For Betsy Hastings, the effort is a way of learning just enough about something to understand what the experts are talking about. Her invention is hello cool; her name for it-–Miss Betsy’s Rechargeable Steampunk Solar Nightlight–is almost too big for the small but very clever solar nightlight, which sort of looks like a stripped-down, wall-eyed copper frogbot (eyes courtesy two green glass marbles). The word clever doesn’t even do this little gem justice.
Hastings is a nurse in the real world, and rehabbing is the sort of stress relief that likely comes in handy after a full-moon weekend in the ER. The steampunk part builds on a lively and growing underground movement defined as sci-fi subculture, which translates 21st-century technology into 19th-century coutures and artifacts (see Treehugger’s coverage of the steampunk solar powered pocket watch for a visual definition).
Hastings even put together a PDF (sign in mandatory) for those who like detailed instructions. Basically, you need a list of fairly ordinary supplies (see the page), and if you don’t have an actual box cutter an Exacto knife or a single-edge razor blade also works, but be careful. You will need a small soldering gun.
Hastings also offers some quick tips, like mark or photograph the wires when you take them apart so you know where they go when you reassemble (this is an invaluable tip for mending anything electronic). Also, cover the exposed ends of all wires; if you don’t they might come into contact and fry the whole unit.
Of course, Hastings notes, if you don’t mind turning the light on by hand you can even dispense with some of the electronics. Essentially, the light is just copper fittings, a solar cell, a rechargeable battery, a 1N4001 rectifier diode and a plastic switch. Inside the copper piping she also inserted a printed circuit board, LEDs and a light-dependent resistor (LDR) battery.