Gakken Little Printer Kit


Finally, the Gakken website got updated (last update was for the scratch art kit in January). The new pages advertise the printer kit, showing examples of the cards you can print with it (basically, the little name cards you’d put on the dining table to show where people are to sit for a party), highlights from the magazine (the history of printing, examples of fancy printing by professional artists) and the downloads page (PDF of the assembly instructions (40 pieces total, including the screws and small bits), and operating instructions). 3,500 yen (approx. $32 USD) not including tax. The editors suggest a 30-minute assembly time, which may not include trimming the flash from the edges of all the letter blocks.

You only get two block sets, one for one each of the Japanese hiragana letters, and one for one set of the upper and lower case alphabet, plus numbers. So, unless there’s a way to by more block sets, or if you can make your own on a 3D printer, there’s going to be a very tight limit on what you can print with this. I’m assuming the idea is that you print in multiple passes.

The kit hits the shelves on mainland Japan on the 15th. Kagoshima won’t get them until 2 or 3 days later.

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Gakken Kaeda Kit comments


Okay, the latest Gakken kit is finally out – the Kaeda drone, so named because the main prop blade resembles a maple seed. 3,980 yen ($39 USD) without the 8% tax. It’s been over a year since the last kit came out, in Sept., 2015, and the anticipation for the Kaeda Drone was probably blown out of proportion because of it. This one wasn’t much of a challenge to build, since the drone itself was already pre-assembled. The controller required assembly, but it only consisted of the two halves of the case shell, the battery cover, three knobs, the circuit board, and 6 screws, (and there are 2 replacement propeller blades).


(The controller parts, plus the two replacement blades.)

The suggested assembly time was 15 minutes, and I think I did it in 10. (It takes 4 AAA batteries.) The only issue was with the power LED leads, which had been bent 180 degrees, and the requirement is for the leads to be bent 90 degrees so the LED is sticking out the side of the case. But, that’s an easy fix. The drone is powered by a lithium polymer battery that takes about 30 minutes to recharge to 60% when plugged into the controller. That will give you roughly 7 minutes of flight time. If you want the battery at full power, you have to give it a second charge. The instructions are: 1) Turn off the controller and the drone. 2) Pull the charge cable out of the well at the back of the controller, under the battery cover. Plug the cable into the drone. 3) Turn on the controller power switch. The green LED will light on the controller. When it goes out, the first charge cycle is finished. 4) Repeat steps 1-3 for the second charge.


(The assembled controller.)

The controller talks to the drone via an infrared LED, so it has to be aimed directly at the drone at all times, or the drone will lose signal and touch down on the ground. And, it works up to 15 feet away. The controller itself is simple – a power switch, the power LED and charge LED, the propeller speed slider and the directional knob. You hold the knob in the direction you want to go, and the horizontal tail prop turns on and off to get the sideways movement desired. The one tail prop prevents the body unit from rotating, and the other contributes to directional movement. The main styrofoam blade gives you lift, and it maintains its height pretty well. The drone is light, at 12 grams, and if it bumps into something, it’ll just bounce away without anything getting damaged, including the styrofoam blade. The kit dimensions are 9.8″ x 7″ x 1″.

Overall, it’s a nice little toy, and is fine for use indoors, but the $39 price tag IS on the high side. Especially when you look at the magazine. This is one of the thinner volumes in a long time. It’s only 36 pages. The first section is a 4-page photo essay with the model/idol talent, Riina flying the drone in a house. This is followed by 6 pages of explanation for how the drone works and how to fly it. There’s 4 pages for building the controller, and 1 page of troubleshooting Q&A. 2 pages of photo essay for the shapes of tree seeds, and 2 pages for an interview with a Japanese drone racer. The editor-suggested mods are to replace the blade with balsa wood, and to put LEDs on the main blade and connect the controller to a PC via an Arduino box for computer-controlled light art. The last 5 pages are an explanation of what drones are, and what uses they’re being put to. There’s no manga this time, no science, and very little theory. There’s also no mention of any future kits.


(Bottom side of the drone.)

I get the feeling that Gakken is having trouble figuring out how to make money on their publications, and they’re cutting corners on projects that appear over-staffed or over-promoted. This is a shame because I like building these kits, and I’d love to see more of them in the electronic music series. Oh well. Anyway, I recommend the Kaeda drone if you can get it in Japan at cover price, without the import mark-up.


(The drone, plugged into the controller to recharge the lithium polymer battery.)

Direct youtube link

Kaeda Drone now out


Gakken finally updated their website to include the regular advertising for the new kit. So, if you want to see what the kit consists of, and get an idea of how hard it is to build it, you can check out the construction sheets. I expect to see this kit arriving in Kyushu either tomorrow, or Friday.

