Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to Make an iPad Stylus for Under a Dollar

I recently discovered the joys of making Flipped Classroom-styled videos using my iPad and the free whiteboard narration tool called Show Me. When the iPad is connected to a projector (as I described in this earlier post), I find Show Me to be a great way to simultaneously provide notes to my class while also creating video review materials that can then be posted on the class website or blog.

There's just one problem - I quickly learned that producing legible handwriting with the end of my index finger is much trickier than expected. I did a quick search online and found that iPad styluses averaged about 20 dollars. Rather than blow the cash, I decided to make my own.

What you'll need:
  • A pen, highlighter, or marker (I used a highlighter that had recently dried up)
  • A sponge
  • A piece of wire (about 6 inches should suffice)

How To:

1. Disassemble the writing utensil. You can throw out the insides - you only need the casing.

2. Cut a strip of sponge off the pad (if your sponge was like mine, make sure to remove the green scrubby surface first!).

3. Expose some of the bare wire and twist it around the sponge.

4. Guide the wire through the end of the casing and then gently twist the sponge up and into the shaft. If it's not snug, cut a larger strip of sponge and try it again. Make sure you leave a bit of sponge protruding from the end of the casing for use as a contact point with the iPad!

5. Remove the coating from the remaining bit of wire and wrap it around the exterior of the casing. Your fingers must be in contact with this as you write for the iPad surface to respond to the sponge tip.

For some reason step five proved to be unnecessary for my stylus to function properly. Either because the iPad was so sensitive or because the plastic casing somehow served as an adequate conductor, I didn't need the wire, so I removed it. Here is my finished gadget. Pretty cool, huh?

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3 Responses:

Todd Nelson said...

I tried it with a synthetic sponge, but it doesn't work. Must require a real sponge that transfers heat better than the synthetic kind. Will try again after I find the right material. Good idea.

John Mikulski said...

@Todd -
The sponge I used came from a generic "Scotch-Brite" pad. Did you check to see that the wire was making a solid connection to both the sponge and your hand?

I guess even if you need to try a few different sponges it's still a more economical alternative to purchasing a fancy stylus! Thanks for reading!

Susan said...

Occasionally there are times when I WANT a stylus that doesn't function properly - it's useful for pointing at things on a student's iPad without running the risk of actually 'clicking' them.

(Here via a Diigo link to Tim Holt's video which pointed me in the direction of your blog. Yes, I'll be adding your blog to my RSS feed list!)