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MakerBloks, the coolest new STEM toy for all ages

MakerBlok offers an innovative way to teach both children and adults creative ways to think out of the box and create new ways to enjoy exploration and circuit creations.

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Circuitry learning for the future

You know those cool science experiments where you take a potato and turn it into a battery with a few pieces of metal and nimble hands? It produces enough power to run a small digital clock or lightbulb and is a great way to introduce STEM thinking and skills. The makers of MakerBloks have brought that concept into the digital age with hands-on building and a digital activity book.

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What are MakerBloks?

MakerBloks is changing how kids and parents use tablets. Children (ages six and up) learn everything from electronics to cooking with magnetic building blocks that interact with a digital activity book and a variety of tablet games. MakerBloks helps to get kids working with their hands and thinking outside of the screen to keep learning fun and engaging.

MakerBloks link up to each like dominos, only magnetic. Each MakerBlok links up magnetically and when you assemble each component they form real circuits. Kids can build everything from a lie-detector to a voice changing microphone and more. MakerBloks are intuitive, safe, and connect via Bluetooth. With Bluetooth, the blocks can interact with the digital activity book, available on your tablet. In each chapter of the activity book, blocks can be used to tackle problems and solve puzzles. The activities are based on the story of a curious young girl, Gabi, who lives in MakerCity. Use your blocks to help Gabi and her neighbors solve the puzzles and keep your kids engaged in STEM activities.

What kinds of circuits are included?

Currently, MakerBloks offers three kits: a spy kit, music kit, and circuitry kit. The spy kit lets you build a lie-detector, burglar alarm, and more. The music kit lets budding musicians build their own instruments that can play orchestral, space, and farm sounds. With the circuitry kit you can make your own toys, build a Simon-says game, or a voice changing microphone.

There are twelve types of blocks with which you can interact:

  1. Battery Block: everything starts with this block. All the other block rely on this to do their jobs.
  2. Push Switch: push this and it will trigger the actions of the block next to it.
  3. LED Light: comes in all the colors of the rainbow and will literally light up when you have an idea.
  4. High Resistor: this block dims the light or sound of the block beside it.
  5. Medium Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, but not too much.
  6. Low Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, you’ll barely know it’s there.
  7. Photoresistor: is sensitive to light. If you cover it, it won’t do anything, but if you put light on it…
  8. Rocker Switch: just like a light switch; flip it and let your ideas flow
  9. Variable resistor: this knob lets you control the intensity of the action
  10. Buzzer: this block makes noise! It’ll cheer you on when you’re right and warn you when you’re wrong
  11. Splitter: takes the energy of the power block and spreads it in three different directions.
  12. Processor: the brain of the whole block set. It makes the games logical so you can enjoy the fun.

Even if you don’t have children, these blocks could be lovely tools for teaching inventiveness to anyone, young and older alike. This would also be an amazing tool for teachers. MakerBloks is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in STEM activities or fostering a sense of thinking outside of the box.

#Makerbloks

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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Dittach: Chrome extension keeps your Gmail files ultra organized

(PRODUCTIVITY) Reclaim your time with Dittach and quit digging through Gmail files for that needle in the haystack.

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dittach

So, have you ever been sent a picture of something in your Gmail and lost it for a few weeks? What about a copy of a form you need to sign? What about a document for your boss? If you’re sharing a lot of files in your Gmail, you may have a hard time keeping track of it all.

That’s where Dittach hopes to get back a bit of your time.

It’s a free Chrome extension that works with your Gmail to help organize those attachments in a way that’s a lot more efficient than the built-in filter – especially if you have thousands of emails in your Gmail.

The attachment adds a side bar to your inbox and displays thumbnails of the files you’ve received and sent, and that includes documents, audio, and video (most images of the sidebar sort by other, photos, docs, pdfs, movies, and music). There’s a date scroller to help you go through dates, and it even works with your search bar. And of course, you can then forward, download, print, or view the message that is attached.

Dittach captures the key elements of a good productivity app – it’s both incredibly intuitive to use, and it addresses a productivity need by creating time.

The applications of this software are vast if you use Gmail to manage your life, business, life + business, business + side gig + other gig + shopping addiction, or whatever permutation works for your life. If you have any privacy concerns: Dittach doesn’t make any changes to your account, emails, or attachments, and the extension can be removed anytime.

The biggest concern with Dittach actually comes from Google itself – it’s limited to how many attachments it can index every day, so older attachments may not appear initially during that first day – so if you have a lot of older stuff it may not capture them. The app is also in beta, so you may have some bugs with the experience, but it looks very promising. At the time of my review, the feature isn’t working due to a transition, but is expected to be back up soon.

Dittach ultimately is a great Gmail addition if you find yourself handling a great deal of attachments and need a way to quickly find them. Beyond business, I could see the applications of this for graduate students, working professionals, or even digitally connected families. There’s a lot of promise here, if you have the need – so if you use Chrome and Gmail – get Dittached from time wasting (when it’s available, of course).

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FCC Chairman confirms fears, jokes about being a Verizon shill

(TECH NEWS) FCC Chairman Ajit Pai jokes about being a shill for Verizon, feeding into what many suspected when he was appointed.