 

Otona no Kagaku e-mail magazine 165


Finally got the e-mail newsletter from Gakken. It starts by stating that it’s been over one year since the release of the last kit, and that the editors want to say thank you for everyone that has been waiting during that time. The main announcement is for the Kaeda Drone, which has a wing shape similar to that of a maple tree seed pod, with a total length of 25 cm (10 inches) and a weight of 12 grams (0.5 ounces). It will hit the shelves in central Japan on Dec. 20th, just in time for Christmas (it won’t get to Kyushu until 3 days later).

1) Otona no Kagaku Magazine “Kaeda Drone”, on sale after a 1 year wait!
The main section text apologizes for the wait, then talks about what a “drone” is. The following specs then cover the drone itself, while pretty much ignoring the RC controller.

The drone is 250x180x25mm.
Flight time will be 7 minutes, when the drone starts out fully charged.
Charge time is 30 minutes, two times.
The drone is designed for indoor use.
Indoor, the drone can operate up to 5 meters (15-16 feet) from the controller.
Battery: On the main unit, a Lithium polymer cap. On the controller, 4 AAA batteries.

Looks like this is going to be a hardback book, A4 sized, 34 pages.
Price: 3,980 yen (without tax, 4,298 yen with 8% tax) (approx. $39 USD w/o tax)
Release date: Dec. 20, 2016

Amazon page

 

2) Announcing the Otona no Kagaku wool knitting machine!
Following the release of the Rainbow Loom, we have the “Long Knitting Loom”.
For ages 6 and up.
Kit size: 25.3 x 21 x 5.3 cm
Price: 2,100 yen without tax
Kit includes: Knitting machine, extension block, wool needle, bar, hook, wool and A1-sized instruction book.
In stores now.

 

3) Adult Coloring picture, scratch art pad series
A black drawing pad that you can scratch away to make your own artwork.
This kit has the pattern for the “Glittering Princess Decoration”.

Size: 25.4 x 18.2 x 1 cm
22 page book plus scratch pencil and stencil
In stores now.

 

4) The Shiratori game that can be played by adults – Pitango
Shiratori is a word chain game. One person starts with a Japanese word, and the next person has to say the next word that starts with the last character of the first word. You lose if you can’t come up with anything, if you repeat a word, or if the word ends in “n” (since there aren’t any words in Japanese that start with the character “n”.
Example:
Shi-ra-to-ri
Ri-ka-i
i-… I can’t think of anything.

Pitango is based on the game Algo. I’ve never played Algo, but apparently the idea is that you have a sequence of 4 characters, and you’re supposed to expand the series following certain rules.

For elementary students up to adults.
Size: 16.5 x 16.5cm
Price: 1,600 yen (without tax)
Contains: 100 title cards, 10 starter subject cards, 10 yellow cards, and instructions
In stores now (published Dec. 2, 2016)

New Gakken Adult Science Kit


Wow, it’s been a year since any new announcements from Gakken, and finally they’re saying that a new kit will be coming out in Dec. (There was a small amount of activity on the facebook page for appearances in maker faires, and for the knitting looms for girls, but that was it.)


(Assembled unit on a scale showing the total weight at 11.5 grams.)

The new kit is going to be for the “maple leaf drone,” so called because the single lift blade (styrofoam?) gives the drone the impression of a “maple leaf blowing in the air.” There’s a video and several photos that had been uploaded to facebook all at about the same time, showing the arrival of parts from the factory, the assembly of the drone, and the current state of flight. It’s going to be a very small unit, incapable of carrying any kind of load, so you’re not going to be able to use it like a GoPro camera carrier, or for shooting video with a smart phone. Also, the frame rotates, so even if you could use it to shoot video, the results would give you motion sickness. (Although, it looks like maybe the stabilizers can be mounted at different angles to prevent the unit from rotating if desired.)

There’s nothing on this kit on the main Otona no Kagaku website yet, so there’s no official announcement for tentative pricing. And, the kit isn’t showing up on Amazon.jp either. So, assume that it may not be out in time for Christmas. (I wanted to embed the video of the unit flying, but it doesn’t look like there’s video on youtube yet, and I don’t know how to get the link for embedding videos hosted on facebook.)

