What Would You Teach the World in an Online Video?

Students, please read the article below first, watch the video, and then answer the questions below.

Have you ever watched an Internet video that teaches how to do something or explains an idea or problem? Have you ever considered making a video like that?

What talents or expertise would you want to share in your own Internet video? What would you want to teach the world? Explain fully. (Courtesy of NY Times Learning Network)

A Science Star Already, Tinkering With the Idea of Growing Up

May 4, 2013

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Sylvia Todd, 11, produced a robot-drawn watercolor painting for President Obama on Monday at the White House Science Fair.

Sylvia Todd’s desk is not tidy. It’s cluttered with small robots (including a solar-powered grasshopper), motors, wires, resistors, a soldering iron and an array of other gadgets and tools.

A maker, tinkerer and online celebrity, Sylvia has attracted more than 1.5 million YouTube views of the show she produces and hosts, the Web-based “Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show.” She is sought after for speaking engagements, visits maker fairs and even addresses TEDx conferences.

Last week she won a silver medal at an international robotics competition. And on Monday she took part in the White House Science Fair, where President Obama tested her latest project, a robot that paints.

Not bad for an 11-year-old.

With her father, James Todd, filming her, Sylvia uses puppetry, theme music and her home as a laboratory to demonstrate how things work. She makes science fun, mostly by having fun herself.

An audience of fellow makers, especially science-minded parents and children looking for projects, follow her D.I.Y. episodes — 19 so far — on circuit boards, sidewalk chalk, rocket ships and her favorite, an LED shield.

In one episode, Sylvia made dough that can conduct electricity. The salty dough, when mixed with water, acts like wire to allow electricity to flow through it, while a second batch of dough made with sugar acts like insulation and resists electricity. Sylvia used the conductive dough to light up LEDs, make noise and run motors.

Her most popular episode, on copper etching, attracted more than 200,000 views. Her fans learned how to create a circuit board and a copper pendant.

And her latest continuing project, though not yet a subject on her show, is a robot that can paint. She showed it off at the White House Science Fair, an invitation-only symposium for 100 students that is hosted by Mr. Obama, who views and comments on the students’ projects.

The president tried out her watercolor robot, doodling “Go STEM” — the acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — on an iPad. The robot painted his doodle, which Sylvia said she would frame.

“I shook his hand twice!” she said. “And he picked up a printed version of the White House logo that my robot did.”

Sylvia’s celebrity comes from her YouTube series, which she produces and hosts. It is a family collaboration — her mother, Christina, for instance, came up with the pendant idea — but is distinctly Sylvia. She can be age-appropriately silly, but she takes her projects seriously.

“Ever since I was really young I liked destroying stuff,” Sylvia said. “I’ve always been interested in making and doing things hands-on.”

The seeds for the show were planted when Sylvia was 5, and she and her father attended the Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif., an annual event organized by Maker Magazine that celebrates makers and their projects. Two summers ago, Mr. Todd began videotaping Sylvia’s demonstrations, as a summer project. “We just wanted to do something fun,” Sylvia said.

The popular blog Boing Boing reported on their first episode. Then Tech Crunch, Jezebel and other sites followed with praise. Make Magazine hired Sylvia to produce some of her episodes for its Web site.

Mr. Todd, 29 and a high-school dropout and Web developer, shares a tinkerer’s spirit with his daughter. (“If you do the math, I was young,” Mr. Todd said of Sylvia’s birth. “Too young,” she chimed in.)

“There was no formal maker movement when I was a kid,” Mr. Todd said. “If there had been, I would have been part of it.”

He and Ms. Todd have three other children, ages 3, 6 and 8, and he is the family’s sole breadwinner. Money is tight, and most of the science kits that Sylvia uses in her videos are donated to her. She raises money online to pay for some of her trips.

For the White House Science Fair, for example, Sylvia and her father created a campaign on a site calledgofundme.com. Two dozen well-wishers donated, and Sylvia was able to raise close to $2,000 for her trip to Washington.

“I would say we spend maybe $100 a year,” Mr. Todd said of the episodes. “We don’t have a lot of money for this; really, it just takes time.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misquoted Sylvia Todd at one point. She said, “Ever since I was really young I liked destroying stuff” — not “Ever since I was really young I liked distorting stuff.”


  1. I rely on Internet videos to teach me how to do a lot of things. When I am bored and want to paint my nails, I simply look up cute nail ideas on YouTube, and about one hundred videos pop up. I have had those days where I want to do something different than I normally do, and thought about making a video. I think making videos would be fun, but I am stuck when I try to film. I’m sad to say, but I have stage fright, and whenever I attempt to make a video I end up second guessing myself and sticking to a simple outdoor game. I know how much fun some of my friends have when it comes to making videos, so I do it with them because I know it makes them happy. I have started to overcome my stage fright, and look forward to making an Internet video someday.

