Create your own cardboard armor with programmable lights


Crafteeo combines art with the magic of technology to create a fun learning experience for children. 


One look around any Maker Faire would reveal that DIYers love cosplay. With this in mind, one San Diego startup has developed an innovative way to inspire future generations to build things with their hands while exploring the technological world around them. How, you ask? By transforming themselves into heroes with their own armor and then programming its LED lighting.

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“Kids love playing with cardboard boxes. This is well know fact that seem to be universal across different cultures and generations. If there’s any cardboard in the house, kids will inevitably grab it and start crafting something,” entreprenuer and Maker dad How-Lun Chen explains.

The idea behind Crafteeo was first conceived after Chen and his wife decided to do all of their holiday shopping online back in 2011, which of course, left them with mountain of boxes on Christmas morning. Upon opening his gifts, rather than play with his shiny new toys and RC cars, they watched their son exercise his imagination using nothing more than the pieces of cardboard spread across the floor. Then it hit him: What if there was a way to recycle these materials into something cool, like a helmet, shield and sword, all while teaching children to learn electronics?

And so, Crafteeo was launched. Currently live on Kickstarter, each kit comes with some pre-cut cardboard, D-rings, faux leather cords, pieces of plastic, water-based paint in metallic colors, and a series of solder-free, Arduino-compatible hardware. The Pulsar Helmet and Armor are built around an ATmega32U4, powered by three AAA batteries and ships with jumper wires, header pins, a proto board and a photoresistor module.

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“To increase the versatility of the kit, we selected a powerful Arduino-compatible microcontroller that can be adapted to a variety of projects beyond glowing a LED light. Additionally none of the components are permanently connected together. We envision that down the road we will add additional capabilities to the helmet and armor either as upgrade kits or as free online tutorials. More importantly we want your kids to reuse or repurpose the electronics,” Chen adds.

What’s nice about the project is that it can grow with the Makers themselves. Meaning, as the child gains confidence and hones their programming skills, the Pulsar kit includes different lesson modules for each step of the way. For instance, the earliest stage — geared towards ages eight and up — doesn’t require any programming and provides users with an overview of basic electronics, as well as an introduction to microcontrollers and LEDs. Once completed, a second level walks them through the process of changing pre-set variables to customize LED lights. And finally, a young DIYer will ultimately be able to discover how to program from scratch using the Arduino IDE.

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The armor, helmet and shield are comprised of double-layered cardboard which makes them quite durable. The sword, in particular, is stiff and much like those made of soft woods like pine. Digital patterns for both the helmet and shield are emailed in PDF format to those just starting out, along with a set of step-by-step video instructions. And to keep in line with its mystique and to help spark the child’s imagination, Crafteeo has created its own magical storyline around the “World of the Guardians,” the fantasy world’s equivalent of the Coast Guard.

“When kids put this on, their persona completely changes. You see their former self just kind of melt away, and they become this heroic self,” Chen explains.

Interested in a Pulsar helmet and armor for your child? Head over to its Kickstarter page, where Crafteeo is currently seeking $10,000. Delivery of units is expected to get underway in November 2015.

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