Kids design and build their eco-friendly model "House of the Future" using CAD software, laser cutters and renewable energy
We’re ecoCAD Design Group and for our project we want kids to have the opportunity to learn how to design and build their own eco-friendly model “House of the Future” starting with our prefab kits and CAD software, and then go on to incorporate renewable energy devices like solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars into their home design.
And most importantly, we want kids to take our designs and make something of their own from what we provide.
Plus, we want the project to help us get into our own production facility so we can produce our educational products "en mass" for kids who [we feel] need be become more creative in what they do. Your funding of at least 100 kits will do it.
Here's our story.
In the not too distant past kids used to think up things to build with their own hands, sometimes out of raw materials like balsa wood for model airplanes. But this is nearly a lost art. We want to help restore the thrill and excitement (and sometimes, frustration) of kids building something on their own – and of their own - but this time with high tech tools like CAD software, laser cutters, solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars; things that are relevant to our times.
There is nothing like designing and building something that’s “YOURS”; not just buying something made by someone else, no matter how “cool” or high tech it is.
While we encourage kids to use the Internet and social media (look where we are now), we also want to get them away from their cell phones, iPods and Facebook, at least for a while, and have them get creative and design and build something inspiring with their own mind and hands - something that they can call their own – and something that can actually teach them marketable skills for their life after school.
Building a “House of the Future” is a big project and we know that it’s tough to start from scratch on something like this, especially since it requires knowledge of CAD software and a laser cutter to fabricate the materials, which is why we’re offering our prefab kits to start with. Kids can learn a lot from our kits before they go on to create their own designs with the CAD software we supply.
We want this project to become the seed that we hope will grow into making “Makers” out of our kids once again, and can help direct them towards a good job or future technical career with the materials and processes they’ll be exposed to. And with your support we can make it happen.
Getting It Into The Right Hands
We want to get at least 100 of our ecoSTEM House Collection kits into the hands of schools and homeschoolers so that kids can get started designing and building their own model “House of the Future”. We’d like more than 100, but that’s a good start for what we have in mind.
While we can and do offer our kits directly to you, our backers, for the most part we’re proposing that the kits be distributed to kids mainly through schools as they will have the instructors and necessary equipment like CAD computer stations and laser cutters to best accomplish our project. That said, we don’t want to leave out homeschoolers and independent learners, so there’s really no hard and fast rule as to where the kits finally end up.
Our company, ecoCAD Design Group, has been producing these kits for about a year and a half now and we’ve sold them to K-12, colleges and trade schools across the country. These are not prototypes; our kits are in production - limited production - but in production none the less.
Besides being fun to build, we know that our kits provide the elements for teaching and learning traditional academic skills like science, math and art. More about this later.
We’re not just talking about kits that make plastic trinkets from a laser cutter or 3D printer that are fun to build but have little practical use otherwise.
Instead, we want kids to have a definite focus on what this project is all about; that is, designing and building their “House of the Future” – something that takes skill and creativity and something that they can look forward to actually doing once they’re of age. And because they will have participated in this project, they’ll have the incentive and skills to actually do it when they’re older.
Let's examine our kits now.
Our ecoSTEM House Collection consists of three “fully customizable” table-top kit models of a wind turbine, a solar powered house and an electric car whose structural parts are pre-cut from extruded plastic sheets.
Our ecoSTEM House kit is built from acrylic plastic and features two types of solar panels (two flexible panels on the roof and two standard crystalline panels on the car port) along with rechargeable batteries for energy storage. Inside the house under the ceiling are two electric fans for cooling and two groups of four white LEDs in the ceiling for light. There’s also a car port for our SuperCAP Electric Car.
Here are some photos of the house kit assembly process.
And here's an abrogated video of the assembly process.
Beginning with pre-cut acrylic plastic parts, kids learn basic mechanical assembling skills starting with building the house. Then they learn how to mount and wire the roof’s solar panels, install the LEDs for lighting and the cooling fans for air circulation then hook everything up to the Control Panel.
The Control Panel
These power sources and loads can be switched ON and OFF to see how power and loads affect the overall performance. The Control Panel monitors all the voltage, current and power generated and consumed and then sends this data to a computer via a USB cable for graphic display and analysis.
