Category Archives: Young Makers

Meet the world’s first DIY origami robot

With Kamigami, engineering is for everyone. Build your own bug bot and then control it with your phone. 

STEM education has been a growing venture in schools across the country, with even the President himself making it a priority to encourage students as young as grade-school to pursue the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. After all, these fields are changing the world rapidly within the areas of innovation, economic growth and employment. But let’s face it; these subjects don’t come easy to everyone, so how do we instill STEM in kids? A team of UC Berkeley graduates found a way to pique children’s interests, while also inspiring the next generation of Makers. Meet Kamigami, an origami-style robot you can build and program by yourself — no engineering degree necessary.


Kamigami is the brainchild of Dash Robotics, a startup founded by Berkeley engineers Nick Kohut and Andrew Gillies. The company firmly believes in STEM education, and that the power of innovating is for everyone. Kamigami was created with this belief in notion, and it has proven to be an educational and affordable way for kids to get an early start in robotics, engineerin and biology.

Now live on Kickstarter, these robots come in a DIY kit comprised of laser-cut body components, a motor, a transmission, a rechargeable battery, a microUSB port, and plug-and-play electronics. The assembly takes less than an hour and instructional videos online shows you how it comes together. Plus, the robot’s behavior can be programmed and controlled all through Kamigami’s accompanying mobile app (for iOS and Android).


Each Kamigami can be configured with a unique set of behaviors and characteristics through a drag-and-drop interface, opening up a range of possible modes that take advantage of the robot’s integrated sensors and functions. So what type of games is it capable of? For starters, sumo wrestling (first to fall of a table loses), relay races (one robot can’t run until it’s tagged by another), tank battles (take turns trying to get into firing position) and IR laser tag, to name just a few.

And unlike other DIY robotic kits before it, biology comes into play in the automation of each Kamigami. In fact, the bots take into account animals and mimics their locomotion through its built-in linkages and motors. The robot’s chassis is made of a patent-pending material (an extremely durable plastic composite) that allows it to fold up through an origami-like process. This material doesn’t fatigue or wear, which makes for a more durable robot.


The mechanics of the robot itself are custom designed, and packed with processing power and sensors. The main microprocessor features a Cortex-M0 core and a Bluetooth Smart radio. Plus, the cockroach-ish unit is packed with an array of sensors including ambient light, infrared detectors and emitter, a gyroscope and an accelerometer. The electronics also entail motor drivers, charging circuitry and an accessory header for expandability. The infrared emitter and detectors enable each bot to send and receive signals from its mobile app, as well as communicate with other Kamigamis. The gadget runs on a rechargeable battery, with about 30-45 minutes of play time.

Sound like a bug bot you’d love to have? Crawl over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Dash Robotics is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in March 2016.

The Gizmos and Gadgets Kit is the ultimate Maker’s toolbox

littleBits has launched a new kit that enables young Makers to build a wide range of new DIY projects.

Over the last four years, littleBits has transcended from just a small New York-based startup into one of the most monumental names empowering the Maker Movement. During this time, the team has launched over 70 tiny, modular Bits and 13 exciting kits, many of which powered by Atmel MCUs.


After receiving some feedback from customers, littleBits realized that its existing kits may not have been intuitive enough for beginners, nor did it have enough components to keep young Makers interested with ‘replayability.’ Cognizant of that, they have unveiled a brand-spankin’ new Gizmos & Gadgets Kit that promises to deliver an enhanced experience that’ll enable users to bring their ideas to life in ways like never before.

This complete invention toolbox is packed with everything you could possibly need to build one of 12 interactive devices with easy, step-by-step instructions, as well as thousands of others available online and through the accompanying littleBits app. In total, the kit comes with 15 electronic building blocks including a light sensor, slide dimmers, a power module, a bargraph, electric motors, wheels, a wireless receiver and transmitter, and all the cables necessary to start making remote-controlled cars, bubble blowing machines, arcade games, and even mischief systems for spooking friends and family.


“The pride of inventing something is addictive, and it stays with you for life,” CEO and founder Ayah Bdeir explains. “The littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit provides kids, and creative people of all ages, the roadmap to invent amazing devices with an easy­to­follow guide. But the beauty of the kit is that once the training wheels come off and people feel comfortable with the tools, people can invent virtually anything they imagine.”

Buzz is the cutest DIY electronics kit you’ll ever see

This adorable educational kit builds STEM skills as it grows from a simple project to a programmable friend.

