SocketCircuits are easy enough for an 8 year old to make, and versatile enough for prototyping many of the technology projects that you see here on Kickstarter.
It’s a great product for STEM educators, homeschoolers, hobbyists and makers. Simply print a diagram to cardstock paper, stick the adhesive backed sockets to placeholder shapes, and insert color coded parts and wires for a complete circuit.
Update: We're 300% funded!!
Thank you all for supporting SocketCircuits! If you missed the KickStarter campaign, don't worry, SocketCircuits' kits will be available for pre-order on our home page:
Keep a look-out for other great SocketCircuits campaigns in the future too. On the road-map ahead we'll be adding mechanical design, embedded programming & robotics, circuit design software, a web circuit database and more!
Projects range from beginner to advanced…
2D circuits to 3D papercraft devices…
…And even toys!
I collaborated with world renowned papercraft artist Rob Ives (www.robives.com) to create this irresistible “BarriBot” kit. It uses a simple coin cell battery and LED circuit to backlight a “Barrier Grid Animation”. As the grill is moved up and down, it hides different parts of the animation image, which results in the animation effect that you see on the left. You can add this kit to any reward level by adding $10 to your pledge amount. See "Backer Rewards" section for details.
Affordable & Versatile
SocketCircuits’ kits are all in digital form, as downloadable diagrams, so we never have to cut a potentially awesome circuit or kit based on projected sales. They all share the same basic sockets too, which lowers manufacturing costs.
One of the exciting features of SocketCircuits’ kits is that they can go in 3 dimensions. You could think of papercraft as a sort of “old school” form of 3D printing, except it uses a printer that you already have, and the materials are much more affordable!
The end of proprietary
No more custom modules, connectors, wires, or parts. No soldering, expensive inks, or glues are required.
SocketCircuits’ sockets are compatible with millions of low-cost commonly available components, including components with unique pin layouts like potentiometers, motors, and switches that won’t fit into breadboards. This means that nearly any circuit can be built with them!
The sockets have a transparent “repositionable” adhesive backing, but they also come with opaque magnetic backs that can be added for repeated use.
A better way to learn
You can finally focus on the circuit, instead of breaking concentration with complicated directions. The puzzle-like construction makes even this college level circuit possible for kids 8 and up.
Take the challenge! On the left is a SocketCircuits strobe light circuit. On the right is the same circuit on a traditional breadboard. Chose any part or pin and see how long it takes to figure out what it is connected to in each image.
SocketCircuits are assembled on a diagram, so the layout is intuitive, unlike with breadboards. This makes it easier to see the role of each part in the circuit, how the electricity is flowing, and how to modify, troubleshoot, or add to a circuit.
Mistakes are easy to find! The wires are color coded to match the diagram, so mistakes really stand out and are easy to fix.
Symbols… the way circuits connect… to us
From the start it was important that the learned skills could be applied to all electronics, while being beginner-friendly, and still staying true to conventional industry diagrams. I wanted it to be entirely visual too, so I created color code bars and symbols that match the colors and number coding of actual parts. I kept the part values there as well, to encourage natural association and memorization without any conscious effort!
Hi, I’m Cory Russek, the creator of SocketCircuits. After 2+ years of research and development, I’m very excited to bring this project to Kickstarter! We’re about to open up a whole new world of possibilities, for kids and adults alike, to explore and invent with electronic circuits!
Challenge #1: Break the “kit barrier”
Most electronics learning products on the market have a major limitation: Once you build the kit, that’s all there is! You could try to go beyond their kit, but if it’s a module based system, you are limited to the handful of modules that they offer. If you try to go beyond the kit with a breadboard or spring based system, you spend most of your time hopelessly trying to translate an intuitive circuit diagram to a mess of criss-crossed wires and a part layout that looks nothing like the diagram.
Solution: Make the parts conform to the diagram
Not just SocketCircuit diagrams, but any diagram you find online or in a book. You can finally build what you see, with little or no changes to the wiring and part layout. As the SocketCircuits offering expands, you will be able to reuse and expand your socket set to build countless circuits and projects.
Challenge #2: Make it affordable
Competitors pay a lot to make their modules! Only a tiny percentage of the price actually goes towards paying for electronic parts. The majority of the cost is for over-seas injection molded cases and labor for soldering and assembling each module. Breadboards are a more flexible option, but the board is always too big or too small, so you end up paying for multiple boards or paying for dozens of unused conductor slots.