See the above video for an example of the energy monitoring software.
And we’ve left it “open ended” so if someone wants to add more electronics to the house for sensing and controlling temperature, humidity, light, etc. (think Arduino), they can.
The Wind Turbine
Our ecoWind Turbine kit features six exposed wire coils and four powerful neodymium magnets that, when spinning, generate single-phase sinusoidal AC power. The ecoWind Turbine is a great tool to teach magnetic induction, the effects of the number of blades and blade pitch on RPM and electrical power output and what it takes to light an LED with the generated power.
When connected the Control Panel converts the pure AC output to half-wave rectified DC for power to the loads and for measurement on the computer. As it spins up to speed the wind turbine will fully illuminate all the house LEDs. Best of all kids can see what’s making the electricity with the spinning magnets and coils, and we have experiments to demonstrate this.
The Electric Car
Then there’s our SuperCAP Electric Car kit that can be charged from any of the power sources in seconds, since it uses a super capacitor instead of a battery. It also features an adjustable gear box where kids can experiment with changing gear ratios to see how it affects performance like climbing an incline. And it’s a kick to put together and race!
For all of the above we offer our experiments that demonstrate the electrical side of solar and wind technologies, LED and fan power consumption and gear ratios for the car plus a lot more. You can find the experiments along with detailed assembly instructions including instructional videos on our website.
CAD Is Included
Along with the kit hardware we provide the CAD plans for everything in DraftSight, a free program from Dassault Systemes makers of SolidWorks, so that kids and their teachers can redesign and customize any of the kit parts just by making adjustments to our plans. Then they can then go on to fabricate their designs using a laser cutter.
A lot of schools already have laser cutters along with CAD software, but we’ve found that there is nothing really useful or inspiring to build with these expensive tools – just some trinkets – so kids and their teachers’ loose interest fast. As a result most of these machines lay dormant gathering dust. Our kits and CAD software provide useful projects for the CAD stations and laser cutters to develop and learn things with it.
What Do The Kits Cost?
Each kit costs $1,000 so our goal is to raise at least $100,000 for 100 kits.
Why so much for the kits?
Well, that’s what it costs us to purchase the hundreds of parts that go into them, buy and laser cut the plastic, assemble and test the electronics for the house and car, then kit and ship everything. Along with this are the development costs for the CAD and energy monitoring software that we need to continually pay down.
And then there are advertising, marketing and trade show expenses, things that new companies don’t think about at first or plan for in their pricing. When they do their prices creep up when they figure in all the costs involved getting from the prototype to production stage. Then, of course, there are the Kickstarter and Amazon fees that, while justified, just add to the costs. It all adds up.
However this amount is well under our MSRP of $1,495, since we don’t have to pay our loyal dealers their (well deserved) commissions. Your funding allows us to deliver our kits directly to you without these particular markups.
Our ecoSTEM House Collection is a production ready product, so your funding will not go for prototyping or any product development – only for order fulfillment (manufacturing, laser cutting, testing and kitting all the parts plus shipping).
Everything is done and ready to go including the shipping labels, assembly manuals, experiments and even the box it comes in, so we won’t leave you wondering where your funding went after the project is over (and, yes, all three kits fit into this one box).
Who We Are
ecoCAD Design Group, LLC is a startup and we’ve been in business for about a year and half now. In that time we’ve shipped these kits to schools all over the USA without any issues – only praise - so we know they are well accepted and are reliable and durable.
Our ecoSTEM House Collection kits are designed and made right here in Southern California. At the moment we support three contract manufacturing facilities in Oxnard and Simi Valley for our circuit board assembly and plastic fabrication and order fulfillment, so your support of this project will go towards helping keep these talented workers in business.
Getting Into A Place Of Our Own
When it’s funded this project will also help launch our own manufacturing facility where we can scale up our production to meet what we believe will be high demand for our kits (and, yes, we’ll still keep our existing contractors busy, too).
Based on our current contract manufacturing experience, we know that a production run of 100 kits (or more) will be the "tipping point" for us to be able to get into a place of our own where we can better control our manufacturing and costs, so that we can make our kits faster and more efficiently as well as keep improving them as we grow.
