Hacking Neil Downie – Day 1

Editor’s Note: Hacking Neil Downie is a week of experiments with the ideas and designs from Neil Downie’s brilliant and playful books on Saturday Science.

When the kids in the group discovered that Neil is a real person who lives and works in England (and sometimes in Pennsylvania) they wondered why they
couldn’t ask him their questions directly.  In this Blog, they will.
All week we will forward him their thoughts and questions.
Dear Neil Downie,
I am 10.  What was the  favorite experiment you did when you were 10?
Did you experiment a lot?
Noah L
Dear Neil Downie,
We built your Hovering Rings today.  Have you ever turned it upside down?
It works the same.  Cool.
It’s the first experiment in your book.  Is it your favorite?
Dear Neil Downie,
We have built the Flying Pullies before.
Today we built one that was hand cranked.
It works well but I like the motor one better.
You prefer the motor design too, don’t you.
Noah A and Joshua


Filed under General

3 responses to “Hacking Neil Downie – Day 1

  1. evan gerritz

    I have trouble with morse code too.

    Evan (age 9)

  2. Neil A. Downie

    Dear Noah and Steven and Joshua
    You can make a Hovering Ring hover with a wind up crank instead of a motor if you like. You need to put a large gearwheel on the crank, then a small one on a shaft with an eccentric weight. Its then a bit difficult for the person using to wind the handle at just the right frequency to make it go – but not difficult – you can have a competition to see who can keep the rings going up and down for longest.
    I connected up my house to a neighbours’ houses with a wire and sent Morse Code messages – but it was tricky because we didn’t know Morse very well, sometimes we had to go around and tell them what the message was supposed to be !
    I can’t remember too many crazy experiments from when I was 7, except maybe the time I tried to make a kite for calm days out of cling-film, and some balsawood that my brother gave me. I had to use really thin cotton from my mother.
    When I was 10 I had a steam engine. It was actually a broken toy ‘traction engine’, but the cylinder and boiler parts were OK. I unscrewed the broken parts hooked it up to Meccano (erector set) and made things like a Ferris Wheel. You had to be careful you didn’t get a burnt finger when it was running – that steam was HOT. Best,
    Neil D

  3. Steven

    Dear Neil,
    when you were 7 did you do crazy experiments?