ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Ingenuity: noun "the quality of being clever, original, and inventive."

I like to think of myself as a resourceful and ingenious fellow - after all, you're reading the words of a guy who once turned two discarded CRT computer monitors into a coffee table and footrest. I was forced to to this because a) I couldn't afford an actual coffee table and footrest and b) I was too lazy to take the monitors down four flights of stairs in order to put them in the trash, and c) no one wanted to buy them on Ebay.

This is a perfect example of the age old adage: "necessity is the mother of all invention," and often extreme and harrowing scenarios (like the scene described above) can force us to be our most innovative.

This is something Matt Damon will harshly learn in the upcoming interplanetary survival film, The Martian. The film, which some have described as a kind of "Robin Crusoe in space," is based on the best selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir and is directed by scifi aficionado Ridley Scott. The story revolves around an abandoned astronaut, Mark Watney (Damon), who must use all his wits, resourcefulness and know-how to survive in the most unsurvivable of habitats.

Of course, ingenuity isn't limited to the Martian landscape, and Watney would do well to learn a trick or two from these terrestrial trash tinkerers.

Homemade Snowmobiles

As countless invading armies have discovered to their never-ending peril, getting across Russia's seemingly endless frozen tundra can be a real logistical headache - not to mention all those people dying.

However, innovative Russians have accept the gauntlet thrown down by Mother Nature and then proceeded to slap her round the face with their homemade Trash-mobiles.

These snowmobiles, which are made by an unnamed retiree, were cobbled together from various bits of garbage and trash - including motorcycle parts, exercise equipment, fairground detritus and even an old novelty coke bottle.


Snowmobiles are pretty cool and all, but you can't exactly sleep in them. That's where some innovative accommodation comes in. For example, Derek Diedricksen is the designer of these 'micro houses' (above) built entirely from discarded trash and garbage, such as washing machine glass, wood from cabinets and old sheet metal. They might only cost around $200 to build, but they certainly look mighty cosy.

However, it doesn't end there. Some people have taken their scavenging and building even further. There is certainly nothing 'micro' about the cathedral currently being built by Don Justo, a former monk now living in a small part of Madrid. Ever since 1961 he has been constructing a massive cathedral from nothing but recycled construction materials, rejected bricks and other donated bits and pieces.

Finally, there is also Jim Bishop, a Colorado resident who decided to achieve every 8-year-old's dream and build his own castle. Using only junk, rocks from the local area, and donated materials, Bishop has built a personal castle complete with 250 feet high towers, bridges and even a dragon which spurts out fire.

Hulk-Buster Armor and Retractable Wolverine Claws

Ok, I'm kind of cheating on this one, since they're not technically made from scrap materials. However, there aren't exactly online 'How To' guides for these two blockbuster inspired creations either, suggesting some serious ingenuity went into constructing them.

First up we've got British inventor Colin Furze who decided to create some homemade pneumatic stainless steel Wolverine claws. I'm not sure how helpful they'll be on the surface of Mars, although Colin certainly proves you can have a good time messing around in a garage with them. Check him out in the video below:

Next up we've got Chinese superfan, Xing Yile. He decided the best use of his time would be to create a 3.4 meter tall model of Tony Stark's Hulk-Buster armor. The structure, which he made in an underground parking lot, weighs around half a ton and is made up of over 100 separate fiberglass parts. If that wasn't enough, he also used some left over bits and pieces to make a smaller, downsized suit of Iron Man armor.

Roller coaster

So Matt Damon has somehow cultivated food, found a way to generate oxygen and has signaled Earth for a rescue mission, now what? Well, it's going to be a while before rescue arrives, so he should probably find a way to stave off deadly boredom. Well, what's better than his own roller coaster?

While some of us might be content to leave our roller coaster building to video games like Roller Coaster Tycoon or Theme Park, there is also a trend of building your own backyard coaster from spare parts and junk. Take for example, Indiana's Blue Flash, a back yard coaster featuring a loop-the-loop. The ride, constructed by the innovative John Ivers, is constructed almost entirely from scrap metal and took around 1,000 hours to complete. It is now around 444-feet long and can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour. Check out some video of it in action below:


To many of us in the West, broadband internet access ranks along side nutrients, water and oxygen in the list of 'Things We Need To Not Die.' However, for many parts of the world, getting decent wireless internet is a luxury and not something to take for granted.

Afghanistan is one such location, and its various infrastructure problems have long prevented the war-torn country from getting online. However, where government initiatives have failed, grassroots human initiative is succeeding. FabFi is a program developed by MIT student volunteers which aims to create a fully-functional country-wide WiFi network from scrap.

FabFi uses various bits of junk, including sheet metal, chicken wire, wood, plastic and cans to create beacons that boost the signal of 25 live nodes around Jalalabad. Currently, FabFi can provide transfer data at speeds of up to 11.5Mbit/s, which might not be good enough to play Call of Duty on, but is certainly enough to get the country online. In fact, it is so successful the program is being rolled out to other developing countries such as Kenya.

Electric Windmills

Much like the internet, many of us assume electricity is some kind of phantom magical force that exists in the air and makes our Playstation 4 work. However, you may be amazed to know it is actually generated! How about that?

One Malawian villager, William Kamkwamba, figured all this out despite the fact he had little formal education and no background in engineering. Only around 2% of Malawi has regular electricity, and after a particularly bad famine, William took it upon himself to deliver electricity to his village.

To do this, he read a British book, Using Energy, in a small local library despite the fact he could hardly read English. He then sought out any piece of scrap and began constructing a windmill without any tools.

Eventually, the result was an irrigation windmill which can power the lights in his house, as well as charge cell phones and power radios. His ingenuity was later made into a documentary titled William And The Windmill, the trailer of which you can watch below:

A Robot

When it comes to turning junk into wondrous new creations, there's not much that can trump a robot. This is what a team from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England managed to achieve with nothing but know-how and old computer parts.

Although they didn't exactly build C3PO, they were able to construct an autonomous underwater vehicle with nothing but household goods. Using a camera from a Playstation 3, computer fans, a broadband router and a reversing light from a Land Rover, the team created a programmable robot which is designed to uncover underwater mines.

Overall, the labor and software that went into creating the robot did give it a final price tag of £20,000 ($30,600), although this is considerably cheaper than those built from new materials.

Of course, Matt Damon will probably have to work a lot harder in The Martian than some of these ingenious guys. I mean, building a castle from recycled materials is impressive enough, but try doing that when the atmosphere is 95.3% carbon dioxide. You can see how he manages that when The Martian enters theaters on November 25, 2015.


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