If you’re looking to get your child or student interested in the STEM fields, the Soldering Sunday crew has got the answer. Not only is it probably the most adorable DIY kit we’ve ever seen, but Pixel Pals are an extremely easy and fun way to learn about electronics. Following in the footsteps of his friend Chip, Buzz is the latest addition to the ‘Planet M’ bunch.


“Many electronic kits do not offer anything more than a battery and a LED. Once completed, those kits end up in a drawer, never to be used again,” the team writes. “At the other end of the spectrum, there are electronic kits that are really interesting but have so many parts and instructions that they are intimidating. That is why we designed Buzz and the Pixel Pals to be simple to assemble, easy to use, and to be compatible with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and dozens of other platforms.”

What’s really nice about Buzz is that he grows with the user. Like the rest of the Pixel Pals, the platform is designed in such a way that it enables a young Maker to develop their skill sets, despite their experience level, transitioning from simply an instructional kit to a soldering tutor to a friend that you can code.


Each Pixel Pal comes with an open source, ATtiny85 based board that Makers can build and program themselves. It is equipped with a USB interface and uses the familiar Arduino IDE. Simply plug Buzz into the aptly named Brain Board, connect it to your PC, and program away. On top of all that, it includes touch and light sensors to add an extra layer of interactivity to your Pixel Pal. When not connected to USB, it can still work off a single coin-cell battery.

It is also worth mentioning that the Brain Board has a header, meaning Buzz can be plugged directly into a Raspberry Pi or Arduino. The ATtiny85 is pre-loaded with the Micronucleus Bootloader, allowing the Brain Board to be programmed just as you would any other Arduino, whether that’s controlling his LED eyes or adding sound to your cute character.


“The Arduino and Raspberry Pi are excellent next step to work on larger projects and to dive deeper into the world of circuits and hardware,” its creators add. “Just as with all the Pixel Pals, Buzz grows with you in your skill and interest level and plugs into Arduino and with the Pixel Pi Adapter, plugs into Raspberry Pi as well.”

Each Pixel Pal character kit ships with four sets of LEDs — blue, red, green and yellow — along with a battery board and display stand. Intrigued? Head over to Buzz’s Kickstarter page, where Soldering Sunday is seeking $5,000. Delivery is expected to begin in November 2015.

Petduino is an Arduino-powered virtual pet

Arduino + Tamagotchi = Petduino 

Who could ever forget everyone’s beloved virtual pet of the ‘90s, the Tamagotchi? Inspired by his own childhood experience with the toy, Maker Matt Brailsford decided to put a new spin on the old concept by developing a digital companion that you could actually build and configure yourself.


At the heart of the aptly named Petduino lies an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), which can be programmed using the standard Arduino IDE and the custom Petduino Arduino library. The device itself consists of an 8×8 LED matrix for its face and notifications, a pair of tactile buttons mounted for interaction, a light and temperature sensor for detecting its surroundings, a red LED for status messages, a buzzer for a voice, as well as an assortment of ears for choosing which type of “animal” you want your Petduino to be.


According to Brailsford, Petduino was conceived as a fun way to teach young Makers various skills like soldering, coding, animation, music and sensors. Each kit will ship as a collection of simple through-hole electrical components, circuit boards and laser-cut parts that can be easily assembled with nothing more than a basic understanding of soldering. So whether you’re a kid looking to begin tinkering or an adult wanting to spark some Tamagotchi nostalgia, Petduino is perfect for everyone! Head over to its official page to learn more.

The O Watch is an Arduino-based smartwatch for kids

Eight-year-old Maker Omkar Govil-Nair has created a smartwatch kit for kids to learn coding and 3D printing.

Do you recall what you were doing back in the summer of fourth grade? Chances are you weren’t creating a programmable, Arduino-based smartwatch like eight-year-old Maker Omkar Govil-Nair, let alone starting your own business.


The O Watch is built around an Arduino Zero (Atmel | SMART SAM D21) module and packs quite the punch when it comes to portable computing. Not only can it tell time, the wearable device can run a wide range of games and applications. For instance, the smartwatch can calculate the value of Pi, play a recognizable version of “Flappy Bird,” “Pac-Man” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” and collect measurements in science experiments, among many other things.

Now live on Kickstarter, the O Watch will come in two different models: a base kit and a smartwatch kit. The first is comprised of a SAMD21G18A based programmer board along with a mini color OLED screen, a LiPo battery, a 3D-printed case, and a paracord available in four colors (orange, yellow, pink and blue). Meanwhile, the latter features all of that plus a sensor board equipped with a Honeywell three-axis compass, a Silicon Labs temperature and humidity sensor, and a Bosch barometric pressure sensor.