    If I had to make an Internet video, I would base it on jewelry. I love to make jewelry and I love taking household items and turning them into a masterpiece. I want to teach the world to recycle so they can learn how to turn junk into jewelry. Making your own jewelry can be fast, cheap, beautiful and easy if you know how to do it right. Jewelry making is a good talent to have when it comes to finding accessories to match an outfit. 😋

    I developed a magnificent new appreciation for nature. Most people are not keen on gardening, but I think it’s life changing. There is absolutely no comparison between the fruits and vegetables I grow and the chemical-infused store-bought “fruits and vegetables.” I have always been a huge fan of strawberries, but after growing my own, I eat store-bought strawberries with a displeased face. I want to show the world how to garden. I would start a video by introducing the viewer with ways to get free seeds. Strawberries have seeds on the outside that can be removed and placed into the ground. I had never thought about taking the seeds from a fruit or vegetable and planting them until I got into gardening. From watermelon seeds, to pineapple tops, your garden can burst with flavor. After that topic in my video, I would explain all of the techniques for gardening with certain fruits. I would conclude my video with the process of harvesting the crops (this is my favorite part!). Keep the world green, and start a garden!

  2. I always watch instructional videos on youtube mainly because I break many objects or I forget how to do something. I never watch any videos that teach you how to do things just for fun because I mainly think it is not worth the time. I would probably never consider making an instructional video. The reason is there is already hundreds of videos even on one thing like fixing a scratched disc. I wouldn’t consider doing it because everything I would make a video about would be something already common. I would never even go close to thinking about making a video on “Copper Etching” or something close to that. If I were to make a video to post on the internet would probably be something about videogames and how to play the correct way. For instance like where is a good place to snipe people in gun games. The video would be about what is the best gun or weapon to use on the right map, or great hiding places. I would make a video on different glitches you can find in the game which can bump you up a new level. I could also make a video on how to fix computer or make them go faster. Creating a computer mod or changing a PC into a MAC. How to hack or destroy the internal hardware of a computer. Another video could be about the internal system of a computer like on how to change the hardrive.

  3. I haven’t really wanted to make an internet video that teaches people how to do something because I don’t have anything to teach. If I ever invented something cool of found out how to build a cool thing then I would share it on Youtube. I would also only share a video if it was awesome, or I just wanted people to know of my achievement. It would be also be cool to meet the president in person and actually shake his hand.

    I have watched how to do thing on the internet. On of the coolest things I looked up was how to make a homemade Recurve Bow. You had to cook the bow in a wooden oven to blend the wood all together. The movie also showed you what to buy and how long it would take. I only work on the bow project in Alabama because my uncle is a carpenter, so he helps me and my dad out on the project.

    If I ever did make a video it would be on how to make stuff out in the wild with items you find around you. I think this would be a cool project because I always tinkered around with making a bow out of sticks and palm fronds. I even worked with Brendan, and Aidan to make a rainproof fort that was hidden from people and had a natural self-defense called Brendo Magnets. We even had “Ninja Stars” for protection! I would like to share these ideas because it’s something I naturally know how to do. I would also share this information because sometime something on your camping trip will go wrong and I want people to be prepared. This information may not seem important, but it would be useful and fun to know these tips in case of an emergency.

  4. Someimes I will watch internet videos if I am stuck with something. When I play videogames and I am stuck or I don’t know what to do Iwill look it up on a video. I have not cosidered to make a video and I really do not want to because people would know my name and it would not feel right that people know my name. If I were to make a helpful video it would probably be about skiing. I choose this because I love to go skiing and it is super fun.
    The video would include how to go dwon diffrent types of slopes like a blue or a black dimon. It would also include how to get on and off ski lift. It could also includ how to get your ski’s and boots on and off. It would show the ways of turning and stoping. In addition I would tell the proper way of putting on ski pand jacet and everthing else that goes along with it.

  5. I have seen a video that helped me with something before. I have thought about making a helpful video once, but usually I just like to fun videos that aren’t very helpful. If I ever made a helpful video, I don’t think that it would be as amazing as the one I just watched. If I had to though, I think that I would make it about something that would have to do with soccer since I love it like she loves building things. I would probably make it about how to kick the soccer ball in a certain way to make it so that it doesn’t have any spin on it, which really helps in a game:).

    The video that I would make would really help people that love to play soccer like me. I wish that I would have learned to build and make things like the girl in the video can, I think that it is really cool and that she should be very proud of herself to learn that much at only the age of eleven.

