Make a Sensory Enhancing Gadget

We’ve created an activity guide on making a gadget to help your senses! This project was inspired by Ada Twist Scientist, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Ada Twist is like many young tinkerers we know: inventive, resilient, and very, very curious. She may get herself into trouble sometimes, from drawing diagrams on walls to poking and prodding the family cat, but it always comes from the desire to investigate our world! In the book, she created a little device that will help her investigate the source of a very strong scent--for science!

We added this book to the Chill Zone at reDiscover Center. Explore how we can make the tools to find answers to our very own scientific experiments!

STEP 1 - Gather Your Materials

Every design starts with a brainstorming session! Brainstorming lets us think about what materials we might need for our projects. As always, we employed creative reuse materials in our list, particularly paper towel rolls, paper bags, and the tinkering tools we have handy.

STEP 2 - Let’s Explore our Senses

Before we get started, let’s talk about the title we gave this project: Sensory Enhancing Gadget? Three really big words. Let’s break it down.

- “Relating to sensation or the physical sense”


- “Intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of.”


- “a small mechanical or electronic device or tool.”

A Sensory Enhancing Gadget is a tool that you use to enhance or intensify one or more of your senses! You can choose to focus on one sense in particular or pick more than one. If it comes down to it, you can carry a whole toolbox of SEG’s on your belt if you decide to make one for all of them.

So what senses do you have? The five most common ones are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Each sense is activated through different organs in our body!

How can we design tools to isolate each organ and enhance our senses? If we create items that will help our organs focus, we might be able to smell better, focus on what we’re looking at better, etc. 

For this activity, grab a sheet of paper and pick a sense organ to design for. In the story, Ada Twist chose her nose and made a Sensory Enhancing Gadget to help her isolate smells in scientific experiments. We can make a prototype of our ideas in real life too! Once you have an idea, draw a sketch of what you would like your gadget to look like.

STEP 3 - Making a scent isolator. Start with the "trunk"

Here's how we made a real life version of Ada Twist's gadget. We started with the long piece. Ada Twist’s smelling gadget bends downward like an elephant’s trunk. This long trunk is a very important piece for this gadget. To make a tube structure that bends, take cylindrical tubes and make them flexible. There are a couple ways to do this.

Version 1: Using Paper

Start with a piece of paper and roll it into a tube. Seal with glue or tape. Then, like cutting frills into fabric, flatten the tube a little bit to cut into strip-like segments, but don’t cut all the way. Leave a spine for the tube so it’ll stay together.

Version 2: Using Toilet Paper Rolls

To make it long enough, you can use two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll. If you use two toilet paper rolls they'll need to be attached after you cut the frills. You can cut one of the frills in half where it’s folded and squish just the end inside the other roll. Tape and/or hot glue them together and you have a long tube of frills.

If using a long paper towel roll, no taping is necessary (yet!). Just fold the cylinder a little to make the cuts you need. Remember to leave a spine!

Cutting the tube this way will allow your tubes to curve along the spine. For the top of the trunk where you want it to curve, attach a front spine made from cardboard, mylar, or paper, to guide each frill and stabilize it.

STEP 4 - Create a Nozzle to fit over your Nose

Make a cylinder to go over your nose. Cut a Curve on one end to shape it to fit your face. Cut slits on the other end and bend them in to make the opening smaller. Seal with glue or tape.

STEP 5 - Attach Trunk to Nozzle

To attach the trunk and the nozzle, use a toilet paper roll that you've cut and overlapped so that it's shorter and thinner. Use a flange technique (cut several flaps and bend them out like in the photos) to give you surfaces that can help your pieces stick together more easily. The small part of this tube is taped inside the trunk, and the flaps are glued onto the nozzle. Now all of the pieces are together!

*Pro-tip: wait time for glue depends on what kind you use. Liquid glue might take longer, but it’s stronger than hot glue. Hot glue, however, dries more quickly.

STEP 6 - Attach the string to the Nozzle

To finish off the product, we need some string to help hold the gadget up to our faces. Punch holes on the sharp sides of the nozzle. You can make holes with scissors by folding the sides flat, then cutting a triangle shape out. When it unfolds, it looks more like a diamond. Knot enough string to fit your face (Elastic ones are better!).


We’ve successfully created a prototype of the project! How can we make it work better? How could you cover the holes so the smells don’t seep through the cracks? Is there another sense you want to tap into and make a gadget for? Give it a try!


Your tinkerer might need help getting their nozzles measured to a size that fits their face best! Step 4 might need more hands-on help. Using hot glue and cardboard cutters can be challenging and require lots of supervision and focus. Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources to access our Tiny Techniques videos and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your Sensory Enhancing Gadget prototype, share it with friends and family. If you want to share a picture on social media, make sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr so that we can experiment together!

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