To bring his idea to life, Govil-Nair has partnered with TinyCircuits for the design and manufacture of the watch’s electronic parts. Helping to reduce the gadget’s inner workings and thickness, TinyCircuits developed a new Arduino module with a color OLED screen, microUSB programmer and charger, all rolled into one board. The O Watch is driven by the highly-popular TinyDuino platform, while its integrated microUSB port is used for both charging and uploading programs.

“Since it’s a fully Arduino-compatible product in a tiny package, you can do a lot more – pretty much anything that is possible using a regular Arduino board and a color screen,” he explains.


What’s truly exciting about this project is that its programmability opens the door for young Makers to explore their imagination, enabling Arduino lovers of all ages to devise games and apps of their own that can be worn around the wrist.

Interestingly enough, Govil-Nair was inspired “to make his own product” after meeting our good friend and fellow whiz-kid Quin Etnyre at Maker Faire two years ago. And it looks like he’s well on his way to following in the footsteps of Etnyre with a successful crowdfunding campaign of his own. The O Watch is currently seeking $15,000 on Kickstarter and expected to begin shipping in February 2016.

We can’t wait to see the wearable on display at the World Maker Faire in New York next month. Until then, ‘watch’ it in action below!

Building an estimated time of arrival device with littleBits

The Honest ETA device lets your housemate know when you’re likely to arrive home.

You’ve all been there: You tell your spouse that you’re on your way home, when in actuality you’ve yet to leave the office. As part of a recent collaboration between littleBits and Popular Science, one new project is looking to put an end to missed dinner dates, late arrivals and the altogether annoying habit of never being home when you said you’d be! In other words, no more “Honey, where are you?” messages.


The aptly named Honest ETA Device was created to let a housemate — whether that’s a parent, a significant other or a college roomie — know when you are on the way home, and more importantly, likely to arrive. The cloud-connected progress meter tracks your whereabouts by reading your smartphone’s location and then displays it on a bargraph module inside the house.

Honest ETA employs a GPS-enabled mobile device, coupled with some IFTTT recipes, the cloudBit and a bargraph to show your proximity. IFTTT recipes are set up using a location channel, tasked with triggering when you enter or exit a pre-set radius.

Given that there are five LEDs on the bargraph, the littleBits team programed five radii, each with recipes related to entry and exit. This allows you to keep tabs on someone as they come and go. Upon leaving the office (or the gym, class, or wherever else you may be), your smartphone will notify the cloudBit as you start to make your way home by illuminating the LEDs on the bargraph. The LEDs will continue to light up the closer that you get.


The project is also equipped with an MP3 player (ATmega168) and speaker, so that you can play a song of your choice when you’re only minutes away. If you happen to make it home first, however, an IFTTT SMS recipe will enable you send a text to your housemate with the press of a button, letting them know that you have indeed made it back safely.

On top of that, littleBits shares a nifty little idea to round out the design. Why not turn the circuit into an interactive wall piece that both displays your progress and holds your wallet? Using just a small hinged platform that sits directly on top of the button, the act of placing your wallet inside the case will automatically press the button, thereby sending a text message. Its creators note that you can add some acrylic edge lighting to the bargraph for nice visual effect, too.


Sound like a project you can benefit from? Hurry over to littleBits’ official page to get started. There, you will find a detailed step-by-step breakdown to help you bring your own ETA device to life, or simply watch the video tutorial below!

Student makes a 3D-printed, voice-controlled robotic arm

A 17-year-old Maker has created a voice-controlled robotic arm with the help of 3D printing and Arduino.

You know, the Maker Movement just keeps on amazing us. It goes to show that, with nothing more than some low-cost hardware, a 3D printer and a little ingenuity, an idea can go on to have a life-changing, lasting effect on the world. Take 17-year-old Nilay Mehta, for instance.


The Irvine, California-based high school student has developed an inexpensive, 3D-printed robotic arm programmed to mimic the movements of a human hand, such as pinching, grabbing or holding a utensil. Using voice commands through a small, two prong microphone attached to the limb, the hand carries out specific actions at the request of its wearer.

“You can say ‘spoon’ and the hand will make a shape that will be able to hold a spoon,” Mehta explains.

In terms of hardware, the award-winning project is comprised of an Arduino, a set of servo motors, sEMG electrodes, a Bluetooth module and an EasyVR shield.


