Sometimes, new problems appear after solutions are made

So I had a discussion at Hackerspace (I’ve a video for you soon), and Preetam mentioned something about iPads. He said that schools are using iPads for education, and there’s an interesting problem.

Teachers using the iPads as teaching aids want to move around the classroom. With the iPad, the teacher can project information on her iPad to the screen. But the moving around was a problem, because the iPad needed some connecting wire thingy to the projector.

Well you might say that Apple should have considered making wireless projection of the iPad screen seemless.

But I want you to consider this. If tablets weren’t available, and thus teachers could carry tablets around, would the problem of using the tablet to project information wirelessly even exist?

In the pre-Industrial age, practically everyone was working on the land. If you don’t grow food, you don’t get to eat.

The thing about working on farms is that there’s always something to do. (Just ask any Farmville player…) There are cows to be milked, chickens to feed, eggs to collect, grains to harvest.

In the Industrial age, factories made everything systematic and efficient, and our lives became better. You need to be at the factory at this time. You will go for your lunch break at this time. And most important for our discussion here, you can go home at this time.

This created a problem humans never faced before. Suddenly, we had free time.

What are we going to do with it?

Homemade iPad stylus

My friend Christopher made an iPad stylus by himself. Mainly because by principle, he refuse to pay money to get one of those sticks that allow him to doodle on his iPad, and those styluses don’t even work that well. And by nature, he likes to build stuff (he’s an engineer).

Now, I’m not a technology/gadget fanatic. This is why you don’t find many articles here on the latest technology trends (sometimes, trends die out faster than the effort I put in to understand it as a first adopter), or the latest gadgets (I’m more minimalist than hoarder).

So when 2 of my friends bought themselves an iPad, I was like, meh. One of them, Aaron (who’s also the cover photographer for the July issue of Singularity), found immense joy in displaying photos on the iPad. The interface is smooth, the show-and-tell fluid, and you can zoom all the way in to someone’s face to check out the pores (provided you shot the photo on a high resolution camera instead of the iPhone).

Christopher on the other hand, had only a couple of game applications on his iPad. He uses it mainly for business and productivity purposes. Yeah, shocking, isn’t it? So he built his own homemade iPad stylus, just for kicks. Here’s his result.

iPad and homemade stylus

I’ll let you get a closer look.

iPad and homemade stylus

Oops. Zoomed in to the wrong part. Here we go.

iPad and homemade stylus

So, the materials you need to make your own are:

  • A pen (or pen-like object). Make sure the ink is completely used up, but you’re free to go ahead and use a new one.
  • Aluminium foil
  • Adhesive tape, single-sided. Or Scotch Tape if it’s more familiar to you.
  • Steel wool. The softer the better. The grade to look out for is #0000.

There are other methods, and they are available on the Internet if you search for it.

We went to the supermarket to buy the aluminium foil. Christopher bought the value pack. Only part of one sheet of aluminium foil was used, and the rest? Barbecue.

Adhesive tape was easy to obtain (your stationary store should have it stocked). Steel wool was a bit harder to get. Christopher couldn’t find the #0000 type. But he settled for the finest steel wool he could find. Again, there’s a lot of left over, so he used it for cleaning kitchen utensils (well, that’s what it’s supposed to be used for anyway).

Basic idea is, you wrap the pen completely with the aluminium foil. Hold it in place with the adhesive tape. Put a clump of steel wool at the tip, and hold it in place with the adhesive tape.

Christopher was afraid the direct contact of the not-finest steel wool might scratch his iPad’s surface, so he clumped another bit of steel wool at the other end of his pen. Then he completely secured that end with adhesive tape. As in the adhesive tape covers the steel wool too, so the only thing in direct contact with the iPad surface, is the adhesive tape. It still works! Man, we humans really generate a lot of electric charges. The robots in the Matrix had the right idea…

Here’s a video done by Christian Faur that demonstrates how to create your own:

Final tip. Make sure that when you build your stylus, your hand can be in contact with the aluminium foil around the pen, which is in contact with the steel wool. So the electric charges (or whatever the correct term is) passes from your hand, through the aluminium foil, onto the steel wool, and reacting with your iPad (or iPhone or iPod).

If you find getting the necessary materials and building your own iPad stylus too troublesome, you can always buy a commercial stylus such as the BoxWave iPad stylus or the Acase iPad stylus (Amazon aff links)