Death rays, light sabers, and beams of all stripes built out of broken electronics and scrap goods. You’re not going to find this dude’s projects in your average McGraw-Hill chemistry textbook.


The “DIY Laser Guy,” Southern Illinois University junior Drake Anthony (who’s triple-majoring in chem, physics, and math), started uploading videos onto YouTube when he was 14, but was fascinated by zappers since he was a kid. He’s planning on pursuing a PhD in chemistry or physics. Ideas usually strike him out of the blue, while rummaging through piles of junk.

One of his more popular videos is “Homemade Death Ray Laser DRONE BOT!!! Remote Controlled!!” which features a foam disc-shooting robo-spider called an Attacknid. But Anthony outfitted the toy with a 2W blue laser that sets stuff on fire on command.


“I usually get positive reactions from viewers, with a lot of people calling me crazy for the stuff I do,” Anthony says. “I can’t disagree with them there.”


277,435 subscribers, 29,423,435 views

Greek-American Paul is a normal guy who likes to make video game-inspired weapons on YouTube, but was hesitant at first: “For a while, I lived this double life where I was totally secretive with my channel,” he says. “I didn’t want my creations to define who I was, some of them being a bit taboo—like, flaming swords and taser gloves.”


But, no surprise, his badass inventions have rallied a sizable, supportive audience. He calls DiY “improvised technology.” One of his favorite projects is the “Shishkebab v.2,” a flaming, gasoline-dripping sword “to attack predatory creatures of the post-apocalyptic world,” he says. (It’s made out of a motorcycle hand brake, motorcycle gas tank, lawnmower blade, shower piping, and an oven mitt.)

Nerd culture features heavily in his work, from his Iron Man 3 Stun Glove to the Phantom Assassin Dart Gun. (The Shishkebab flame sabre was inspired by the video game Fallout 3.) “People see a cool gadget or invention from a movie or video game and think, ‘I wish I had that!’” Paul explains. “Sometimes I stop wishing and motivate myself to make it come to life.”



882,724 subscribers, 112,963,132 views

NightHawkInLight—aka, Ben—has always been interested in science, but “really I just enjoy doing things myself, in general.” Now, maintaining his science experiment channel on YouTube is his full-time job.


Ben definitely feels that the Internet has helped galvanize this sprawling legion of sci-and-tech DiY enthusiasts. “Often I’ll promote smaller channels if I feel that they’re doing a great job with their content and need to be seen,” he says. “I think that really does a lot to build great interaction between everyone in the genre.”

One of his most popular vids is “How to Make Giant Bubbles”—”Like, school bus-sized bubbles,” he says. His “How to Scramble Eggs Inside Their Shell,” released Easter 2013, generated 4 million views and was the most-watched food video on YouTube that year.


Internet fame has its downsides, though: Apparently a popular Russian channel decided to test his egg-scrambling method, but messed up, and declared Ben’s video bogus. “This resulted in a tidal wave of Russian YouTubers coming to lay siege on my comments section,” he says. “This was two years ago. To this day I still get a few Russian comments per week: ‘ФЕЙК, Fake! Russians checked!’”


3,552,771 subscribers 344,972,689 views

Grant Thompson is known to the Internet as “The King of Random.” A look at his video roster shows why: He’s a purveyor of awesome scientific miscellanea like styrofoam-turned-aluminum, mined batteries, sugar-and-kitty litter-fueled rockets, and Ninja Turtle green slime. And like many DiYers on YouTube, he’s self-taught. He’s also addicted to making these videos, and is fueled more by the passion than anything.


“Even if I try to go on vacation, it’s only three or four days before I’m itching to get back to making projects and seeing what kind of response they get,” Thompson says. (He uploads a new video every five days.)

But he says he doesn’t feel part of a YouTube community, per se. “I would be doing what I’m doing regardless of what platform I was operating on,” he says.



2,242,121 subscribers, 542,979,833 views

Billing his channel as “the most amazing hacks, pranks, and how-to videos in the world,” this former DJ has reinvented himself as a DiY guru on the interwebz.


Since he’s found success among do-it-yourselfers on YouTube, he’s launched his own website that offers downloadable schematics to projects like 9-volt LED torches, confetti canons, homemade FM radios, burglar alarms, beat boxes and paintball rocket launchers.

There’s also a range of accessibility in his projects, so you can jump in whatever your skill level, be it total noob or space shuttle operator. His catalogue includes laser trip wires, but also more softball fare, like light-up drink coasters. He’s got a penchant for pranks, too, like staplers that zap and computer mice that stink.



539,489 subscribers, 72,544,694 views

This channel (run by professional scientists with PhDs in inorganic chemistry) focuses on experiments that debunk and delight. Bored with the fifth grade science fair-level experiment videos on YouTube a few years ago—like how to make a baking soda volcano—the NurdRage team was “pissed off that YouTube chemistry sucked.”


So they came up with stunty videos that rake in millions of eyeballs from not only science nerds, but also regular Internet dwellers looking for cool viewing material. In one video, a NurdRage host dunks his bare hand in molten sodium acetate trihydrate, which instantly crystallizes around his hand like a jar full of mutant marshmallow Fluff.

Another video came in response to a bogus claim that asserted glow sticks could be made with Mountain Dew. The folks at NurdRage knew that as actual chemists—and as proprietors of a popular YouTube channel—they could explain how the rave trinket is actually made: “Interestingly enough, it was hard for us to get TCPO, a key chemical in making glow sticks work. So we had to synthesize it ourselves.” As you do.


Top image via styropyro