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ajit pai speaking

Leaked video shows FCC Chairman Ajit Pai joking about being a shill for Verizon, as we all suspected when he was nominated. Last week Pai was a speaker at the Federal Communications Bar Association, an event similar to the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Major telecom companies and the FCC gather at this annual event for dinner, mingling, and enduring awkward political policy jokes. At the event, Pai roasted himself about major headlines from the past year, like his decision to kill net neutrality against the wishes of the majority of the nation. Hilarious.

Pai also brought up the whole thing where he refused to cooperate with an investigation into the validity of comments filed in support of ending net neutrality.

Although cameras weren’t officially present at the event, someone surreptitiously filmed and sent the clip to Gizmodo. The kicker comes around twenty minutes into Pai’s speech when he jokes, “in collusion—I mean, in conclusion, sorry, my bad—many people are still shell-shocked that I’m up here tonight.”

He goes on, “they ask themselves, how on earth did this happen? Well, moments before tonight’s dinner, somebody leaked a fourteen-year-old video that helps answer that question, and in all candor, I can no longer hide from the truth.”

Pai then starts a video, which opens with 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” playing in the background. This is the only thing I’ll give him points for on this amateur drama class project.

The skit is set in 2003 at “Verizon’s DC Office”, when Pai was an attorney for the company. In the video, Kathy Grillo, current Verizon senior VP and deputy general counsel, tells Pai, “As you know, the FCC is captured by the industry, but we think it’s not captured enough, so we have a plan.”

“What plan?” Pai asks. Grillo tells him, “We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think ‘Manchurian Candidate.’” To which Pai responds, “That sounds awesome!”

Gizmodo posted the video on Friday after the dinner, and the internet exploded with reactions to Pai’s gag. Reddit in particular went nuts, to the point that one thread in r/technology was locked—as in no one else can comment—for “too much violence.”

In a thread on the r/television subreddit, a moderator reminds users, “please refrain from encouraging or inciting violence or posting personal information […] don’t post anything inviting harassment, don’t harass, and don’t cheer on or upvote obvious vigilantism.”

While some of the threads were full of awful remarks, other posters commented in the spirit of reasonable conversation. The general sentiment of those engaged in non-harassing discussions is that Pai is a symptom, not the cause of FCC’s problems.

However, many argued that the video showed Pai’s willingness to bend (then joke about) FCC regulations indicates he’s not a puppet so much as a willing participant in corruption. Pai’s appointment to FCC Chairman was suspicious from the beginning considering his ties to Verizon.

Although Pai is obviously joking in the leaked video, the general public isn’t find it nearly as funny as those at the dinner.

Check out the clip for some cringe-worthy digs at net neutrality and have fun questioning the integrity of the FCC.

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Tech News

FCC Grinches plan to steal poor peoples’ Internet access

(TECH NEWS) Merry Christmas! The FCC is trying to take away poor people’s Internet access, pointing the finger one way to distract you from the other.

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ajit pai net neutrality

In case anybody with enough bandwidth to read this wasn’t sufficiently terrified by the FCC’s ongoing campaign to break the internet by dismantling net neutrality, the nation’s communication authority has kindly provided another reason for any digital-enabled American to expatriate and/or secede.

The FCC’s most recent reform proposal proposes to reform the absolute Hell out of Lifeline, the $2.25 billion program to provide low-income Americans with broadband Internet access. Also, phones. The Lifeline Program has been doing its job since 1985, when noted socialist firebrand Ronald Reagan instituted it to subsidize phone service in underprivileged communities. It was expanded to include broadband Internet access in 2016, and right now 12 million households benefit from Lifeline-subsidized phone and Internet access.

That’s apparently a problem.

The FCC’s stated concern is that the General Accounting Office recently found $1.2 million of the $2.25 billion Lifeline budget was being used fraudulently. Fraud is bad! But in case you don’t have your TI-85 handy, that’s less than a tenth of 1 percent. That is not very much fraud. Not enough to nix an entire program, at least.

The greater concern, as usual, appears to be about profit. Under the current Lifeline guidelines, many subsidized companies are small ISPs and resellers providing access to third-party networks. Often, these services are the only Internet access available in rural areas, tribal lands, and other underserved communities.

That doesn’t work for Commissioner Pai.

Earlier this year, Pai used “delegated authority,” the FCC’s version of executive orders, to bypass oversight and personally rescind subsidy access from 9 ISPs providing services to rural areas and tribal lands.

These reforms continue that trend. They ban subsidies for no-cost Internet service, which is the business model of 70% of current Lifeline subsidy recipients. It is notably not the business model of large ISPs that rhyme with Buhrizon. I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

They also impose an absolute budget cap, meaning that millions of poor households could lose their Internet access, and the increased opportunities for education and employment that come with it, if someone in a comfy office a thousand miles away effs up the accounting.

In short, it sucks.

The proposed reforms to the Lifeline Project are another example of the FCC, deliberately or through negligence, rigging the market in favor of major conglomerates at the expense of consumers, small businesses and the general public.

Lifeline isn’t perfect, but it’s doing its job. Whether the same can be said for Ajit Pai’s FCC is, at best, an open question.

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