A Circuit (or two) for Christmas

This STEM toy involves stickers, scrapbooking, and circuit design and screams “stocking stuffer”

2 min read
A Circuit (or two) for Christmas
Photo: Tekla Perry

My favorite part of holiday shopping (for me, that refers to Christmas, insert your favorite winter holiday here) is the hunt for stocking stuffers. The requirements—cute, compact, not too pricey, instantly usable , and ideally (at least when my kids were younger) providing non-screen entertainment during holiday downtime. Even though my kids are getting too old to be interested in some really cool markers or colorful stickers, I still am a sucker for potential stocking stuffers.

So when Chibitronics pitched me on reviewing a STEM toy that would easily fit in a stocking and involves stickers and drawing in a scrapbook, I agreed to take a look.  And I have to say, they nailed my criteria—cute, compact, reasonably priced, and something you can start playing with right out of the package (without looking at video tutorials, although they exist)—no learning curve required.  Chibitronics seems to have the tween girl market pegged, without resorting to even a dab of pink.

imgPhoto: Tekla Perry Chibitronics' starter kit combines scrapbooking with circuit design

Simply, Chibitronics is basic paper crafting (focused on greeting cards and scrapbooks) that involves electronics in the same way more traditional craft kits involve glitter. The starter package includes stickers, batteries, conductive tape, and a sort of combination sketch book, coloring book, and instruction manual in the style of classic craft kits from Klutz Press. The company offers four kinds of stickers—LEDs, sensors (light, sound, and timing), effects (blink, fade, twinkle, and heartbeat) and a programmable microcontroller.  Once a kid gets the hang of things by working through some of the guided projects in the coloring book, she or he can move on to designing greeting cards and decorations and all sorts of other stuff—there’s a project gallery on the company’s web site.  I did the first two projects and, even as an adult, found them surprisingly satisfying (I confess, I really liked smoothing out the circuit traces). My kids have grown out of the target market, but even so, I think I can convince them to give this a try, at least after finals week is over.

Chibitronics’ founder Jie Qi was an artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s hands-on STEM mecca, the Exploratorium, and is currently a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. She’s also an impressively clear writer, her starter-kit instructions are the best I’ve seen in a long time. Chibitronics products are available on CrowdSupply. The starter kit I reviewed lists at $29; a greeting card kit lists at $25.

A closer look inside the Chibitronics starter kit:

img

img

img

The Conversation (0)

Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Vertical
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
Blue

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}