Engaging Crafts People in Electronics

led-card-making

For my final year project, I designed a simple circuit board made from press studs and aluminuim foil. It works likes a simplified electronic breadboard, with off-the-shelf components, to allow easy progression to traditional electronics.

The product is about changing unfounded perceptions, by highlighting the craft aspects of designing electronics and by lowering the emphasis on prior technical ability. It isn’t intended to be how people make circuits forever. It’s about having an experience that shows electronics doesn’t have to be ‘techy’ and there are ways to use the skills crafts people have to come up with creative projects that use power.

It’s about sparking a can do attitude for electronics.

The conductive strips, made from aluminium foil, are on the top of the board, so it’s clear which press studs are connected together, This is different to standard breadboards, where it’s not obvious if the connections go horizontally or vertically.

ribbon-circuit-board
The press studs can be used in 4 different ways. Components can be inserted into the holes, crocodile clips can be attached to the protruding section and conductive ribbon can placed between the top and bottom press stud. Finally, the top press stud can be sewn to ribbon using conductive thread, creating fabric based components.

Pleo dinosaur robot

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When Pleos are turned on, it’s easy to forget they’re robots. They squeal when you hold them by their tail and cuddling calms them down. Kids love it when they fall asleep, because it seems as though the dinosaur likes them. A colour sensor on the nose detects green, so waggling a leaf under it’s nose encourages it to eat, of course only when it’s hungry.

I bought some second hand Pleos from eBay and took the covering off one to see the tech inside.

pleo-without-skin

Nao Robot

Nao-outside

This is the latest robot to join my growing collection. 13 years after shaking hands with Asimo, I’ve now got my own humanoid robot that I’m learning to program. The Nao is designed by a French company called Aldebaran Robotics.

Covering the Walls in Ideas

covering-the-walls
The Back of the Napkin book by Dan Roam, suggests ways to start thinking visually. The first step is to collate everything from a project. So I covered the walls with my drawings, mind maps, photos and research. Suddenly it had more impact than ideas in notebooks and on my computer. My university research project taught me the importance of sticking post-it notes on the wall. Now, I’ve learnt to stick everything that might be useful up on the wall.

Glastonbury Festival 2014

elephant-robot-glastonbury-festival
Taking our robot elephant to Glastonbury Festival turned out to be brilliant. On the way there I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to like it. Compared to all the amazing displays, I thought my little elephant covered in duct tape might be insignificant. But kids and parents loved it. Even the marshals started talking about it as we drove in with the elephant bobbing up and down in the trailer.

Brighton Hackathon

Last week I went to my first hackathon. It was run by the Met Office, so all the projects were weather related. I helped create a game for kids to understand weather networks using a polystyrene globe and simple electronics.

Making a Robot Elephant

When I went to the Brighton Maker Faire last year, it was fun controlling my lecturer’s robot. Kids enjoyed interacting with it but girls tended to watch for a while before tentatively approaching.

So I decided to create a soft, friendly, approachable robot in the form of a baby elephant.

It’s made using recycled materials. The wheels and electronics are from a broken electric wheel chair. Dexion (which is like Meccano for grown-ups) from a mill that closed gives it enough strength to ride on and foam from an old mattress makes it comfy.

The elephant will be in the Green Kids field at Glastonbury Festival in June.