Why Don't Schools Just Buy Your Kits?
They do. But as you know schools are always behind the 8 Ball when it comes to money, so only a select few schools have purchased them so far. And with budget cuts there isn't anything left over for what we offer in most cases.
This project will get our kits into schools that you recommend, and we're certain that these schools will put the kits to good use - and remember you for getting it to them.
Why Would A School Want A Kit?
Because our kits actually helps teach things like physics, math, science and art to their students. You can’t design your “House of the Future” without a good foundation in these subjects, especially art and graphic design, which are just as important as the traditional academic subjects.
So it fits right into a school’s standard curriculum and provides kids with a creative outlet and makes these academic subjects relevant to them. Getting kids to learn math and science using kits like ours gives them a [valid and compelling] reason to want to learn these tough subjects.
And based on feedback from our past sales, kids can’t wait to get to work with the kits; it’s something they look forward to all day in class. Designing and building these kits can be an in class or after school project. See the paragraph about STEM below to help fill in the blanks.
But School Is Nearly Out For The Year?
No matter. Summer is sometimes the best season for teachers and students to explore new and interesting projects. And with homeschoolers anytime is best. Plus, there are schools that go year around, so there is always someone there to benefit from the kits. And by the time the project is funded and we ship the kits, it will nearly be Fall.
Can I Buy One For Myself?
Of course, and we encourage it; but we assume you’ll pass it on to someone who can benefit most from it. Getting your child, grandchild, niece or nephew involved with building something and learning about CAD and renewable energy devices can only help them better understand these technologies and point them towards future technical careers.
Can I Recommend A School?
We want you to. You probably know of a neighborhood school that could use the kits, and maybe your son or daughter go there. We’ll take your school recommendation very seriously, but we reserve the right to choose the school unless you fund enough to buy an entire ecoSTEM House Collection yourself; then it’s your choice as to who and where it goes.
When the project is successful your funding will get our ecoSTEM House Collection kits into at least 100 schools, homeschoolers and independent learners all over the world. We hope this small number of 100 kits will help spark a revolution in education to get our kids and their teachers back to “making things” rather than just passive learning.
These schools will tell other schools about the kits, and we will feature the students and teachers that use and customize the kits on our website to promote their efforts. And with your permission, we'll also post your name as a contributor.
Can I Team Up With Other Backers?
Yes. We will bundle contributions from multiple backers together and supply the kits to one of the schools you recommend. And when bundling is necessary to fund a kit, we reserve the right to choose the school to receive the kits, but we’ll take your school suggestions very seriously.
And if we get multiple backers for a particular school, we'll do our best to see that that school gets funded for a kit.
Again, if you fund the entire $1,000 you can choose where it goes. There is free shipping within the USA and it costs $120 more for international orders. If you want to have it shipped outside the USA make sure to fund this amount and, also, let us know exactly where to ship it.
What Will I Or The School Get?
We will supply you or the school of your choice with our ecoSTEM House Collection kits consisting of a table-top model…
- ecoSTEM House
- ecoWind Turbine
- SuperCAP Electric Car
…along with our experiments and real time energy monitoring software plus CAD files in DraftSight. And you’ll get one of the rewards listed on the left.
When Will I Or The School Get It?
Thirty to sixty days after the Kickstarter project ends as it takes time to order the parts, cut the plastic, build the circuit boards and kit everything in order to start shipping, so this is a realistic schedule based on our past manufacturing efforts.
Plus, Amazon will hold your funds for 14 days after project ends and your payments are collected, and it takes up to 5 business days for your funds to transfer to our bank account. We’d like to see it happen faster, but such are the realities of financing a project this way.
We Want Feedback
An important part of our project is to receive feedback from those who finally get to use the kits along with our CAD software. We want to know what was interesting, what wasn’t, what worked and what didn’t and what you’d like to see different in future kits.
After all, we’re talking about the “House of the Future” so this is something that can’t really be quantified and something that is continually evolving – and we want to evolve with it, so let us know what we can do to do better (which leads to the next topic).