Solution: A minimalist design and in-house manufacturing
SocketCircuits sockets will be manufactured in-house on a custom designed injection molding machine. Third party overhead costs, minimum orders, and engineering fees are eliminated. All of the equipment has already been purchased. The campaign funds will go towards the cost of machining socket molds and completing a hydraulic retrofit on the injection molding machine.
Challenge #3: Make it fun!
As a kid, I loved electronics kits, but I rarely built more than a few of the projects from the manual. It just took too long to get through the cumbersome directions and to find all of the part and wire locations. The assembly process isn't really where the learning is at. The truly valuable knowledge comes from observation and experimentation with an assembled circuit.
Solution: Get to the fun learning part faster, with easy assembly
SocketCircuits go together very quickly because there’s very little searching, reading, or mystery in how they’re built. The wires are color coded and pre-bent so that their matching location in the diagram is unmistakable. The clear sockets allow you to see through to the diagram which leads you right to the correct holes. It’s actually pretty hard to make a mistake on a SocketCircuits kit. In fact, there are only a few things that need instruction, such as polarity on some of the parts. Polarity could be demonstrated with a simple picture like this:
With fewer assembly instructions, the lesson plans are able to focus on learning through experimentation. You’ll be guided through swapping out certain parts with parts of a different value, so that you can observe how the circuit reacts and learn each part’s function through empirical observation. For example, you can watch LED’s get brighter or dimmer by changing out resistor values, and control the adjustment range of the clock’s timer circuit by swapping out one capacitor for another. Each kit will include selected extra parts for these learning exercises.
Challenge #4: Get kids into inventing
As soon as manufacturing is in place, and backer rewards are delivered, I’ll be focusing on creating kits that are geared specifically for young inventors. The circuits will cover many common input needs such as sensors for light, motion, magnetism, pressure, temperature, sound, and more. Outputs will cover DC motors, stepper motors, servo motors, lights, sound, relays, and all sorts of unique kits such as a laser show kit with electronically addressable X and Y “galvanometer” mirrors. I’ll also be jumping right into programmable microcontroller CPU kits so that your inventions can include logic, algorithms, and robotic motion.
Sounds great! What’s the next step?
The sockets you have seen so far were all created on a CNC mill. The design is solid and ready to go into production through plastic injection molding. The parts will be manufactured using a plastic injection molding machine that I’ve been designing from scratch. The first prototype machine has already produced a working injection molded socket (circled in green) using a proof-of-concept socket mold (circled in blue).
I’m in the process of retrofitting the injector with electric powered hydraulics to handle production on a large scale. The campaign funds will pay for that upgrade and for materials needed to make molds for each of the socket designs.
You can add the BarriBot kit to any reward level by adding $10 to your pledge amount. As an add-on item, it will be shipped together with your other reward in a single package and delivery will be in 2015.
A peek at the future
The SocketCircuits roadmap includes development of a “Backlit Interactive” series of kits. Circuits will be constructed on transparent sheets over the screens of smartphones and tablets. A special app will illuminate the sockets with colors and patterns to visually show how the part affects signals and the flow of electricity. Wire traces will animate to show voltage and current traveling through them. Sockets can be selected to learn about the part and it’s role in the circuit. “Virtual Instruments” can be attached to any socket to see what the signal would look like on an oscilloscope or volt meter. The picture below is a very rough simulation of what Backlit Interactive might look like:
As with the diagrams, backlit interactive will evolve through several variations before landing on the ideal way to represent useful information, and give users an entertaining and educational experience.
Risks and challenges
The purpose of this campaign is to perfect the manufacturing process and kit design. Think of it as a "beta version" of a future retail product. There may be minor imperfections or slight changes in the design over time, but the functionality will stay the same. Your input and feedback will help to refine the design and how it will be presented and used in the future.
Possible cosmetic flaws
Plastic injection molding is a new field for me. I've proven that I can produce plastic pieces with the machine I created, but there are a few variables to work out to eliminate minor cosmetic flaws like a trapped bubble in the plastic. I will likely get that all worked out prior to shipping.
Manufacturing / design improvement
I'm working on a different conductor clip design to improve on what the breadboard industry uses. I'm hoping to get that change into the reward parts that ship.
International Shipping Fees
Kickstarter only offers a feature for a single fixed international shipping fee. Actual shipping cost can be anywhere from 2 to 10 times the cost of domestic shipping, so it is impossible to choose a single fee that will be fair. Since there's no way to adjust what you pay for shipping, I'm going to adjust what you get for the money that you pay instead. I will include extra parts in international kits where the fee exceeds the actual shipping cost. I'll come up with a few different "bonus packages" to ensure that your rewards will fairly match your pledge amount, including fees.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)