Tornado Humidifier Kit review


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Well, the Gakken editors have admitted that they took too long to come out with this issue. They didn’t specifically say what the delay was, but they kind of implied that there was a quality issue with the kit. It probably also allowed them to put in more time on the magazine, too, because it looks really good. Anyway, the magazine starts out with “Uzu” (spirals), a photo essay of spiraling air flow patterns, some of which are very complex and fractal-looking. This includes spirals in clouds, on the face of Jupiter, and from distant stars. There’s an 8-page explanation of how tornadoes are formed, with examples from the Gakken kit, and the indoor tornado generator at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

There’s an explanation for how the kit works, plus the suggested mods – adding a little spinner to spin within the tornado; creating an Arduino bluetooth interface to a PC to control the mist and push it through a tube as a “beauty aid”; putting it on a penguin robot base to have a walking humidifier monster; and adding a photocell and Arduino control to have the LED light show activate when the room goes dark. There’s an interview with one woman on a project to translate 11 of the Gakken kits to Chinese; an article on the U.S.-Taiwan Formosat-3 meteorological satellite constellation; an explanation for how auroras happen; and a 6-page piece on Canadian tornado hunter, Greg Johnson. There’s 5 pages on the dangers of dry air (dried skin, build-up of viruses that cause the flu) and promotion of the use of room humidifiers (but which ignores the build-up of mold due to excessive humidity…); the instructions for building the kit; and the 16-page manga from Yoshitoo Asari on what 3-D printers are and how they work. The magazine ends with an ad for the Knitting Loom kit, and promise of the next Adult Science kit some time in 2016 – the Kaedadrone. Everything is in Japanese, as per SOP.

Just as an aside, the bits on health and beauty play into Gakken’s recent foray into skin care magazines and creams for aging women.


(The full set of pieces.)

Ok, for the kit itself. There are 31 pieces, plus another 19 screws, and a total 60 minute suggested assembly time. I took a little under 2 hours because I was also editing videos, helping with a computer manual translation, and doing the dishes during all this. Assembly is pretty straight-forward, and there’s really only one or two tricky points that may get you if you can’t read Japanese.


(The pieces for making the mesh cone.)

This is the first tricky point. You need to make the cone mesh. Take the mesh material, the cone and the locking collar. Put the mesh over the collar and press the collar into place inside the cone. Make sure the mesh is smooth, and not floppy in the middle.


(The finished cone. The pieces just press-fit together.)

Like this. It’s not that hard to do, but it may be a bit difficult to figure out just by looking at the figures in the magazine.


(The cone, the mist generator, the LED cover and the main base.)

The next step is to put together the major assemblies. In effect, you’re going to have the top and bottom sections of the cylinder, which are separated by a single sheet of rolled plastic. The base is where the secrets lie. The piece in the lower right corner of the above photo is the water tray. It’s also the holder for the main circuit board (which goes underneath). The piece at the top right contains a transducer (shown below), which pushes a felt cylinder (shown above) that is sitting in the water tray. The transducer vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies to produce the mist. The mist gets diffused by the mesh cone, and then rises into the bottom of the main cylinder.


(And the reverse sides.)

The base (left, in the below photo) has both the power switch and a volume control. The volume control changes the speed of a very small fan for less or more airflow up to the top of the cylinder, and the strength of the transducer for producing less or more mist. The top piece contains the fan blade assembly and an exit path for the mist to leave the cylinder and fill up your room. It also has the tri-color LED for illuminating the tornado from above.


(The partially-assembled base and top cover. Notice the power switch and volume control at the bottom side of the base unit to the left. These have to be inserted before putting the other pieces into place.)

I’m not really clear what the purpose is of the two pieces of cardboard coming from the transducer head (in the upper photo, bottom left assembly), other than to act as shim in holding the transducer while minimizing vibrations in the kit as a whole. Personally, I think the pieces should be shortened to maybe a third the length.


(The base, with the mister mesh cone in place, and the fully assembled top unit.)


(The fully assembled kit. The second “tricky” point is that you need to put the plastic cylinder in place so that the slots in the cylinder are down next to the two white paddles in the base unit. If you want to further hide the wires, you can cut a strip of paper out of the magazine (bottom of page 61) and slide it into the support spine.)

The wires run from the base to the top within the support spine at the left side of the cylinder. And, the cylinder rotates to reveal the water reservoir. You need to keep the reservoir mostly full, which is maybe an 1/8th of a cup of water. There’s a little plastic “L” flange inside that marks how much water you need in the reservoir (not too little or too much). The reservoir will probably go empty after about 15 minutes. The unit runs on USB power from any PC or laptop, and a 1 meter cable is supplied with the kit. Rotate the cylinder back into place before turning the kit on. All the USB cable does is to provide unit power – there’s no other USB communications between the PC and the kit, and the kit doesn’t come with a battery holder.

There’s a little lever in the base that lets you rotate the cylinder so that the slots at the bottom of the plastic are at one side of the little white paddles, or the other. You want to position the slots so they’re just partially blocked by the paddles in order to generate spin in the airflow into the cylinder (you can rotate the lever to make the tornado spin clockwise or counterclockwise). So far, the “tornado” isn’t that visible in my kit, even with “volume” turned all the way up, and the slots partly not blocked by the paddles. Either put a black background behind the kit, or turn the lights off. If you push the power button once, you get a single color from the LED. If you push a second time, you get color cycling, as with the origami lamp and aurora kits. Purple seems to be the color that makes the tornado stand out the best. Red is the worst.

