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Posts tagged ‘Flying Toys’

Sky Runner – The Quadracopter Toy

So we’ve carried little indoor helicopter toys, such as this Mini-Flyer Soccer Ball. They are great fun at a low price. But now the same company that makes the Mini-Flyers has added the new Sky Runner, an indoor/outdoor quadracopter.



Helium – A crisis or not?

Helium is the second lightest element on the periodic table.


It is most famous for filling up balloons that float, making your voice sound funny, and other tricks. But Helium is also used in industry for welding, for computers (supercomputers need liquid helium to run properly).

And over the last year there was something of a supply problem.

Very recently we heard a local morning program complaining that they could not get helium for a balloon that wanted to fill. This lead to a long bit about how part stores were rationing what helium they had and not doing any reservations for balloons at all.

How did this crisis come about, and will it end? For the former, you have to understand how helium is obtained and stored.

Helium, oddly enough is not produced, despite being the second most common element in the universe. In effect it is mined. It is a byproduct of natural gas and its purity can vary a lot. For a long time, most commercial companies were not interested in producing Helium, so it was left to the government to pick up the slack.

This resulted in something of an issue with the government, especially in a time where expenses are being watched carefully. The US government was storing helium at hideous cost for the benefit of a handful of industries. In 1996, after some media attention was spotlighted on the expense of this program Congress decided to sell off the helium and set things up so that the US government was out of the Helium business by 2015. The idea was that reserves would be sold off so that private industry could take over.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

What happened instead was a glut in the Helium market as the USA tried to sell off the reserves as fast as they could. This dropped the price so low that private industry had little reason to go 3474into the Helium market – there was no money in it to be made.

Congress made some motions to act – the Helium Stewardship act of 2012 was designed to stretch out the resources, give extra time to the private industry, and other features. But the bill went to committee and has not passed.

Eventually, the glut ended with the excess supply being reined in. The result was shortages in various spots throughout the country. But the shortages may have just been local.

While at this years New York Toy Fair we asked a couple of companies whose lines include Helium based toys (such as the Remote Control Shark Blimp pictured). Both of them said pretty much the same thing: Things were tight for a while, but the industry will eventually kick in without too much more problems. Both companies expected that things would settle down once the US moved out of the industry. Prices were expected to get higher, but not extremely problematic.

Of course, both of these companies had a financial interested in saying ‘everything will be fine!!!!’. One of the companies sold only Helium based toys while the other had at least other products to fall back on. Nevertheless, it would seem that a company that was in the ‘late buggy whip’ stage of their existence would be hard pressed to justify the expense of displaying their toys at the Toy Fair.

The future of Helium seems a bit disheveled at the moment, but hopefully it will correct itself shortly.

Interested in Flying Toys?


New Hands-On Science Books

There’s some new books in town, and they are all great fun for kids. They involve hands-on science projects on a  variety of topics.

First up is the Flying Machine Book:

This books has instructions on how to build 35 different kinds of homemade rockets, gliders, helicopters and more. Soda-Pop rockets, paper boomerangs, rubber-band  powered gliders are all part of the of this 197 page book of flying fun!

Next up is the Amazing Rubber Band Cars

This book does one thing: Have kids make cars powered by rubber bands – but it does it sooo well. Kids will learn about axles, gears, pulleys, friction, tension, speed, and much more as they build a dozen rubber band powered cars out of simple materials like cardboard, pencils, old CD’s and of course rubber bands.

The Paper Boomerang Book takes a part of that first book (The Flying Machine Book) and expands on it dramatically:

Instead of just a couple of pages on boomerangs, this book goes into heavy detail on how to build working paper boomerangs! You start by building trainers and work up to distance models, etc. Chapters are devoted to boomerang theory, tweaking techniques, decoration, and throwing styles!


High Flyer

Bernoulli’s Principle states that as the speed of something increases, like air, the pressure drops. It is this principle that allows planes to fly. It is also what allows the High Flyer to operate and be fun!

The High Flyer is a new science toy that demonstrates Bernoulli’s Principle using a jet of air and some objects to be subjected to the airflow. The battery-powered blower sends out a stream of air that causes the ball or plate to float in mid-air on that stream. What happens is that the air flows around the ball, reducing the pressure, while the air on top of the ball (or plate) stays slow and higher pressure to keep the object in place.  You can tilt the blower slightly to see how far the air pressure will hold the object in its stream.

You can also try and see how high up you can get the ball floating in the stream of air. Once the plate or ball is more than 18″ above the blower control of the object gets to be more of a challenge. The trick is to see how long you can keep it up there!

The High Flyer is both fun as well as an education on air pressure & Bernoulli’s principle, even if they don’t know it yet!


Air Swimmers!

We have been waiting a long time for these – thankfully they have arrived just in time for the holiday season! Supplies are limited for this season so once we are out of them it will likely be for a while.

Air Swimmers are remote controlled, helium filled blimps that are shaped like denizens of the ocean. You can get a Shark Air Swimmer

Shark Air Swimmer

Shark Air Swimmer

Or the colorful Clown Fish Air Swimmer

Clown Fish Air Swimmer

Clown Fish Air Swimmer

The Air Swimmers are 57″ long (including the tail) and 36″ high with their fins. The remote controller works on an infrared signal up to 40 feet away and can make the Air Swimmer climb, descend, and change direction (using the fins, natch). The Air Swimmer body is made of durable nylon and can be filled with helium from any party store or place that sells helium balloons. The helium will remain in the Air Swimmer body for weeks and it can be refilled many times. (Sorry, Spectrum Scientifics does not sell helium). The movement of the Air Swimmers is easy and simple, so there is no thrashing about and crashing as you learn how to control it. It even moves like a real fish! The unit requires 4 AAA batteries, 3 for the controller and just one for the Air Swimmer.

The Air Swimmer is very light with its helium-filled, nylon body so it is not for outdoor use – even a light breeze can push it around too much. But on the other hand it will work in small indoor rooms as it does not need a lot of room to maneuver and doesn’t have the ‘hit the walls and ceilings while figuring out how to control it’ that you get with other remote control flying toys.

Now what kind of blog post would this be if we did not have a video:

Air Swimmers are just $39.95 and will be a hot item this holiday season. Be sure to get yours soon!