The Design Cycle – Build, Experiment, Improve
We want kids to feel the thrill and satisfaction of designing and building something for themselves, even if it comes as a prefab kit to start with. It still takes quite an effort to put our kits together and there in lies the real satisfaction in doing it; nothing worthwhile happens without effort.
We refer to our kits as “reference designs”, which is an engineering term meaning something that works but is not optimized for cost, size, aesthetics, design and a whole host of other factors. Starting with our kits and our CAD plans that come with them, kids can customize our designs to make it THEIRS!
So the cycle continues…build, experiment, improve…over and over again…Apple does it all the time to improve its products and we want to instill this proven rigor and passion for engineering in our youth. It’s a small step in doing so, but we know it works!
What Is STEM?
STEM is part of our product’s name and it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; it’s the hot button acronym in education these days. We put the name STEM in our ecoSTEM House Collection since we support the STEM concept of integrating these [normally separate] disciplines into a cohesive whole.
Prior to schools adopting the STEM initiative these subjects were taught independently; now STEM pulls in all the necessary elements from each of these subjects to teach what ever is being taught more coherently. Here are just a few examples of what kids can be exposed to with our kits:
- Science - Physics, electricity, mechanics, environmental studies
- Technology - CAD, solar panel and wind turbine technology, electricity, graphic design
- Engineering - Architectural, Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, Environmental, Renewable Energy
- Math - Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, Data Collection and Analysis
That’s About It
We hope that the above thoroughly explains our project goals and inspires your support. If you have questions or comments we’d like to hear from you.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $100,000 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on July 4, 2012.
May 25, 2012 - Jul 4, 2012 (40 days)
Pledge $25 or more
Your reward is our “House of the Future” key ring - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo, and you are automatically teamed up with other backers to fund an ecoSTEM House Collection. We will mix and match your contribution with other backers to come up with the necessary $1000 needed to fund a Collection. Plus you can recommend a school of your choice for the kit to go to; however, we reserve the right to make a final decision on where it goes. And with your permission we’ll post your name and the names of the group you’re assigned to on our website along with the school name and address.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $50 or more
Your reward is our “House of the Future” acrylic Paper Weight - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo, and you are automatically teamed up with other backers to fund an ecoSTEM House Collection. We will mix and match your contribution with other backers to come up with the necessary $1000 needed to fund a Collection. Plus you can recommend a school of your choice for the kit to go to; however, we reserve the right to make a final decision on where it goes. And with your permission we’ll post your name and the names of the group you’re assigned to on our website along with the school name and address.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $100 or more
Your reward is our 6 inch high “House of the Future” acrylic Trophy - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo, and you are automatically teamed up with other backers to fund an ecoSTEM House Collection. We will mix and match your contribution with other backers to come up with the necessary $1000 needed to fund a Collection. Plus you can recommend a school of your choice for the kit to go to; however, we reserve the right to make a final decision on where it goes. And with your permission we’ll post your name and the names of the group you’re assigned to on our website along with the school name and address.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $250 or more
Your reward is our 8 inch high “House of the Future” acrylic Trophy - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo, and you are automatically teamed up with other backers to fund an ecoSTEM House Collection. We will mix and match your contribution with other backers to come up with the necessary $1000 needed to fund a Collection. Plus you can recommend a school of your choice for the kit to go to; however, we reserve the right to make a final decision on where it goes. And with your permission we’ll post your name and the names of the group you’re assigned to on our website along with the school name and address.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $500 or more
Your reward is our 10 inch high “House of the Future” acrylic Trophy - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo, and you are automatically teamed up with other backers to fund an ecoSTEM House Collection. We will mix and match your contribution with other backers to come up with the necessary $1000 needed to fund a Collection. Plus you can recommend a school of your choice for the kit to go to; however, we reserve the right to make a final decision on where it goes. And with your permission we’ll post your name and the names of the group you’re assigned to on our website along with the school name and address.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $1,000 or more
Your reward is our 12 inch high “House of the Future” acrylic Trophy - laser engraved with our ecoCAD for Kids logo –AND- your name - AND - the school of your choice. Your pledge buys you or the school an ecoSTEM House Collection with free shipping to anywhere in the continental United States (add $120 for anywhere else). And with your permission, we will post your name as a Diamond Contributor on our website along with the school name and address if applicable.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012