About this project
Kids love making stuff and that’s awesome. Not only is making fun, it builds confidence and creativity as they learn how the world around them works. But we don’t want kids to just make – we want them to understand what they are making.
We created LightUp to empower every kid to understand and create their own electronic devices. By combining an electronics construction kit with an interactive augmented-reality tutor app, LightUp helps kids understand the fundamentals of technology.
It couldn't be easier for kids to build their first electronic project with LightUp. All the blocks snap together magnetically, so you won't need to pick up a hot soldering iron or untangle a crowded breadboard.
SEE THE INVISIBLE
LightUp gives kids X-ray vision. Showing the normally invisible workings of electronics makes important concepts more understandable. Trying out a bigger resistor? See the charges flow slower! We use augmented reality to depict fundamental concepts in real time on the actual project. Simply take a picture of the project with the LightUp App and see how electricity flows!
We want kids to make mistakes, because discovering solutions to challenges is a great way for kids to learn, and become better problem solvers. But sometimes a little extra help is needed, and that's when our interactive tutor figures out what's going on and gives a nudge in the right direction.
USE REAL COMPONENTS
Every block is a component*, rather than a high-level module with magical stuff inside. When making with LightUp, kids learn what they need to know to start making with the building blocks of electronics, including LEDs, resistors, switches, sensors, motors and microcontrollers.
* Almost. We put safety first, and for a couple things, some protective circuitry is needed.
PROGRAM WITH ARDUINO
LightUp's Arduino-compatible microcontroller block makes getting started with programming hardware accessible to kids. Just magnetically clip the programming wand to the block and you're ready to go! In addition to the Arduino IDE, visual programming environments for Arduino work too.
MAKER MINI KIT ($39)
Includes: Battery, light sensor, LED, button, buzzer, variable resistor and wire blocks (not shown)
Sample Projects: morse code buzzer, night light, dimmer switch, lunch box alarm
Learn: circuits, conductivity, voltage, current, resistance, sensors, LEDs
MAKER JUNIOR KIT ($69)
Includes: Everything in the MAKER MINI KIT + Arduino-compatible block, programming wand, more sensors, more LEDs, multi-color LED, motor (fan and color wheel attachments), resistors
Sample Projects: Light up holiday ornaments, temperature sensing coaster, heat activated fan, light theremin (as shown in the video)
Learn: Arduino programming, series and parallel circuits, analog inputs
MAKER PRO KIT ($99)
Includes: Everything in the MAKER JUNIOR KIT + more buttons, pressure sensor, capacitors
Sample Projects: room alarm, melody player, spill detector
Learn: frequency, amplitude, resistor-capacitor circuits, pulse width modulation, timing
MAKER DELUXE KIT ($199)
Includes: Everything in the MAKER PRO KIT + another battery, another Arduino-compatible block, more buttons, more LEDs, more sensors, IR LED and sensor, DIY blocks. DIY blocks have screw terminals that let you make your own blocks.
Sample Projects: remote control, one octave keyboard, wireless (infrared) transmitter
Learn: modulation, wireless communication, infrared detection, making your own blocks
ALL KITS COME WITH
Plenty of wires blocks to make projects (not shown) and access to the LightUp App. The prototype LightUp App is currently on Google Play and the production app will be available on Android and iOS when we ship.
There are a bunch of awesome features we were planning to work on after we ship out the rewards, but with your help, we can start on them right away!
$125k - LightUp Code: We'd love to integrate LightUp’s programmable Arduino block with a visual programming environment! Kids can then start programming with an intuitive drag and drop interface, and not worry about syntax until they understand more about programming concepts. We’ve already begun discussing how to do this with a couple of the most popular visual programming environments for Arduino.
$100k - LightUp Sim: We eventually want kids to learn about schematics and simulation, the same stuff used by makers and engineers. With your help, we’ll be able to connect the LightUp App to a web based circuit simulator! Now kids can understand the language of engineering (schematics) while interacting with LightUp. We’ve already talked to the makers of a couple of the most popular web simulators to get this going.
$75k - LightUp Hub: We can hire an intern to work on LightUp Hub, an online sharing platform for projects and lessons which will eventually connect to the LightUp App.
The class projects that inspired LightUp were started in Professor Blikstein's Transformative Learning Technologies Lab (TLTL) at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. The ideas behind LightUp are based on years of educational research.
