Where do you find your inspiration?

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As another years winds down, it’s human nature to look back. To examine dreams, achievements and, for makers, projects. Regardless of whether a project was only conceptualized, or seen to completion, they are all worth revisiting.

My list of project ideas always far outweighs the number of projects that I complete, or even start. Some ideas don’t even get a second thought until December, when I revisit them through my old notes or sketches. It’s always fun to consider the more odd or obscure ones, and once again this year I found myself trying to figure out where they came from. What inspired my brain to think that tricking out a volumetric spirometer would be a good idea? Some ideas seem practical – perhaps I noticed a need, and tried to figure out a hack or build. Maybe it was a proof-of-concept project, just to see if something was even possible. And very often, it just seemed like something that might be cool/fun/dangerous/hilarious to try.

So I decided to dig into my brain a little (it’s scary in there…). I wanted to see if I could figure out what inspired me this year. Here are a few of my inspirations.


Holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas, are always great inspiration for makers.

Inspiration can always be found in certain holidays. Halloween and Christmas always seem to inspire heated competition between you and your neighbor excessive creativity, and it doesn’t always mean a Clark W. Griswold level project. Something as easy and personal as a light-up Christmas card, or a glowing Halloween crystal skull, can be the starting point to creating your own version of electronic holiday cheer!

Sharknado 3D

Sometimes inspiration comes from your Secret Santa recipient’s favorite cheesy movie. Yes, that is a 3D-printed spinning Sharknado piece.

Another thing that I always find inspiring is the mind of a child. Often, they will ask for something, or suggest something, that seems absolutely impossible. But they don’t know that it’s impossible, and so they go ahead and ask. Very often, after my initial, “that’s impossible, and therefore silly” thought, I will try to consider why it’s impossible. And it turns out, it might not be impossible at all. Maybe looking at it head-on makes it seem impossible, but if you figure out how to approach it from a different angle, or through a number of smaller, more manageable steps, it might just work.

Arduino Clock

Hacking a wall clock with an Arduino to be able to remotely control the speed of the hands. Why look, five o'clock already?!

This year, I got a fair amount of commercial inspiration, too. I went down to Florida with my family and visited Disney World, Universal Studios, and of course, Kennedy Space Center. And while I found the obvious inspiration visiting KSC, and chatting with my favorite astronaut, Captain Winston Scott, I also found tremendous inspiration at the other parks as well.


Shooting the breeze (and nerding out!) with fellow trumpet player and engineer, Captain Winston Scott.

The amount of sensors and robotics and interactive displays was mind blowing. As Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And to thousands of people around me, it was magic. Wave your Hogwarts wand in the correct pattern in front of a window, and something inside comes to life! But to me, it was a riddle to be solved. What technology is being used to make that happen? How can I recreate it on a scaled-down version?

Fire Dragon

A rooftop dragon that shoots fire? Your HOA may take issue with this one, but it would be worth the fight!

Potter Wand

At each of more than a dozen spots, waving your wand in a distinct pattern will trigger a little magic (definitely need to recreate this one).

Earlier this year, I moved into the role of Creative Technologist here at SparkFun, and with that, I have found that required inspiration comes every week in the form of new products. I’m fairly certain that we’ve all seen a new product that we absolutely had to have, just knowing that something that cool would certainly inspire a project. I will receive a product on Monday, need to learn what it does and how it does it, then create a product to showcase it by Wednesday or Thursday. This avenue of inspiration is still new to me, and is definitely one of the more interesting avenues. While my inspiration for some of our new products may be grand, it usually needs to be something that I can do in a couple of days. This time constraint adds an interesting twist, but definitely keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Giant Joystick

A giant joystick that you ride? What could possibly go wrong?

So now it’s your turn. Who or what has inspired your project ideas this year? How far have you gotten on your projects? Are they rattling around in your head, or did they make it onto the drawing board? Have you sourced all the parts, and perhaps created a wish list for them? Are the parts acquired and spread out across your workbench (guilty)? Did you get it built, and is it perfect, or does it kind of work, and now you’re just making final adjustments?

Let us know in the comments below, we always love to see how our products are being used out in the wild. In fact, you might want to apply for our Community Partnership Program. Once a month we help out a maker or a group of makers with their project, so why not you? And as always, Happy Hacking!

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