Build It All!
It’s 2018, and electronics have never been so ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for electronics education. We're here to fix that.
We aim to demystify modern electronics for kids and adults (and you!), by providing a fun, creative, and experiential path to learning how the complex devices around us actually work – and we need your support to make it happen!
Update 4/12/18: We've reached our funding goal after just ten days!!! Stretch goals added!
- Stretch Goal 1 ($12,000 - Reached 4/28): More of the basics! Each Build-It-All Starter Kit will include additional LEDs, wires, resistors, and small sensors so that you can make more project expansions, and won't have to worry about running out of parts.
- Stretch Goal 2 ($26,000): Bonus boards! Each Build-It-All Starter Kit will include one additional Arduino-compatible Uno R3 microcontroller board and breadboard, so you don't have to take apart your latest creation to try building something new.
- Stretch Goal 3 ($42,000): Deluxe High-Five Robot! The Build-It-All kit already includes necessary circuitry components and instructions for building a “high five robot” using several household items. If we reach this goal, we will include professionally-made hardware for the high five bot in each kit.
We’d love to work on these additional projects, so we hope you will keep on giving your support to make them happen.
The Build-It-All Starter Kit is...
FOR KIDS ages 8 and up: this kit provides an introduction to electronics and circuitry - the ideal path to get inspired about STEM by designing electronics by using real tools, real parts, and real code in an inviting, intuitive, and creative way.
FOR ADULTS who are curious about electronics, but have never taken the plunge to really learn about working with modern programmable, interactive electronics. We've lowered the barrier to entry to the world of understanding and creating your own devices.
FOR EDUCATORS who want a new way to teach about technology using real electronics prototyping tools, rather than education frameworks that abstract away electronic components into mere toys. We've created a curriculum simple enough for anyone to follow, which teaches circuitry concepts using cutting-edge electronics tools.
FOR SUPPORTERS of innovative education techniques, who believe in our mission to demystify professional electronics tools, make them intuitive and easy to play with, and turn electronics-based learning into something fun and accessible for all ages – no engineering degree required!
There are are four elements to the Build-It-All Starter Kit:
- CodeLab – our easy-to-use visual programming interface. Anyone who purchases a Build-It-All Kit will have free lifetime access to CodeLab for their programming needs.
- The Projects – a fresh series of electronics projects based on the classroom curriculum that we have been teaching for three years in schools around Massachusetts.
- Video Tutorials – an engaging series of instructional videos, with a focus on offering creative challenges and providing useful troubleshooting tips with each project.
- The Kit – the actual set of parts for creating your circuits, centered around an Arduino-compatible Uno R3 microcontoller.
Your support will go towards...
- Putting the finishing touches on our online edition of CodeLab
- Production of a series of step-by-step tutorial videos to accompany each project
- Assembling and shipping the first batch of Build-It-All Starter Kits.
We have already been working on this project for several months and have made substantial progress on these tasks. After the project is fully funded, we expect to be able to deliver the first kits in mid-July. Read on for more details about each piece of the project!
What is Circuit Lab?
Circuit Lab (www.circuit-lab.com) offers hands-on STEM learning programs to teach children about circuitry (electrical engineering) and programming (computer science). We have been offering after-school and summer class series since 2015 to children throughout the Boston area, and in that time our staff has taught over 1,500 children about interactive circuitry.
We give kids an opportunity to learn essential modern-world skills that aren’t usually taught in school in a creative and supportive setting, with access to leading-edge electronics prototyping equipment.
CodeLab: Why Visual Programming?
We developed our visual programming interface, CodeLab, for use in our classrooms after seeing how difficult it was for children to use standard microcontroller programming interfaces based on the C++ programming language - a throwback to the 1980s!
We have found that by using easy-to-manipulate code “blocks”, CodeLab fosters rapid creativity while also teaching valuable coding skills, including sequencing, conditional statements, variables, and arrays. The easy visual interface brings interacting with microcontrollers fully into the modern age, and allows for far greater creativity and enjoyment, eliminating the frustration of sorting through the arcane minutiae of traditional programming languages.
CodeLab presents more like a game than like a string of words that require substantial prior knowledge, meaning that our beginner programmers can get started quickly by learning the basics of what the code blocks do, and then get straight to the fun part: customizing and adding more functions to their creations.
