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A 14-Year-Old and His Younger Brother Made a Holiday Card Printer Out of LEGO

You've made your Christmas card list and you've checked it twice. Now comes the hard part: actually getting started. To shake up what could otherwise be a pretty tedious process, two brothers decided to put their own spin on the traditional holiday card using a machine they built from LEGO bricks, as Gizmodo reports.

Fourteen-year-old Sanjay Seshan and his 12-year-old brother Arvind recently debuted the Holiday Card Plott3r, a machine powered by a series of LEGO MINDSTORMS sensors, gears, and motors, which prints out holiday greeting cards and their corresponding envelopes. Operating much like a dot-matrix printer, the machine uses two markers to draw a festive image dot-by-dot. The robot features three designs—a snowflake, a Christmas tree, and Santa’s signature—while a connected machine slides out envelopes using a pair of wheels.

"LEGO MINDSTORMS is a great way to prototype real world machines. We have been interested in dot matrix printers for a while and wanted to build one ourselves using LEGO," Sanjay and Arvind told mental_floss over email. "We have been working on different versions all year. We thought it would be fun to create a complete holiday-themed machine that automated the process of creating Christmas cards." But, they note, "it can be modified for any occasion."

Sanjay and Arvind are LEGO enthusiasts and budding engineers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Together, they founded Ev3Lessons.com and Beyond The Instructions, websites and communities that encourage other kids to explore concepts like robotics and coding using LEGO blocks. The Seshan brothers are also part of “Team Not the Droids You Are Looking For” in the FIRST LEGO League, a competitive engineering league for children ages 9 to 16. Teams develop solutions for real-world problems using nothing but LEGO MINDSTORMS.

The Seshan brothers have made the design for their Holiday Card Plott3r project public, so others can build their own—and finally finish that Christmas to-do list.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Header/banner image courtesy of iStock 

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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