Tag Archive: craft kits


Variator sep

Some people can get excited about science simply by watching an episode of Discovery’s How It’s Made But it often takes only one personal discovery, some object in motion, a curious force of nature, or unthinkable technological improvement, and suddenly a wider world opens up.  For me it was my dad making a simple telegraph machine, and later it was marveling on my first flight on an airplane, at last realizing visually how clouds cast shadows on the earth.  Today we’re featuring the final build in our trials of model maker UGEARS′ Stem Kit series of 3D engineering models (check out our other builds if you missed them: the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), the Random Generator (reviewed here) and the Tachometer reviewed here).  Today’s build is a fully operational, sturdy plywood 3D study model of inventor Milton Othello Reeves’ 1879 continuously variable transmission (CVT), or Variator, first used in sawmills, woolen mills and other Industrial Revolution mechanics, as part of car engines and any machine requiring a smooth changing of gear ratios.

Variator 11

No glue needed, no sanding required, with everything contained in the box, the Variator is part of UGEARS’ STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids, a way any family can spark an interest in science, and specifically understanding basic engineering assembly and design.

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Tach main 2

Today we’re building a fully operational, sturdy plywood 3D study model of German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn’s 1817 invention, the Tachometer, used throughout the 19th century in locomotives and later–and still today–in automobiles.  It’s a mechanism that, when the handle is rotated, movement is transmitted through a reducer, increasing the revolutions per minute (RPMs) and displacing twin weights in a rubber band-powered centrifugal unit.  The higher the RPM, the more centrifugal force separates counter weights, shifting a movable axle with a flywheel.  A dial is fixed to the axle, and the more the axle shifts (the higher the RPM), the more the dial arrow deflects, indicating higher speed rotation.  It’s the UGEARS Tachometer, the fourth model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), and the Random Generator (reviewed here).  The Tachometer is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit, like the Gearbox we reviewed, is part of understanding basic engineering assembly design, most apparent in your family automobile.

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Random final main

Random chance can set all kinds of activities into motion.  Remember Abed’s discussion of the dice role and its impact in Community?  Do you recall the potential impending doom as a kid shaking the Magic 8 Ball, one of the toys in the National Toy Hall of Fame?  Sure, you could settle with a coin toss or dice roll, but why?  How about mixing up your next Dungeons & Dragons event with something different?  Today we’re building a study model of a device that generates random numbers and provides different random results based on probability theory, including a 360 degree rotating octahedron that acts like an orrery, triggered by a button, with a rack-and-gear drive, overrunning clutch, and a driven wheel.  It’s the UGEARS Random Generator, the third model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here) and the Gearbox (reviewed here).  The Random Generator is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  This kit is full of surprises, and as it comes together you’ll see how science puts the “magic” in the Magic 8 Ball.

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UGEARS Gearbox final

Today we’re building a study model of German engineer Karl Benz’s gearbox, the same mechanism you’d find in the transmission of any modern automobile, complete with drive shaft, layshaft with gear couplings, reverse idler, and a gear shift.  It’s the UGEARS Gearbox, the second model we’re testing after the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (check out our first UGEARS review here).  The Gearbox is part of the model maker’s STEM Lab series, educational tools and fun models that aren’t just for kids.  Anyone who has ever driven a car should know the fundamentals of how a gearbox works, and this model is an excellent start.

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You may have recently seen advertisements for UGEARS, maker of some incredible moving models made entirely from precision laser-cut plywood parts.  We laid our hands on several STEM Lab kits and are going to feature our builds of each model over the next few weeks.  These are projects that can be made generally in less than a day, and provide multiple avenues of entertainment and education.  Each model improves the maker’s ability to assemble a model, fun in itself, but like LEGO expert builder series models and Erector sets of the past, these models are engineering marvels that replicate machines for mathematics, physics, and engineering study.  More advances models in the catalog include working trains, cars, and a dragon with moving wings, which we’ll work up to.

First, let’s take a look at the Multiplier and Addiator builds, both included in the UGEARS 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (available here at Amazon and also via model shops and online game and craft stores) tools students from grade school through college engineering can use and display, featured as one of the starter builds in the UGEARS catalog.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Our next recommendation for anyone looking for a great weekend project is the Orpheus Music Box Robot Kit from Robotime, a wooden 3D puzzle music box craft kit that results in a steampunk desk-shelf cheerleader to lead you on as you plunk away on your keyboard.  You can build it in anywhere from 4-8 hours, but it has precision parts and you probably want to take your time and spread the build out over a few days.  The kit includes everything you need to build it, including six sheets of 221 laser-cut pieces, sandpaper, screws, screwdriver, plastic dome, a bag of dowels of various sizes, light and light switch, classic music box mechanics, and white glue.

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