We've taken LightUp to kids, parents and teachers many times and improved our design based on their feedback. We've even conducted formal controlled studies with LightUp to measure its effectiveness as a teaching tool. As we develop LightUp further we will continue to work very closely with the TLT Lab and Professor Blikstein.
Over the past year, we've tested prototypes of LightUp at events like Hack the Future, Stanford SPLASH, and the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire. We've also talked to teachers at local schools about introducing LightUp in their engineering electives. We've gone through the hardware startup accelerator, HAXLR8R, and developed partnerships with manufacturers to produce LightUp.
Now, we need your help! With funding from Kickstarter, we can invest in tooling to make the first LightUp kits. The blocks require tooling to injection mold the plastic base and deep draw the metal connector caps on the ends of the blocks. We've already found the factories that can produce our parts and contract manufacturers willing to work with us.
We want to make LightUp as accessible as possible. That's why we will release the circuit board designs and the core of the LightUp App. We're also doing our best to keep the boards visible and easy to understand. We hope that by being transparent, we can foster a community where people are free to create and share their own extensions to LightUp.
Josh Chan recently graduated from the Stanford Teacher Education Program, after teaching for a year at a local high school. Before that, he majored in Human Biology at Stanford. He is interested in applying sound pedagogical practices (and a touch of common sense and human empathy) to help people learn in and out of the classroom.
Tarun Pondicherry graduated with a masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2013 and received a BSE from Princeton University in 2011. He is interested in developing technology to reduce the barrier to learning STEM and making everyone comfortable with tinkering and creating their own technology. In the past Tarun worked on projects at One Laptop Per Child, Google, NVIDIA and his own StratoSim.
Paulo Blikstein (faculty advisor) is an assistant professor at Stanford University, director of the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab (TLTL) and creator of the FabLab@School project. He is a pioneer in the open hardware movement, being the co-creator of one of the first open source robotics boards, the GoGo Board. His research interests include digital fabrication in education, constructionism, and the makers’ movement. Professor Blikstein has no equity or participation in the business operation of LightUp.
Building hardware is challenging, and so is integrating it with augmented reality. That's why we're grateful for all help we're getting from many smart, experienced people.
On the education side, we're working with Stanford's Graduate School of Education and many talented researchers. With help from our mentor Claudia Medina, we're getting LightUp into local schools early next year.
On the software side, we've received mobile app development help from Mobinett Interactive. For object detection, we're using TopCodes, optical codes developed by Professor Michael Horn at Northwestern University.
On the hardware side, we've learned so much participating in the hardware startup accelerator, HAXLR8R, from mentors including Zach "Hoeken" Smith, Bunnie Huang, and Sean O'Sullivan. We also had a lot of help designing the DFM version of LightUp from Noel Joyce and Andy Shaw from designhub.ie.
For the video above we have to thank John Jessen, a movie buff, aspiring filmmaker, and awesome roommate.
We'd also like to thank the Lemann Center at Stanford for the infrastructure and support that helped get us up and running.
Many people have helped us get to where we are now, and we sincerely appreciate all the time, mentorship and help.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
Risks and challenges
Sourcing: LightUp is composed of several different parts that will be likely sourced from different suppliers and/or made by different manufacturers. In a single block, there's a plastic base, a PCB, electronic components, and magnets. As makers we took full advantage of rapid digital prototyping tools (laser cutter, CNC machine, etc.) to make our first test blocks, but after Kickstarter these techniques will not necessarily scale. That's why we participated in HAXLR8R and greatly refined our product with help from great mentors.
We have already received quotes for the cost of our materials, the cost of labor, and the cost of manufacturing processes such as injection molding and deep drawing. We visited the suppliers and contract manufacturers to make sure that LightUp can be manufactured. This has given us enough confidence to know that we will be able to deliver our rewards on time and as promised once we have the necessary funds to begin production.
Regulatory: There are many regulatory requirements that must be satisfied to get a product to market, especially one that will be used by kids. We have already begun talking to contract manufacturers and test labs about the safety issues we will have to address to bring LightUp to market such as CPSC and ASTM standards. From the components, to the wire blocks, to the magnets, we have already identified what we need to do to make sure LightUp provides a safe learning experience.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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