“With the software side of the project, I split up the different components for EMG (for muscle control) and voice control. In order to maximize my efficiency, I split up the project into several smaller projects and combined each segment one by one. I first worked with the EMG side and determined that a conditional statement between three variables gave the most accurate results.” the Maker writes.

This project is only one of countless examples that demonstrate the pivotal role 3D printing continues to play in making prosthetics accessible to those in need — all at a fraction of the cost of its high-end counterparts. Compared to the $3,000 to $30,000 families used to have shell out for an artificial limb, resources originating from the Maker Movement have allowed Mehta to bring his idea to life for under $260.

“For kids who are growing, they have to change their prosthetics every six to eight months,” Mehta adds. By using inexpensive 3D-printed components, the robotic arm can be resized without having to dig deep into wallets. Looking ahead, the student hopes to revamp its design so that it would be more functional.

[h/t Daily Dot]

Young Maker creates a portable, 3D-printed game console

One 14-year-old Maker has built a portable, multi-purpose gaming console based on Raspberry Pi.

Evident by the recent success of Arduboy, not to mention a number of other projects, do-it-yourself gaming has surely risen in popularity over the years. Take for instance, 14-year-old Maker Rasmus Hauschild, who has developed a portable, multi-purpose Raspberry Pi console.


The Maker created a vast majority of the homebrew system’s components, along with its four action buttons, in Autodesk 123D Design, and then 3D printed them out on an Ultimaker 2. In total, the print job required just shy of 210 hours and called for roughly 1,000 feet of filament.

The console itself is comprised of a 3.5” TFT screen with a resolution of 480 x 320, a 6000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery, two MP3 speakers taken out of a broken Nintendo DS Lite, an analog volume slider from a pair of old headphones, as well as a built-in controller with tactile switches and an analog thumb stick.


Users can expect anywhere from four to five hours of play time on a single charge, which is plenty for even the longest of car rides. When depleted, an Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C juices the battery up in about five to six hours. Additionally, since he used a cheap composite backup camera screen, the Maker does note that the console calls for 12V to operate out of the box, or can be configured to work with 5V.

In terms of hardware, the system is based on a Raspberry Pi running Retropie OS. This allows it to emulate games dating back to 1977 through 2003. It has both Raspbian and Kodi installed, too.


For Rasmus, the controller proved to be the most challenging part of the project, namely the thumb stick. This led him to use a Teensy 2.0 (ATmega32U4) to convert the controls from the gamepad into digital format since the Raspberry Pi seemed to have a difficult time understanding analog right away.

“If I had been a master programmer I could probably have gotten away with buying an ADC (analog to digital converter) and then writing a driver for it myself. But that did not work for me. So I did some research on the Internet, and found that the Arduino could convert analog signals to digital, but since the Arduino was way too big to ever fit in my design I decided to go with an Arduino ‘clone’ called the Teensy, because of the much smaller footprint,” Rasmus writes.


Aside from serving as a Game Boy alternative, the console can also be used as a media device, since Kodi and Raspbian are already loaded. Admittedly, Rasmus says that the screen is a bit too small for browsing the web, but when it comes to watching movies, it works just fine. Alternatively, it can be connected to a TV via HDMI.

Want to make one of your own? Check out his project on Thingiverse here.

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.


“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.


“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.


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.

Young Maker builds a baseball training device for pitchers

Drawing strike zones out of chalk on walls is so 2014. This 13-year-old has created a high-tech solution.

One Virginia middle school student has invented a smart baseball training device for pitchers. During a Maker Camp last summer, 13-year-old Nick Anglin discovered that there was a problem for Little League pitchers learning how to pitch accurately in a strike zone. Whereas many players back in the day would simply draw a rectangular box out of chalk on a brick or concrete wall and then proceed to throw the ball at the makeshift target, this young Maker decided to take a much more high-tech route with the help of lasers and Arduino.


When asked at camp to pick a hobby and incorporate technology, it was a no-brainer for Angilino, who as a pitcher himself was always looking for a new way to hit the 28-square-inch strike zone in more game-like situations. To accomplish this, the Maker built a four by five-foot wooden frame equipped with sensors and several lasers controlled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) — 11 lasers horizontally, seven vertically.

It works just like most other baseball backdrops, except that instead of being caught by a net, a red light illuminates as it makes its way through the grid of lasers denoting a strike. When it barely breaks any of the lasers, a green light flashes representing a ball. And should the pitcher miss the frame entirely, well, safe to say that’s not a strike.


In total, the project only cost Anglin about $67. Looking ahead, he hopes to enhance its design and begin mass producing the device.