Children’s light up toy is an easy hand-made gift

light-and-switch-toy

While this year’s Christmas lists are dominated by electronic gadgets and other mass-produced toys, it wasn’t always like that. We’re not trying to sound like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but many of today’s gifts lack the personal touch found in old, hand-made toys.

[henlij’s] son is a budding electronics geek who loves playing with switches and lights, so he was inspired to build him a fun toy to pass the time. He constructed a simple box full of lights and switches that his son could toggle on and off to his heart’s content.

While there’s not a ton going on inside the box, we think that the idea is fantastic. With just a few dollars worth of simple components, anyone who knows their way around a soldering station can build something that will keep a child fascinated for hours.

There’s no reason to stop at buttons and lights either. If we were to build one, we would swap the bulbs out for LEDs, then add a wide variety of switches and dials along with speakers and any other components we could get our hands on.

The options are pretty limitless, so if you happen to know a child that gets a kick out of playing with buttons and switches, why not make him or her something special this year, much like [henlij] did for his son?

Minibloq Arduino IDE is in Beta and in need of testers

minibloq_beta

If you have been chomping at the bit to give drag and drop Arduino programming a try, Minibloq is finally in Beta and ready for you to test!

We mentioned the application back in April of this year, when [Julián da Silva] was still in the early stages of developing the software. His graphical programming environment is meant to put the power of the Arduino and its derivatives into the hands of children in an easy fashion, with a gentle learning curve.

A lot has transpired since we first wrote about Minibloq, including a very successful Kickstarter campaign, along with many hours of programming and testing. The current Beta release includes a ton of features and programming “blocks” beyond what we saw earlier this year, so be sure to check out the video below for a quick tour of what’s new.

[Julián] says that the application’s source code will be released after they add a few key features, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested in taking a peek under the hood.

[Read more...]

Go ahead, let the kids play with your digital camera… after some additions

Would you throw this camera around on pavement and trust that it wouldn’t get broken? We have a hard time believing it too, but that’s exactly what happens in the video after the break. The colorful add-ons are pieces of Sugru creatively positioned to help protect the camera. From what we’ve seen this adds quite a bit of shock absorption, letting the normally delicate hardware bounce and roll. After all, the stuff is made from Silicone.

It doesn’t look like the protection is meant to be removed from the camera, although we have seen Sugru used for that in the past so this method may be adaptable. A mistake was made during the project which prevented to battery compartment from being opened but it turns out you can peel the stuff of the camera later on, so this isn’t a completely permanent transformation.

We’d wager the camera component to be most concerned with is the LCD screen. We’ve got one that cracked without any plausible cause to point to. But if you’re just reinforcing the device to hand to your kids, who cares if the LCD doesn’t work? It kind of makes it like a film camera again if you have to take all the pictures and then wait to use a computer to “develop them”.

Don’t forget, if you don’t have Sugru on hand you can try mixing your own.

[Read more...]

Papercraft flowers teach kids about batteries

saltwater_papercraft_batteries

[Emily Daniels] has been teaching interactive electronics workshops geared towards children for some time now, recently holding a session that demonstrated how batteries work in a pretty novel fashion.

She wanted to keep things safe and simple due to the class size, so she didn’t want to rely on using soldering irons for the demonstration. Instead, she showed the children how batteries function by building simple voltaic cells with paper flowers, salt water, and LEDs. The paper flowers’ absorbency was used to act as a salt bridge between the wire pairs that adorned each petal. After salt water was applied to each of the flower’s petals, the center-mounted LED came to life, much to the amazement of her class.

The concept is quite simple, and the LED flowers are pretty easy to build, as you can see in her Instructables tutorial.

We think it’s a great way to demonstrate these sorts of simple concepts to kids, and hope to see more like it.

[via Adafruit blog]

Drag and drop programming gets kids started early

minibloq

While programming an Arduino is a piece of cake for EEs who have been around the block a few times, there are some groups who would still find it difficult to get started with the IDE. It is touted for its ease of use, but there is a steep learning curve if say, you are 5 or 6 years old. [Julián da Silva] has been hard at work for a while now, to make the Arduino more accessible than ever.

Earlier today, we posted a story about moldable putty which can be used by children to build rudimentary circuits, enabling them to enter the fun world of hobby electronics at a young age. [Julián's] project “Minibloq” aims to do the same thing with the Arduino. A work in progress, Minibloq uses a graphical interface to “build” Arduino code a block at a time. The code components are dragged and dropped into place on one side of the screen, while the source code is generated on the other half. This helps gently introduce those people new to the Arduino how to write actual code, a little bit at a time.

[Julián] is working hard to ensure that his application works well on OLPC and other classroom-oriented computers to ensure it can reach as wide an audience as possible. We think this would be a great introduction to the world of micro controllers for children as well as those who have never tinkered with electronics at any point in their lives.

Keep reading to see a quick demo of the software in action.

[Read more...]

Squishy circuits for tiny tinkerers

squishy_circuits

Getting kids interested in electronics at a young age is a great idea. Feeding their developing minds via creative projects and problem solving is not only rewarding for the child, it helps prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists. University of St. Thomas professor [AnnMarie Thomas] along with one of her student [Samuel Johnson] have put together a winning recipe for getting kids started in electronics tinkering at a very young age.

While some 5-year-olds can wrangle a soldering iron just fine, some cannot – and younger kids should probably stay away from such tools. This is where the the team from St. Thomas comes in.

They scoured the Internet looking for Play Dough recipe clones, testing the resistance and useability of each before settling on two formulas. The first formula incorporates salt, and has a very low resistance. The second contains sugar and has about 150 times the resistance of the first formula. If you use them together, you have very simple conductor and insulator substrates that can be manipulated safely by tiny hands.

As seen in the demo video below, a small battery pack can be wired to the conductive putty easily lighting LEDs, turning small motors, and more. We can only imagine the delightful smile that would emerge from a child’s face when they power on their putty circuit for the first time.

While only two different types of putty have been made so far, we would be interested to see what other materials could be integrated – how about homemade peizo crystals?

[Thanks, Spence]

[Read more...]

Hackaday links: April 10, 2011

Sunlit LCD screen

[A.J.] did some experiments and managed to replace his LCD backlight using fiber optics and the sun.

Game Boy LCD Repair

[Alan] found that he could fix dead columns on his Game Boy LCD screen with a little reflow work on the connector.

3DS Design Flaw?

Anyone having problems with the way their Nintendo 3DS closes? [Jeroen] noticed that his screen touches the other half of the device when closed. He added rubber feet to protect it, but we wonder if anyone else has noticed this issue?

Mac TP dispenser

This one takes iLife to a new level. Never poop without Apple’s consent again thanks to this Macintosh toilet paper dispenser. [Thanks Rob]

Children are the future

Here’s a heart warming way to end; [Bret] is teaching his 5-year-old son to solder. There’s a video that is sure to put a smile on your face. You’ll remember [Bret] (aka [FightCube]) from the adjustable prank box, a few 555 timer contest submissions, and several other hacks. We expect big things from your progeny!

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