  6. If I were to make an online video, I would teach people how to use a flat iron with proper hair protection. I would explain this because many people straighten their hair, but burn it at the same time. The first and most important thing to remember is to use a heat glide. This will smooth down your hair, so it isn’t very frizzy and keep your ends from not getting fried. My favorite heat Glide is Redken’s Smooth Down Heat Glide. This is heat protectent is oil based. That means you don’t spray it in your hair you put it on your fingers and rub it in. It is my favorite because every time I use it my hair stays in great condition and very soft.

    When you straighten your hair always remember to not rush. It is a slow process. First, spilt your hair into three sections from top to bottom. Then, part your hair three more times on the bottom layer. Straight those pieces, and move on to the next layer. My favorite hair straightener is by Ion. It has titanium plates. Titanium plates are the best plates to use because they heat up evenly and reduce frizz.

    1. Did you know way back when……in the sixties…..girls used to use an iron to straighten their hair? On an ironing board!

  7. It is amazing how a girl our age is that talented and came up with extremely creative experiments. I am not as artsy and creative and since one of my passions is horseback riding, then I would teach how to tack up a horse. First, you would put the saddle pad down on the horses back, close to the withers. Then you would set the fleece pad on top of the saddle pad. Next, you would carefully place the saddle on top of the fleece pad. After you put the saddle on then buckle the girth on each side and tighten up each side but you should be able to fit two fingers in between the girth and horse. Now that you have a place to sit you need to be able to steer. Grab the correct bridle and place the headpiece over the horse’s ears to make sure the browband is below the ears and buckle the noseband but, not to tight! Then buckle the throat lash but, make it really loose so you are able to fit your hand in horizontally. Finally, put the reins over the horse’s head and hop onto the saddle and enjoy the ride!

  8. I think almost everyone uses YouTube videos to help them make and learn things. I loved this video because it showed that you don’t have to be an adult to show your ideas to the world. What she did in the video was very creative and we did a simular thing during clelebrate the arts where we had to make our own stamps with a colorful design on it. I’ve used online videos so many times I can’t even count them but, most of the time I saw something and wanted to try it or make something new that would be useful instead of buying it. If I made an online video it would be about making cute things out of stuff around your house so you wouldn’t have to buy anything to make it. I think this blog was very creative and it really got me thinking of what other people come up with and there are so many differnent things I want to try.

  9. I absolutely love watching Youtube tutorials on makeup, or just silly things like making your own hair bows. I think tutorials are very helpful and I use them often for math. I’ve never really considered making a tutorial, because I would be afraid of the reaction of others on the Internet. Some Internet users who make Youtube videos get good responses, some don’t. Thats fine, as long as the person who makes the videos doesn’t get mad or hurt about the comments. There are many people who have become famous for their Youtube tutorial. Tutorials help many people learn how to do things, and I would love to help thousands of people, as well as entertain them.

    My tutorial would be on how to hit various golf shots. The reason my video would be based on this is because I have been playing golf since I was four, and it is one of my talents. The golf shots I would teach people would be the fairway shot, tee shot, and the bunker shot. In my opinion, these are some of the most important shots in golf. I would take my viewers through the club selection, stance, and how to line up the shot. Many people do not have the time or money to go out and take a private lesson, so my video would help those people who are just learning or who are wanting to improve their game.

  10. I want to make a video that shows people that sailing is not just sitting in an opit witch is the kind of boat i sail. when you sail you have to rig your boat can take a long time to get it how you want it first you have to tie all the sail ties that connects the mast to sail and the boom to the sail and then measure the mast rake witch is how far froward or backward you mast is. Then you have to make sure your boat have every thing it needs to go sailing like three air bags witch help keep the water out when you flip they keep the water out because the take up mare space in your boat so the water cant fit, they also help keep your boat afloat the boat will float with out them but like i said you need the when you flip. you need to make sure you have two bailer you need these because you use them scoop the water out if the boat. then you need the mainsheet witch you use to trim and let out your depending witch way you are pointing on the cores. then you need the bow line witch is use to connect your boat and the coach boat for a tow in or out. When you go sailing you need a lifejacket.

    If you sail you will need to know what a tack and gib are. A ack is when you are going up wind witch is when you are closer to direction to where the wind is coming from a tack is turning your boat to get up to the mark. you have to tack because you cant sail straight up win because there is no wind on your sail to get the sail full and to make your boat move. when you head to wind like that it is called ironers. A gib is the same thing as tack but you are going downwind instead of up wind. So downwind is when the back of you boat is facing toward the wind. those are the main things you need to no if you go sailing.

