Tag Archives: Young Makers

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!

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.

BS Toy is a kid-friendly 3D printer

Bonsai Lab shows off its latest 3D printer for the young Maker crowd.

Clearly, 3D printing is opening up the doors to creativity like never before seen. And, with the rise of young Makers looking to bring their ideas to life, it may seem surprising that children aren’t all over 3D printers yet. However, given the tremendous heat of traditional filaments, the possible dangers associated with extreme temperatures could be a bit hazardous. A problem Bonsai Labs hopes to solve.


These Tokyo-based company, who is known for their ATmega2560 powered BS01 line, has set out to make 3D printers well-suited for kids with its latest device. What’s more, Bonsai Labs has introduced a new filament that only heats at 176° F (80° C), which is less than half the average melting temperature of other filaments on the market today. In fact, PLA typically requires an extrusion temperature of around 356°F (180°C), while ABS calls for an even higher temperature. Though 176° F isn’t that cool, it certainly reduces the likelihood of severe burns.

The machine, aptly dubbed BS Toy, was recently unveiled at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. Officially, Bonsai Labs labels its pint-sized printer for educational or home use, however, given its compact form factor, projected price and kid-friendly features, it is surely targeted at the younger crowd — with parental supervision, of course. Despite its small frame, the printer can form an object as large as 130mm x 125mm x 100mm, which is perfect for young Makers.


The standard diameter of its nozzle is 0.4mm, though BS Toy offers nozzles with four different diameters ranging from 0.2 to 0.5mm. The recommended deposition pitch is 0.1mm.

  • Build volume: 200mm x 200mm x 200mm
  • Printer weight: 2kg (4.4 lbs.)
  • Layer thickness: 0.05 mm – 0.3 mm
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm (0.2 – 0.5mm optional)
  • Filament type: LT80 flexible filament

Bonsai Lab tells Gizmag that they hope to get the BS Toy to market later this year with a price in the wheelhouse of $500 to $600. Whether a you’re a Maker seeking to get into 3D printing or a parent looking for a suitable machine for their child, you can learn more on the company’s page here.

Team of young Makers create exoskeleton to help kids with cerebral palsy

While most high school students spend their summer months washing dishes, flipping burgers or lying poolside, a group of young Makers from Granada Hills Charter High School used their time and knowledge to design a low-cost exoskeleton that would help children with cerebral palsy learn to walk.


The project is a result of a partnership between the Los Angeles-based GHCHS Robotics Club and Not Impossible Labs, who has become well-known for using technological innovations to improve individual livelihoods as well as humanity as a whole.

Many exoskeleton designs built to aid those inflicted with cerebral palsy can set you back anywhere between $300,000 – $500,000, but the students worked to create a system that would cost a fraction of that sum.


Using 3D-printed parts, four motors, a treadmill and a harness, the GHCHS team led by Joel Simonoff was able to devise a fully-functional prototype.

“We are incredibly excited because we have started to have the motors run simulated patterns. We are very excited to see that, even at full speed, the motor stops on a dime, and they are very accurate down to a few tenths of a degree,” Simonoff said.


With their first iteration completed, the team was privileged to receive working feedback from Dylan Edwards, PhD, PT and David Putrino, PhD, PT of the renowned Burke Rehabilitation Center.

This expert input will surely help guide the young Makers’ design down the proper path. While the team has seen some major successes like the unit’s instant stopping ability, they have recently reached out to the programming community at large to figure out how to have the hips and knees move in unison. In true Maker form, Simonoff and his team will steadily enhance their project, as they look forward to the day they will be able provide a cheaper therapy option for those with cerebral palsy.


In the words of Not Impossible Labs, this entire endeavor “is all about kids helping kids.” During a time that many of their peers may have wasted away, these kids were working diligently to improve the lives of others.

As Makers continue to explore the use of 3D printing to enhance the lives of those with disabilities, it’s exciting to see what medical marvels the next generation of Makers will develop using Atmel powered machines.


Making space available to everyone

I’m Brian and one of the Founders of Infinity Aerospace. In 2012, our company developed and marketed an Arduino powered platform for easily conducting custom experiments autonomously on board the International Space Station. We called it Ardulab and it was well received in the space industry. In essence, the Ardulab is a small microcontroller with an Atmel chip as the brain that’s enclosed by a space ready aluminum chassis. The Ardulab is an Atmel powered machine that’s won the faith of organizations like NASA and Stanford because of its advanced capabilities in a small form factor and its reliability.

Brian Rieger

Brian Rieger, Co-Founder of Ardulab (Source: Infinity Aerospace)

The microcontroller is heavily modified from a basic Arduino to be compatible with the Space Station computers, and the chassis adheres to a compliant form factor (10cm cube). The microcontroller only uses about 10% of the internal volume of the chassis, leaving the rest for an experiment to be installed.


Powering your Ardulab up for the first time, then get to know all the features and functions. (Source: Ardulab.com)

Fast forward to present day; Ardulab users include prominent space organizations like NASA-JPL, NanoRacks, and Stanford University. In addition, the overseer organization of the International Space Stations’ National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. We couldn’t be more proud that the Ardulab product has catalyzed so many positive activities within the space community.


The Ardulab Chassis. (Source: Ardulab.com)

Up until today, the Ardulab had a minimum purchase price of $2,000 and was sold directly from us. This allowed us to recuperate the cost of design and development of the Ardulab as well as the incremental manufacturing cost of each unit. Unfortunately, this limited who could use the Ardulab and gain access to its features – features that make it very easy to conduct experiments autonomously on the Space Station. We realized this was a departure from the fundamental philosophy behind Ardulab; to give as many people as possible the tools and information they need to be successful in space.

The overseer organization of International Space Stations' National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. (Source: Wikipedia)

The overseer organization of International Space Stations’ National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. (Source: Wikipedia)

We are so excited to share that the Ardulab is now completely open-source. To support this, we’ve launched a brand new website (www.ardulab.com) where anyone can learn about Ardulab, download the plans with a click of a button, and follow the provided guidance that will take anyone from idea to space experiment. A middle school class in Houston Texas used the Ardulab to create a space ready experiment in 6 months, I can only imagine what the space community at large will create with full access to the Ardulab technology.

Interested? You can explore Ardulab in more depth on its official website.