DIY.org is the online community for kids who like to make stuff, create all kinds of art, learn about the world around them and experiment with everything from electronics and code to baking and beekeeping. The basic premise of the site is that you complete three challenges in a particular area and then you earn that “skill” and get a badge on your page to show it. My daughter has been an avid fan since we first discovered the site last year and now has 13 skill badges.
Over the last year the site had grown massively, with new skills being added on a weekly basis — there are now nearly 90 in total, with some of the newer ones covering skills like Ornithologist, Writer, Meme Hacker and Sailor. They’ve had to ability for users to comment, favourite and follow each other for a while now, and one of the latest features is the ability to “Fork” other users’ projects and make them your own. I had a tough time trying to explain to a seven year-old what forking means until I hit upon a great analogy. I told her that “my piece of toast is nice, but imagine if you took my toast and added marmite to it and made it into something new in the process?” — she got it then!
Then there’s the brand new set of avatars they’ve designed, which move away from the animal based ones they’ve used before and take in a variety of new styles and pop-culture references including Minecraft, Space Invaders and The Hunger Games amongst others.
One of the latest skills to be added to the roster is Club Maker — which unsurprisingly is all about setting up a club with your friends — and my daughter was very excited to do just that over the school holidays. After finding the perfect location thanks to the grandparents of one of her schoolfriend’s (a place with a good pedigree, as some sculpting work for the original Star Wars Stormtroopers was done there!), we sent out an email to her mates and gathered there earlier this week. We “Hung Out” and brainstormed what the club could be called, then voted for our favourite name — “Craft Attack” was the winner. Then they each designed a logo and I uploaded them from my phone, and, together with a video of our Maker Space, we’d done enough to earn the skill. Then I felt a sense of impending doom from the room as they rebelled about following a set plan, and so it was time to just go crazy with the cardboard and they made all sorts of crazy monsters and robots. It was a great success, and we’re all looking forward to the next meeting!
The DIY app has also had a complete re-write and is a massive improvement. Version 2 made the switch to a portrait view to better display the user’s portfolio and the skills. You can log-in (and switch between) multiple accounts very easily, which was very useful for our club. The app has gained quick access to the Explore section — where projects from around the globe are featured — and a new section called DIY TV, featuring hundreds of YouTube clips for inspiration. The video camera has taken a leaf from Twitter’s Vine App and only records when you touch the button — which makes stop motion animated movies super simple to do. My only criticism of it would be that the videos are quite low quality considering they’ve come from a device capable of recording full HD. An Android version is also in the works now too.
The whole thing is still totally free to join, but the skill patches are just about to make the jump from pixels to stitches and become real ones that you can sew onto your backpack. I think that’s how they plan on generating their income, and they’ll certainly be getting some bucks from me when they’re released!