I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about holidays, I enjoy the days themselves, it’s the hoopla around them I can do without. My wife on the other hand is all about the hoopla, the more the better, so this post is Anne’s edible Easter creation for 2011.
Our GHC project actually has its roots in a class in the basement of the Hack Factory. Member Mike Hord (that’s me!) teaches semi-regular introduction to electronics courses, and the syllabus is daunting: take a complete neophyte and explain current, voltage, ohms, breadboards, and circuit diagrams well enough for them to build a simple circuit.
One of the bigger problems is making the leap from circuit diagram to breadboarded circuit. Those of us who’ve been working with electronics for a long time forget how what it’s like to not intrinsically understand the ins and outs of schematic representation of a circuit. It’s like reading- chances are, you can’t remember what it was like before you could read every word you saw (taking a trip in a country with a completely foreign alphabet- for instance, predominantly Arabic- can be a revelatory experience in this regard!).
Enter the 10x breadboard- a 2’x5′ scaled-up breadboard with similarly sized components (fully functional, of course!).
With a tool like this on the wall (or table), an instructor can easily and visibly demonstrate EXACTLY which connections the students are expected to make. The benefit of this is clear- it gives the students a jumpstart past the frustrating and awkward “why isn’t this working” phase straight into the “hey, a blinking LED!” phase.
The major benefit of it is that it can be constructed out of very cheap, very crude materials. The most expensive parts are the actual electronic components themselves, which get hidden away inside the scaled-up components- and even those are relatively cheap (the assortment of parts that I provide to my introductory students runs to about $10 if purchased in bulk). The breadboard itself can be constructed of plywood with holes drilled in it, pegboard, foamcore, disused cardboard scrap, or any other relatively flat and sturdy substrate, and the contacts can be aluminum foil, cut-down pop cans, bean and vegetable cans, or thin sheet steel. For wire, solid or stranded copper wire, baling wire, or even bent coat hangers with the paint scraped off the end can be put to the job.
The end result is a teaching aid that can bring electronics instruction ANYWHERE- mountaintop villages, inner city schools, refugee camps. Certainly there are other options for demonstrating these things to students but nothing that has the same tangible quality, or the same visual clarity. This can be used in places where a printer is unavailble, where the idea of a laptop and projector are laughable because there isn’t even electricity.
While it may seem trivial to think of instructing people in extreme poverty in electronics, the goal isn’t to create hobbyists in a Brazilian favela- it’s to plant the itch in those kids that says “I need to find out more about this”. Electronics is one of those things that, to the right person, becomes a mad, consuming passion. Hopefully, this project will provide a means to reach out to kids who would otherwise never get a chance to discover that passion and maybe, just maybe, that passion will lift a few of them out of poverty.
It’s official- Twin Cities Maker has been selected to field an entry into the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge sponsored by Element-14 and curated by Mitch Altman!
In a nutshell-
– Your hackerspace will create a project to help with education, using US$900 (or equivalent) provided by Element14. The project must use a microcontroller and a portable power source.
– You have 6 weeks to complete your project, documenting your project as you go. All spaces that complete their project will receive 10 soldering setups.
– Three hackerspaces’ projects will be chosen as finalists to present at the Grand Finale at the San Francisco Maker Faire. All three of these spaces will receive some really nice electronic test equipment. One person from each space will be flown out to present their project at the San Francisco Maker Faire over the weekend of 21-May & 22-May.
– Introduce your team (video would be a great way to do this), explain your hackerspace’s philosophy, and provide a top level summary of your first week
– Provide a basic outline of the materials you will be using in your build and any key challenges you anticipate
– Provide an update on the status of your build and quick summary of obstacles encountered and how they are being addressed
– Is everything going to plan? Perhaps provide footage of a visit to an educational institution you’re working with
– In your penultimate week provide a review of the challenge to date. Is the pressure on? What have you learned?
– This is the time to really showcase your build, why it works and what features make it stand out.
So, time to kick it in gear. The project that has been selected is the 10x scale breadboard that Jude and I have been talking about. Jude, John B and myself are all excited to be involved with this- anyone else who wants to contribute ideas, time, and anything else is welcome to do so. Because of the short timetable we need to get started post haste and probably have multiple work events per week- with the first meeting being tonight at 8pm.
There’s a post for this in the “Group projects” section of the forum; we’ll talk tonight about how we want to coordinate our efforts (new Google group, new forum category, or something else) for this project.
Twin Cities Maker (TC Maker) is a community group based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Our mission is to make, share, and learn.
We have opened a maker space/hackerspace for members to build projects using various media and technologies, from wood and metal working to electronics to fabrics and beyond. We call our space the Hack Factory.
Open house Wed: 7-9pm
The Hack Factory
3119 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406