Think of this as your old RadioShack kit on steroids. Same idea with modern-day components you could’ve only dreamt about.
Who remembers the 200-in-1 Electronics Learning Labs from RadioShack, which gained mainstream popularity back in ‘70s and ‘80s? The kits were comprised of transistors, diodes, capacitors, oscillators and schematic symbols, just enough components allowing young Makers to connect jumper wires and create their own circuitry. Based on a similar user-friendly premise, a team led by Dan Alich has set out to develop a new generation of the system to teach electronics and programming without soldering or requiring prior experience.
The DuinoKit Jr. — which can best be thought of as a Learning Lab on steroids for the modern-day Maker Movement — includes an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), a USB cable for programming through your computer, learning cards and connection wires. Users are provided all of the parts necessary to construct a wide-range of projects, as well as easy-to-follow diagrams and part specifications. Simply open the case, install the Arduino software on a computer and begin building with electronics and modern microprocessors. Sound familiar? That’s because if you attended one of many Maker Faires or perused Kickstarter last year, Jr. is a younger, much smaller sibling of the highly-popular DuinoKit Essential that became an immediate hit among DIYers.
“After taking our original DuinoKit Essentials project to Maker Faires and talking with many makers, teachers, parents and individuals, several people asked for a smaller DuinoKit that could be used at a more basic level and as a primary tool for teaching during summer camps or simple classroom examples. We also wanted to make a smaller kit for a beginner that did not seem quite so overwhelming,” Alich writes.
Besides learning actual computer code and the basics of digital and analog devices, Makers can devise an assortment of creations ranging from an alarm clock and games, to color fading LEDs and Knight-Rider lights, to digital temperature gauges and data loggers. DuinoKit Jr. will even feature a “show and tell” forum that will provide any additional instructions and help along the way.
The team is in the process of working with a well-known Arduino author and summer camp instructor to develop 15-20 self-guided “Mission Cards” that will facilitate further instruction of basic concepts, as well as encourage users to modify and invent new interpretations of existing projects and code.
While the Jr. still uses the Nano and a custom mounting board for the various components like the Essential, this mini kit features fewer components which include RGB LEDs, a potentiometer, a rotary encoder, a backlit LCD display, some push buttons, a temp/humidity sensor, an ultrasonic/distance sensor and a piezo buzzer. If you find that the Jr. is missing a component required for your next project, you can always purchase it separately and use a mini-breadboard to wire it into the circuit.
“This kit could be the simple solution to the most dreaded complaint parents hear during the summer — ‘I’m bored,’” Alich concludes.
DuinoKit Jr. is currently live on Kickstarter, where it has already garnered over $15,000 with weeks remaining. Its creators have already shared a number of new stretch goals include a reworked PCB layout and case, RF transceiver, joystick module, a micro servo, a 9V battery, as well as an additional ATmega328 board. If all goes to plan, the team hopes to begin poduction this spring with initial shipments slated for April/May 2015.