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Video Whiz Kid: Do Try This at Home

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Sylvia Todd admits she’s too shy to “get up in front of the whole school for a talent show.” But getting more than 1.5 million views of her giddy, do-it-yourself science show on YouTube? “That’s cool,” says Todd, 11.

A sixth grader from Auburn, Calif., Todd is the creator and star of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, a Web series that lets kids (and their clueless parents) in on her best at-home experiments: lava lamps, paper rockets, electricity-conveying dough and a singing pencil with conducting copper “so when you draw, it squeaks.” Todd’s most ambitious project – a robot that paints – earned praise from President Obama at the April 22 White House science fair. “He thought it was very cool. And I shook his hand—twice,” says Todd, a Girl Scout and aspiring aerospace engineer who faced her fear of public speaking to deliver a TEDx talk on kids and engineering in September 2012.

“Sylvia’s always had a curiosity,” says dad James, 29, a Web developer. “She wants to get into things.” The goal, says Sylvia, is to spread the joy of discovery: “I want kids to get out there and make stuff!”


Sylvia’s Webisodes are shot on the weekends and are a family affair: Dad James works behind the camera; mom Christina helps out “with the crafty stuff”; and her three siblings lend a hand or two when puppets are needed. Total production cost? Under $20.