Circuit Playground teaches kids about electronics

Web series uses puppets to inspire the next generation of inventors

Adafruit continues in their quest to make DIY electronics easy for all ages with Circuit Playground, a children’s web series that teaches electronics in a quirky and fun way.

“We’ll have each component have a story, a song and something to do”

From Cappy the Capacitor to Hans the 555 Timer Chip, this light-hearted approach will enable enquiring youngsters to immerse themselves in technology as they gain valuable real-world knowledge.

Supporting the show there are additional fun low-tech teaching aids including a colouring book and a set of plush dolls that will bring the characters to life. Combine this with the Circuit Playground iOS app and you’ve got plenty to not only keep the kids entertained and engaged with the learning process, but also maintain the underlying goal of inspiring the next generation of engineers.

“We want to celebrate the fun and good parts of making things, and even tackle complex subjects like what’s ‘good’ to make”

Circuit Playground is scheduled to air in March on Google+ and Ustream.

via Wired

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An Arduino keeps this motorized unicycle balanced

Riding a unicycle without the faceplant.

Nick Thatcher built this self-balancing unicycle using an Arduino UNO, a IMU (gyroscope) from Sparkfun, a 24v 350w geared motor, a wheelbarrow wheel, and a handful of other basic parts.

The IMU senses when the unicycle tilts too far forward or backward, the Arduino does some calculations, and then the motor compensates. The rider still has to put a little effort into maintaining balance (and not falling sideways), but it wouldn’t be much fun if the Arduino did all the work.

Via Hack a Day

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3D printing electronic sensors with extruded plastic composite

Carbomorph, the new, experimental material for 3D printed touch sensors.

3D printed electronics has been the subject of experiments and speculation for awhile now, but it usually involves highly specialized 3D printers. Carbomorph, a new, experimental plastic and carbon composite, could allow touch sensors, like buttons, to be integrated into objects 3D printed with fairly basic plastic extrusion printers.

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Arduino for beginners

Learn about microcontrollers without using breadboards

The Arduino system has done much to help introduce makers both young and old to the world of DIY electronics. Much lauded for its remarkable versatility and ease of use, all it takes are a few components and you’re on your way to new and exciting programming pleasures.

For those just starting out who find breadboards and wires a little daunting, the Arduino Esplora is a hand-held unit already fitted with a number of sensors, controllers and connections all ready to go right out of the box.

“…a ready-to-use, easy-to-hold controller that lets you explore the infinite possibilities you have in the world of Arduino, without having to deal with breadboards or soldering. Shaped like a game controller, it’s designed to be used out of the box without extra parts since it comes with many sensors and actuators already on it.”

Built around the same core as the popular Arduino Leonardo, the Esplora boasts an accelerometer, microphone, analog joystick, button array, light sensor, temperature sensor, linear potentiometer and audio buzzer. Although it lacks the facility to connect extra components like we are used to seeing with Arduino shields, there are two TinkerKit inputs and outputs that will enable further expansion.

Additional modules such as LCD displays are in the works, and knowing the Arduino community, it won’t be long before there is a whole host of enhancements available. Eager beavers can get their hands on an Arduino Esplora right now for under €42.

Arduino Esplora via Engadget

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New online electronic circuit simulator

Design and test your circuits before buying expensive parts.

PartSim is a new, web-base circuit simulator. It’s entirely free and boasts a clean and easy to understand interface. With this tool you can plan and test the circuit for your next project without wasting money on unnecessary parts.

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Transforming robot made with 3D printed parts

Fully functional Autobot transforms from Robot to Car in seconds

A walking, bipedal robot that can transform into a sleek street car may sound like the stuff of Hollywood fiction, but visitors to the Maker Faire in Tokyo next week will be in for a treat when they encounter the Brave Robotics Transforming Robot 7.2.

The latest incarnation from these masters of automation, this 1:12 scale robot can walk around in the familiar shuffling gait of its humanoid counterparts, while shooting missiles from weaponised forearms. In a matter of seconds the robot transforms into a fully functional vehicle that can be driven around just like a standard RC toy car. Further enhancements include a wifi camera that sends a live stream from the transforming robot to a nearby tablet.

Click through for an impressive video highlighting just what this robot can do.   (more…)

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One step closer to 3D printed electronics

Integrated components from your home printer

Printing new hardware components is something 3D printers are commonly used for all across the globe. The way that these prints are being used is much the same as the commercial parts that they replace – as a plastic shell or block of material to surround the electronic innards of a device.

Imagine if you could use your 3D printer to produce a part with all of the electronics built in! Scientists at the University of Warwick have been making some exciting advances towards low-cost intergrated 3D printing with a material known as Carbomorph.

Working examples of this technology include game controllers with embedded sensors and touch-sensitive buttons, and a mug that can tell how full it is.

“In the long term, this technology could revolutionalise the way we produce the world around us, making products such as personal electronics a lot more individualised and unique and in the process reducing electronic waste.”

The Education sector is projected to be among the first to embrace Carbomorph, as this new conductive material will allow students to design high-tech devices and products that can be integrated with freely available open-source electronics and software.

Warwick University via Engadget

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Promote electronics education by helping SparkFun do a national tour

Do you want SparkFun to come to your state?

SparkFun is running a Kickstarter campaign for a national tour promoting electronics education for elementary, middle, and high school students. They will add a stop to their tour for every $3000 raised up to a maximum of 300 stops in all 50 states. The location of their backers will help determine their route, so if you want Sparkfun to help promote electronics in your state, be sure to help support the tour.

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2012 Holiday Gift Guide — from $5 to $1500

Ponoko-made presents!

Our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide features a range of jewelry, home decor, gadgets, and holiday goodies all made by our creative customers.

We’ve featured gifts to fit any budget, from $5 moustache earbud wraps to custom computers starting at $259. Whether you’re looking for something for a geek, biker, gamer, crafter, hostess, or girlie girl, we’ve got you covered.

Keep reading to see the 32 products featured or jump to our Holiday Gift Guide on Pinterest.


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Robotic 808 drum machine

Introducing fallibility with robotic precision

Inspired by the sounds of the infamous TR-808 drum machine, this robotic instrument by Moritz Simon Geist is unusual in that it explores the concept of “errors” in music.

“A drum beaten by a mechanic robot arm can never be as predictable as a computer generated sound. Consequently, the mechanic character of the installation introduces fallibility into the performance.”

The assortment of percussion instruments are struck using motors and solenoids connected to an Arduino board. This combination of analog parts and robotic controllers is the result of an extensive experimentation process designed to recreate the iconic 808 soundscape.

Discover more about how this was achieved along with other robotic instruments at the project homepage on Sonic Robots.

MR-808 via BoingBoing

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