PLIX Inflatables: adventures in beta-testing

Such a great suggestion, @rygreene! Totally in keeping with the trash-to-treasure spirit of this activity. I first learned about the Buy Nothing Project last year when I read The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan by Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller. They got the idea while cleaning up trash along the beach on Bainbridge Island. Very cool!

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Another paperflatables update: I experimented with layered folds using origami paper, and it seems to work!

Here’s a still view of how I created the folds:

The origami paper breaks down a bit over time due to the moisture being blown in during inflation, which is something I hadn’t thought of before!

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Ohh @averymsnormandin … that looks really similar to the pleating pattern we’ve been using when sewing masks here … maybe there’s a covid-relevant maskflatable emerging!

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Hey @caratarmey , I’m so excited to see that you were able to actuate the twisting motion. That was one thing depicted in the zine that I was really hoping to see IRL. I feel like this fifth week of beta-testing proved to be our break-through week as a group. Hurray!

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Reporting on the first success I had with an autoinflatable. It took a few attempts to get it right.
I got a good reaction using 2 teaspoons each of baking soda and citric acid. Plus a few shakes of the glitter containers for good measure. :sparkles:


I heat-sealed three sides of my shrink wrap, then added my ingredients for the chemical reaction. Last, I filled a tiny ziplock baggie with about 10mL water. I put that in the shrink wrap bag and heat sealed the fourth side. I taped around the edges to make sure it was air-tight.

Here’s the before picture.

And here’s the after picture.

And here’s the autoinflatable in action.

The first few times I tried this, I didn’t get much inflating action. It may have been because I didn’t have a good proportion of powdered ingredients to water. But with this last attempt, I was really happy with how quickly it inflated once we gave the inflatable a bit of a shake to mix up the contents. I have to admit, though, the glitter effect was not as swirlingly magical as I’d hoped! :unicorn: If I did this again, I’d forgo the shrink wrap and just use regular mylar because it’s much easier to get a good seal with mylar.

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Wow, Tracy! This really takes things to the next level.

Not sure if this would work, but I am wondering if instead of a tiny zipper bag, one could double- or triple-fold the baking soda into an area on one end of the deflated inflatable, clip it tight, and then to activate you unfold and send it into the acid?

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Hi @binka , yes I think that could work. To clarify, the baking soda and the citric acid (the dry ingredients) are already mixed together inside the inflatable (both are nontoxic BTW, the same stuff you get in a bath bomb). It’s when the baking soda and citric acid come into contact with water that the chemical reaction starts to happen. So if a person folded the dry ingredients together, you’d just need a way to contain the water inside the inflatable while you seal up the 4th side.

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Question for you all!

The PLIX team has been thinking about how we’ll adjust the second spread of the zine so that it’s also useful for heat-free contexts:

Given the current version, which parts would you change? What would you keep for paperflatable? What would you add?

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It’s going to be tough to take away from this spread because it looks so great! And I absolutely LOVE that you guys have figured out a heat-free alternative with paperflatables!! This entire beta-testing thread is a gem. :metal:I will hopefully have some feedback on this second spread soon. (Gotta think it over for a bit…)

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I agree with @Dave, Cara’s done such a great job with this spread that it is tough to suggest changes. One thought I had is perhaps the “cut, seal, inflate” section could be tightened up a bit to make space for a mention that heat-less techniques would follow the same cut, seal, inflate sequence using paper instead of snack bags and using adhesive instead of a mini iron.

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Here is one possible solution for adding the paperflatables to the spread. I spent some time moving things around in the layout to add a spot for the heat-free options. Also, I had to borrow the wrapping paper clipart from a Seattle Times article to create this visualization.

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Beta-testing wrapup session!

Yesterday, we had our wrapup and reflection call for PLIX’s first ever beta-testing program. Thanks to all who joined and provided amazing feedback on how the process went, and how to make it even better for next time! In case you missed it, you can find notes from the call here (feel free to add in comments or reflections).


(Group photo, taken after @Tracy and @katherine had to run to their next meeting!)

I hope you’ll all continue to share your explorations here! Our PLIX activities are always open to change/riff/remix/polish based your feedback and experiences. Happy inflating!

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Hello, all!

Quick update on the Inflatables front . . .we now have pattern cards! We hope these handouts can help jumpstart the creative process during your workshops. We tried to select a variety of patterns that showcase all of the motions/actuations.

Let us know what you think! Click here to see the full PDF; and check out the examples below:


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This Monstrosity is 2’5" long and requires A LOT of air but curls into a super cute “tail” to use for the CLSP Tails and Tales theme. It was constructed out of wrapping paper, painters tape, and one flexible straw. I used the diamond cut out to “curl” but need to experiment more with size and position to see if I can get a consistent curl.

I’m curious if this could be worked into anime clubs or students interested in cosplay. How fun would if be to have a tail you could curl when you activated a fan… hmmm…

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Wowww I’m so impressed by this auto inflatable idea. How brilliant! It’s sorta meta because it’s actually a science experiment within a science experiment.

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