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Articles : Creative Innovation: Why Create Homemade Gadgets?

Creative Innovation: Why Create Homemade Gadgets?

By Alan Detwiler

I've always liked to make gadgets and gizmos that fill some need ... some useful (or not so useful) function.

It started with the simple things that many kids make — slingshots, a simple bow and arrow, a toy boat. Occasionally more involved items such as a canoe and a dune buggy became trophies to add to my accomplishments.

The simpler things seem to appeal to me more than those more costly homemade items. A project with a small amount of time invested seems more like entertainment than something that uses up so much time and money that it makes me wonder if I would be better off doing something else.

So now when I don't feel motivated to do more practical things I often turn to an idea about some device or other that I've wanted to try making but never got around to.

I can recall many such improvised devices that gave me much needed diversion from the grind of more practical endeavors. Time spent earnestly involved in the creation of something designed and made with ones own ingenuity can be quite enjoyable. Each project gives me something to be proud of and more evidence that I am capable of more than tediously repeating over and over what I have done countless times before.

Homemade item by Alan DetwilerI ended up rigging a length of electrical heating tape wound in a large coil-shape to surround the keyboard.... As far as I know you can't buy anything like that.

Ideas for things to make come from many places. Most often the idea comes from some need. I do a lot of keying of text using a computer keyboard. I tend to keep the room temperature a bit cool, cool enough that my hands become uncomfortable. I ended up rigging a length of electrical heating tape wound in a large coil-shape to surround the keyboard. Tying the heat tape to a large piece of cardboard keeps it in place. It does a nice job of keeping my hand warms. I can leave the room temperature set where I want it. As far as I know, you can't buy anything like that. It is fun and satisfying to conjure up and build simple devices. The devices are often valuable because they fill a need. And it feels good knowing that I (and by extension people in general) can, at least partially, rely on their own abilities to make their lives better. •

© 2005 Alan Detwiler

About the Author
Alan Detwiler is the author of Homemade Devices For Inventive Teens. His Web site about homemade items is at