  11. I have watched many “How To” videos and lots of videos that explain things to me on YouTube. And after a while of watching them I was thinking of making a video like that and then I forgot about wanting to do that because I never really had time to that… so YES I have considered making a video like that. 🙂 If I ever made a video about teaching or explaining how to do something I would choose something I am VERY good wait no great at!!! I would teach the people of the internet how to TIE THEIR SHOES!!! I am very great at tying my shoes so I think that would be a great helper video for anybody who has trouble tying their shoes. First I would tell the person to put a shoe on (after their socks of course) and then I would tell them to grab both laces and and go over and under and sort of make a bow. It would be a lot easier to explain while doing it. And in the description I would put a link to the song from SpongeBob that explains how to tie your shoes in case you need more help.

  12. I haven’t watched many videos on how to do things, not because I don’t like or enjoy them, but I love to figure things out on my own. A cool video I have seen is how to use grass to make a whistle, and how to get the toning right. I only watched half of the video, where it showed you how to hold the grass and what type of grass would be best. The second half was about changing the pitch and tone of the grass, but I decided to do that on my own. After about 20 minutes I figured it out. It was very fun to do, and that is why I like figuring things out on your own, for the feeling you get when you find it out.

    If I were to make a video, it would be on basic programming. It would be in a series of videos, where I would teach the world what my dad is teaching me. Since my dad made games since he was in college (with a total of around 100), he has learned to program very well. I think that programming and technology runs through my dad’s side of the family, because my uncle creates video games, which I play and think are very fun, and my dad creates programs. My dad’s programs are very cool because they do things from finding the sales of a set item in a set area using an online database, to rating the stocks in the market by using net value and yearly capital as a sort of X and Y axis, and then plotting it out. He is starting to teach me to program, and I have already made two games, which I would show on my videos and how to make them. Using JavaScript, I have made a game where you are a cube and you have to move across the screen from one side to another without getting hit. The other one, my first one, was on Scratch, which is a very basic type of programming, some would say it isn’t even programming, to make a game where you are a cricket, and an ant bounces around the screen. When you touch the ant using the arrow keys, you eat it and become slightly larger. The more you eat the ant, the larger you get, the smaller the ant gets, and the faster the ant gets. This is what I would show on my videos.

  13. I don’t really watch a lot of tutorials because at some points I think it’s stupid to watch someone do something that you know you’ll never be able to do. However I have watch some hair tutorial, well those girls are talented because I can’t do them after rematching them several times, I think they’re interesting and cool but not something I really spend my time doing. I have actually thought about making a YouTube tutorial, because really I don’t care if a bunch of Yotubers hate my video. I think I’m an entertaining person so I don’t really see that as a big problems.

    If I was to make a tutorial, there so many things I could make it on. So I decided it would be an amazing idea if I combined all my ideas and made it all about me. Every week it would be about something different like, how I paint my nails, which if you know me is pretty darn funny or how to match your clothes to your personality. I’m usually funny so I could just have videos of me on average day. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do that so watch out for my YouTube tutorials.

  14. After watching this video and reading this article, I watched a couple other videos on her channel and I’ve got to say, I now want a stuffed animal backpack. I enjoyed how she combined her love of science and making things together to make plenty of amazing, affordable, and cool inventions. I am so jealous of her. She gets to make videos of her having fun and doing what she loves, then she meets the president. I’m going to use her, a 5th grade girl, as a role model. I seriously admire that she puts herself out there in doing what she loves to do for everyone to criticize her because it will benefit others and give them home-made projects for them to wear/have fun with.

    I think that I should start doing that type of thing, which brings me to my next point. If I were to create an internet video series, I think that I would do my series on coding computers for kids. I have had lots of fun coding different types of things such as fun and quick Scratch animations to things like forum fonts and colors and works more complicated such as simple programs. It’s hard for kids like me to understand any of the coding tutorials that are posted on YouTube. They are quite complicated and in half of them you can’t even understand the person who made the video, which is weird, because they put so much time into coding and making the video, and they can’t even speak without mumbling so low that the mike on their computer can’t pick up what they are saying. I think that this would be a great help to kids like me who plan to go into computer programming and whatnot. See you in a year when I have 15,000,000+ subscribers on my new channel on YouTube!

  15. As far as I can recall I have not seen a video that shows you how to do something even remotely as cool as this this. I also have not even considered doing something like this before. I if were to now then I think I would make a video on how to Ripstick. A Ripstick is sort-of a skate boarded that has two wheels and swivels back and forth. I have been using it ever since I got it for Christmas a couple years ago. I have been using it a lot and I think that it would be a cool thing to do a video on. I have also practiced doing some tight swerves and turns.

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