1) Wifi antenna
We could all use wifi that’s a little stronger, or reaches a little further, and you don’t necessarily have to buy a new router to get it. Wifi antennas can be built from scratch in a whole host of ways, using everything from tin cans to baby bottles.
You can use these wifi antennas to boost the range of your router or to pick up wifi from further away (from the coffee shop next door perhaps). BD Online Tech has one of the best guides we’ve seen in terms of the the simplicity of the instructions and the quality of the end result—it’s even weatherproof.
Plenty of other options are out there, so it depends on how much you want to spend and how much actual DIY-ing you want to do. Instructables has a step-by-step for a powerful Yagi-style antenna, while Jacob Salmedla has a very good guide to the putting together a so-called ‘cantenna’ booster.
2) Pet feeder
Don’t worry about your cat or dog going hungry while you’re away from home—get the Croq’cat set up with a kit from littleBits and your pets get their own on-demand feeding system that can be monitored via photos uploaded to Dropbox from wherever you are.
The inventors behind this clever homemade system say it’s going to take you around two hours to put together in total. As well as some basic littleBits modules you’re going to need some card, paper, and wires, plus a bit of instruction code that’s provided for you.
Food pellets are dispensed on a timer, and every time a new snack is released, the camera module takes a snap and posts it to Dropbox.
3) Wearable computer
Still sad about Google Glass ? Need something that’s going to make you look like a mad scientist out on the street? We’ll admit right off the bat that this PiGlass isn’t going to beat anything from the big tech firms in terms of its appearance, but it’s still a remarkably cool and educational project you can tackle yourself.
It’s based around a $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, and to that you need to add the Pi Zero Spy Cam as well as a Bluetooth dongle, a battery pack, and a few other extras, including the specs themselves. You’re also going to need to do a bit of soldering and detailed electronics assembly for this one.
Follow the great assembly instructions from Matt Desmarais on Adafruit and you can be streaming videos or music direct to your eyewear, or taking photos and streaming videos from the wearable back to your phone.
4) Smartphone projector
Smartphone makers have tried and failed to make handsets with projectors inside, so take on the job yourself: This DIY Perks video takes you step-by-step through the process, and you can then enjoy your games and movies at a bigger size on a blank wall.
Essentially, you’re using a magnifying lens to make the image coming from your phone larger, but there are other issues to solve along the way—like how to make sure the final picture isn’t flipped the wrong way, and getting the image bright and in focus.
You’ll need some cardboard, some dowels, and a mirror, as well as your lens and your smartphone. Spoiler alert: You won’t get results as good as a $1,000 projector, but they’re perfectly watchable, and this is one of those projects you could tackle with family and friends ahead of a movie night.
5) VR headset
For the best virtual reality experience, go out and buy a VR headset. For something that’s more fun, more rewarding, and offers potentially better-quality graphics than you might make one of your own with an Arduino board.
Amazingly you can put all of this together for less than $100, though you will need a 3D printer to make the frame of the headset unless you want to get very creative with some stiff cardboard. The code has been open sourced by the inventors, a group of students and their teacher from France.
This is quite an in-depth project, but you’ll feel the reward from the time and effort you invest, as well as learning a lot about the basics of virtual reality along the way. You’ll also need to do some extra research into similar systems online to figure out how it all fits together, as there are some gaps in the instructions.