Overall, this is a nice nightlight, but you’re going to want to put a timer on the power cable to automatically turn it off before the reservoir goes dry, or you may damage the felt piece attached to the transducer. It’s a big kit, at about 24 cm tall, and 9 cm in diameter at the base. Most of the pieces are very sturdy, not including the thin plastic sheet. There were no missing pieces, and the only “leftovers” consisted of the cardboard sheet used for shim for the transducer, and that could be purposed as a spinner inside the tornado chamber. I’m going to keep messing with it to see if I can make the airflow stronger to make a more visible tornado. Then again, my apartment is normally at 60-70% humidity, and in the winter we have heavy condensation all around the windows and frames that we have to remove with towels. The last thing I need here is something that intentionally INCREASES the room humidity…

Next up: The Kaededrone
No details given.
Scheduled for some time in 2016.
This is a small, lightweight 2-bladed remote controlled drone based on an insect wing for the main body shape. I can’t tell what the size will be from the photo.

Otona no Kagaku newsletter #164


Finally received the latest newsletter in email. The editors start out by stating that it has been a long time since the last kit came out, and that they’d gotten a LOT of inquiries from fans asking what’s going on. They add that they’re pretty confident that this kit is going to hold up under the scrutiny after such an extended wait. It’s going to be the “Tornado kit”, also known as the “Tatsumaki Hassei Souchi” = Hurricane Springing Forth Device”, with a release date of Nov. 12. The editors would be very happy if you put in a pre-order.

1) Tornado Kit Out After 1 Year Wait
There’s a fairly extensive description of both the kit and the magazine. On the kit side, it’s basically a mister-style room humidifier. Blowers at the bottom of the main chamber push in a fine mist and create a visible vortex within the chamber. A tri-color LED provides a changing light show, and the unit has an USB jack for power if you want to plug it into a PC for table-top operations. It also has an auto-off timer if you want to use that. The magazine is A4-sized, 84 pages, and has photos of various air flow patterns, the science of hurricanes, pictures of auroras, and an article on tornado hunters. The online instructions show 40+ parts (including screws and springs) and a suggested 60 minute assembly time. 3,500 yen, not including tax. Hitting stores Nov. 12 (it will get to where I am in Kyushu 3 days later.

2) Knitting is Popular in America
The editors talk about how knitting is popular world-wide, and then segue into the release of a new book – “Knitting Loom”, with the “Knitting Loom Starter Kit”. 2,100 yen. Nov. 17th release date. No photos or on-line pre-ordering links.

3) Rainbow Loom Starter DVD Book
Gakken has decided to release a DVD and book combo for showing beginners how to make various items with the Rainbow Loom. B5-sized book, 84 pages, plus the DVD. 1,300 yen not including tax. Released on Oct. 13.

Finally!


There are signs of a new Gakken kit! There’s nothing mentioned on the Otnona no Kagaku site, or on the Facebook page. But, Amazon.jp has the artwork for the Tornado Maker kit cover and a Nov. 12 release date for accepting preorders. Priced at 3,780 yen, which is getting up at the high end of “affordable” for something like that only has one function and can’t easily be repurposed (from what I can tell right now). Still, I’ll probably buy it when it gets to Kyushu (assuming the release date doesn’t slip…)

Rainbow Loom update


Very small amount of activity from Gakken today.


First, the Otona no Kagaku site announced that the new Rainbow Loom expansion kit has hit the shelves.


Second, Gakken has finally decided to add the new mini-Theremin kit to their Sound Gadget product line. Now there’s actually more than one product to the “line-up”.

 

Catching up


One of the things I like about writing long, multi-part blog series is that it gives me something to post 2-3 times a week while waiting for the next kit to come out from Gakken. Unfortunately, doing this usually requires having something to write about, and that doesn’t always happen. Granted, my writing about something doesn’t mean that anyone wants to read it, but still, it’s better than having the blog go dead for 3-4 months at a time, I guess. Maybe. Or, maybe not.

Right now, I’ve got two topics that I’m going to continue for a little while – the Vocaloid Producer bi-weekly magazine DVD series, and a new rambler on how I’ve failed to plot the Riemann Zeta function in Excel. (If you know how to do this, please let me know so I can go write about something else.) I’ll start Zeta either Friday or next Monday.

In the meantime, there has been a very small amount of activity from Gakken.

First, on Facebook, was an announcement for an Oct. 25th in-store demonstration of the new Mini Theremin kit. The location was in Shibuya, and from what I can tell from the write-up, the demo featured theremin group The Putins.

Second is the addition of a new print interview with Aooni Yamane, for the Karada no Himitsu (Secrets of the Human Body) manga. Yamane is the manga artist on Meitantei Kageman, Dekochin and Oyaji Banzai. Of course, the interview is in Japanese.