an outfit for yourself, a friend, a pet, or a tree.

Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments, or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!

masking tape

Making with Chenille Stems

Making and Engineering challenges to Build imagination, teamwork, and making skills with chenille stems.

Making with Chenille Stems

  • Using chenille stems, make a container for materials such as marbles, ping pong balls or tennis balls.

  • How many different ways can you attach chenille stems together other than twisting?

  • Can you create a tall tower using only chenille stems? How tall is it?

  • Make a cube using chenille stems.

  • Make Truss designs. will they hold weight?

  • How many different devices can you create to retrieve a ball 6 ft. away?

  • Devise a communication system to send a message using Chenille stems of different colors.

  • Create a puppet show using only chenille stems. What would the story be about?

  • Design a costume that uses chenille stems as part of the costume.

  • Make an insect out of the chenille stems? How could you get he insect to move without your hand touching the insect?

  • What other animal features (like tails, or horns) can you depict using chenille stems? Create a presentation that includes five features.

  • Using chenille stems, create a way to carry an egg from one side of the room to another without breaking the egg.

  • Using chenille stems, make an invention to help a teacher.

Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments, or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!

chenille stems
What would you build?

Making with Balloons!

Making and Engineering challenges to Build imagination, teamwork, and making skills.

Making with Balloons

(warning: this activity uses latex balloons unless you have access to latex free balloons or gloves.)

  • What is the farthest distance you can get the smallest balloon (small water balloons) to stretch?

  • Use a balloon to create a pendulum.

  • Use a balloon to launch another balloon. How can you get it so go even further?

  • Use the neck of a balloon to attach two things together.

  • How many different ways can you attach the balloons together?

  • Use balloons in a costume.

  • Create a play that uses balloons to depict the story. Try to us the different shapes and/or colors of balloons to your advantage to get others to say “wow.”

  • Inflate a few balloons and put them in the corner of a room. Can you transport them across the room without them touching the ground or your bodies?

  • It is not only fun to blow up balloons, it is fun to deflate them. Try to get a balloon to deflate slowly so it does not pop! What would you use?

  • Use a balloon to create a catapult to eject a small marshmallow or eraser and hit a target 10 ft, 12 ft, 15 ft. away.

  • Find a new use for a balloon.

  • Make an animal out of one balloon and some paper.

  • Build a structure out of balloons and 3 feet of masking tape.

  • Can you inflate a balloon without blowing into it yourself?


Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments, or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!


Engineering with Foil

Foil. So shiny, roll-able, fold-able and tare-able. Try some of these challenges!

Make with Foil

Foil. So shiny, roll-able and fold-able. Try some of these challenges

  • Make a small structure that floats on water. Can it hold a weight such as a marble or large eraser?

  • What is the largest structure that you can make that floats on water? Can it hold a tennis ball?

  • Using foil and any other “found” materials you have, create a costume.

  • Try playing a game of charades using only foil to convey ideas.

  • Fold foil into the thinnest strip you can.

  • Try ripping foil into a thin strip that can be woven into a basket.

  • How can you create the tallest and thinnest freestanding structure?

  • Make a musical instrument made of foil.

  • Using only foil, how can you deliver water from one side of the table to the other side?

  • Can you think of a way to use foil to convey a message without talking to someone across the room?

  • Take a 12” x 12” piece of foil and create an animal you might find on an alien planet.

  • Using a 12” x 12” piece of foil, create a work of art.

  • Make a small monument to a famous person using only foil.

  • Use foil and markers to create a game board when there are different levels a token may travel.

  • Time to create a new hat. How can foil be used to do that?

Take a picture of your project and send it to us through the comments,or Contact tab and we will post it.

Thank you for Making with me!