Becoming a "maker" is a very green thing to do, and we love seeing fun, interesting and do-able projects to test out our builder instincts. This year, we've come across some fantastic projects by creative makers, from building your own solar-powered emergency radio to whipping up a solar oven with sun-tracking capabilities. Check out the top 14 projects from this year, and start making your to-do list.

iPhone solar charger

DIY solar iPhone charger made from Altoid tin

Photo: Brown Dog Gadgets

This project is a great one to start out with, as it covers a few basics for dealing with electronic parts. Plus, it's handy to have on hand when you're out traveling and will be off the grid.

Energy-saving Kinect home automation and lighting control hack

Energy saving kinect for home automation

Photo: tl880linux/YouTube

If you want to keep your electricity bills down, this cool hack could be perfect for you. There seems to be no limit to the interesting uses for Kinect devices.

DIY solar tracker

DIY solar tracker

Photo: JabbaPoint

For those of you who want to get a little more complicated with your solar projects, this might be just the project for you.

$3 emergency solar-powered radio

DIY solar powered radio made from Altoid tin, batteries and wire

Photo: Brown Dog Gadgets

Not only is this project inexpensive, but it's also practical — and anything that fits in an Altoids tin is cool.

Mini rocket stove from upcycled tin cans

Mini rocket stove made from a soup can

Photo: LDSPrepper/YouTube

The campers among us will appreciate this low-tech gadget that's perfect for keeping warm or cooking outdoors.

Solar-powered T-Shirt

Homemade solar-powered Tshirt

Photo: donjd2/flickr

Here's a gadget project that will keep you on the move well after you've finished it.

Solar USB charger

DIY solar USB charger from a mint tin

Photo: Brown Dog Gadgets

This is a handy project that will keep your gadgets powered up any time.

DIY solar oven

DIY solar oven

Photo: linznix/flickr

This is an excellent project for anyone interested in off-grid cooking.

Solar oven with automatic sun tracking

solar oven with tracker

Photo: SolarPoweredGardener

This is the previous project taken up a notch. It enables you to cook all day long without even thinking about it.

Solar-powered cockroach toy

solar-powered cockroach toy

Photo: Brown Dog Gadgets

This is an ideal gadget to get kids interested in electronics and solar power.

Rocketeer rocket pack

DIY rocketeer rocket pack for Halloween costume

Photo: ModMischief

We loved this as a last-minute Halloween costume. Sure it isn't exactly a gadget, but it'll make you look like a true gadgeteer.

Skylights from used water bottles

skylights from used water bottles


Here's a great low-tech idea if you're considering a little eco-remodeling.

Solar dehydrator

solar dehydrator

Photo: paulwheaton12/YouTube

This is a fun, simple project for foodies.

Earthquake sensor

Easy, DIY earthquake sensor

Photo: electrovlog/YouTube

And finally, anyone living along a fault line might like to check out this nifty little gadget.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

14 best DIY gadget projects of 2011
From building your own solar-powered iPhone charger to creating a mini rocket stove out of a can, channel your inner MacGyver with these DIY hacks