Where do you find your inspiration?

As makers, the more avenues of inspiration we have, the broader our library of projects will be. From the obvious to the unusual, inspiration can be drawn from almost anywhere.

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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!

Comments 8 comments

  • Member #134773 / about 6 years ago / 5

    I find that most of my personal projects take many moons from initial inspiration to actual implementation. (When someone is paying me to do something, I can get it done much more quickly.) Often they'll be something that "wouldn't it be neat to do this" sort of idea that will rattle around in the back of my miind, waiting for the technology to "catch up", and then my "round tuit" supply to catch up. Sometimes SparkFun or other suppliers having a sale will inspire "what could I do with that" thoughts, and realizing that it would fit in better with a "back burner" project.

    • ROB-24601 / about 6 years ago / 4

      It is definitely the same for me. My personal project stove has about fifty back burners, and maybe two or three at the front. I also tend to complete a project through proof of concept - hey look, it works! - the then leave it not quite finished as I jump to the next idea.

  • Member #394180 / about 6 years ago / 5

    Necessity is the mother of invention and the source of much inspiration. In my case, it was not missing my stop on the commuter train. At least once a month I see someone sleep through their stop resulting in a 2-hour delay in their getting to where they need to go. if it's really obvious what their stop is, I will wake them up, but many times it's not.

    For myself, I realized that I needed an alarm clock that would wake me up when I was within 2 miles of my stations. Time is useless since the train rarely hits on schedule. If it's early, I'd miss my stop. If it's late, I'd miss potential nap time (important at 6:30 am).

    So I built a GPS-based alarm that detects when the train is within 2 miles of 2 specific stations and sounds an alarm in my earphones. Now I can fall asleep while riding and still wake up in time to catch my stop. And the 1.25 mile walk from the station to work wakes me up and energizes me after my nap.

    The only downside was when I took the breadboard prototype onboard for testing and a couple of conductors thought it was a bomb (it's got parts, wires and batteries - IT'S A BOMB!!!!), but that's another story.

    • ROB-24601 / about 6 years ago / 2

      I love a good project that stems from necessity, and yours is a great one! And I completely understand the whole "if we can see a wire and a battery, and heaven forbid, a CIRCUIT BOARD - it MUST be an explosive device!" mentality. I want to bring a fully assembled BigTime Watch to a friend back east, but I know if I try to fly with it, I'll wind up in TSA jail!

      • Nice post Rob! You certainly have been cranking on a lot of projects. You're an inspiration!

        In terms of my finished projects this year. I was really stoked to get to finish Boulder Bounces. Recently, we've been asked to re-install it again in a new space at the museum they are dedicating to childrens' activities. Wahoo! (I hope it still works!!)

        And I also put some work into my poor-man's google glass project, but that is still in the works - as are many others.

        In regards to travelling with electronics projects, this made me think of my honeymoon. I once took a prototype of the Binary Blaster on a trip across the pond, and luckily I didn't get in any serious trouble. I did get plenty of strange looks though, as I typed away in the darkly lite cabin and the LEDs lite up my grinning face after each successful tweak of the code and serial upload.

  • DAS01 / about 6 years ago / 3

    This is an example of where I receive inspiration from...


    • Member #134773 / about 6 years ago / 1

      Wow! Great project!

      FWIW, here in the Phoenix area, some police departments are setting out "bait packages" that alert the police when the package is moved, and gets it's position to them in "real time". I've seen reports of at least a couple of "busts", finding a fair number of (stolen) packages in the cars, yielding a fiar number of "theft raps" for the DA to pin on the "porch pirates".

    • ROB-24601 / about 6 years ago / 1


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