CodeLab will have a small membership fee after we launch it online, but will be free for life for anyone who makes a purchase through this Kickstarter.
The Projects: What will I make with it?
We are now, for the first time, repackaging our tried-and-tested classroom curriculum for independent at-home learning. The projects in the Build-It-All Kit are designed to teach circuitry concepts while encouraging experimentation and hands-on learning. They are based on the curriculum which we have used and refined over three years in the after-school and summer circuitry programs that Circuit Lab offers for grades 3-8.
The project series starts off with simple circuits using LED lights and resistors, then builds up to more complex activities like building your own burglar alarms, customizable musical instruments, and a “high-five robot.” Each project has several challenges to try out, so this kit doesn’t limit you to just doing things “by the book” - it makes it easy for you get creative, think outside the box, and make these projects your own!
Video Tutorials: What's The Best Way To Learn About Circuitry?
We have found in our classrooms that offering engaging project explanations and examples is essential to holding the interest of our students. Other electronics kits rely on printed booklets for their lessons, but these are less engaging than visual media and provide little troubleshooting support – a critical factor when dealing with sometimes-finicky electronics projects!
To convey information about the projects more effectively, we are creating a series of video tutorials to accompany each project in the Build-It-All Kit. The projects and videos are based on the lesson format the we have polished over several years in our classrooms.
For each project in the kit, there will be videos to explain:
- Concepts explored by the project and ways those concepts are applied in everyday life.
- An introduction to the circuitry components used in the project
- An introduction to any new coding elements used in the project
- How to assemble and program the basic version of the project
- Creative challenges to expand the project, with tips and tricks for making them work.
- Troubleshooting tips for common errors (so if that LED doesn’t light up on your first attempt, there's no need to worry!)
The Build-It-All Starter Kit: What's In The Box?
The heart of the Build-It-All Starter Kit is an Arduino-compatible Uno R3 microcontroller board, and it also includes a variety of other circuitry components such as LEDs, motors, and sensors tailored to our set of projects (including an ultrasonic distance sensor, motion sensor, light sensor, temperature sensor, servo motor, and more).
The kit is based on the set of components that we teach with every day in our classrooms, and contains everything you need (other than some household items like tape, scissors, and cardboard) to build and customize a wide variety of electronics projects. Combined with CodeLab and our video tutorials, the Build-It-All Starter Kit is the ideal circuitry kit for beginners of any age.
Who Is Creating The Kit?
Circuit Lab’s founder, Jake Weisberg, started the business in 2015 out of a desire to try teaching circuitry skills to elementary and middle school students - an incredibly powerful skill that he saw kids around Boston did not readily have access to. Jake’s background includes extensive teaching experience, and he has previously built other successful education businesses in the Boston area. His other creative endeavors include converting diesel cars to run on vegetable oil and competitive curling.
Laura Andersen is developing our instructional videos for the Build-It-All Starter Kit. She has been working in STEM education since 2008 and studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern University. She also creates art that applies her math and science skills to explore new and interesting dimensions.
Rish Shadra is developing the CodeLab software for programming the microcontrollers in our kits. Rish has been a classroom instructor with Circuit Lab for one year, and has produced several software packages used in our programs. He is also currently pursuing a B.S. in both Computer Systems Engineering and Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Cat Hughes has been working as a classroom instructor at Circuit Lab for a year and a half, and also coordinates marketing for Circuit Lab and maintains our social media accounts. Cat believes that education involves much more than a student’s test-taking abilities, and that this Build-It-All Starter Kit is a perfect way to adapt different our offerings to children who learn through more extended experimentation.
Little of this project would be possible without the time, energy, and curriculum testing of the Circuit Lab instructor team. Our current staff of six instructors puts our curriculum to the test with classrooms full of children each day, providing the feedback that makes it possible for us to present this kit with confidence.
Risks and challenges
We do not see any significant risks or challenges in bringing this project to fruition. We have already cleared what we see as the biggest hurdles in developing our product and accompanying software, and have proof-of-concept kits already working. We need your support in order to put the finishing touches on our CodeLab software, complete our video tutorial series, and begin producing the kits in quantity. We are confident that we will be able to complete the Build-It-All Starter Kit and release it to our backers on schedule.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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