One permanent project for me is trying to play around with electronics with my kids – besides the fun aspects i deeply believe that making our kids masters of computers and electronics will be crucial for their future. And – at least in germany – the current school-system does not even in a limited sense cover these issues…
The good news: there are a couple of amazing projects around, many of them financed through kickstarter (god save kickstarter!) that are trying to make playing around with electronics really playful…
I tried with my little one (she is seven) three different approaches – two in the field of conductive ink (bare-conductive and circuit scribe), and one with a more wire-kind of approach, chibitronics.
We assembled the glowing house as a first project on a weekend – see more details here. The set is awesome and it’s nice to work with the ink – and it really feels like an ink… That’s also the downside of this material – first it’s a little bit tricky and sometimes messy to work with it because you of course carefully have to avoid any shortings, but that can be challenging with bare-conductive, especially in the hands of small kids. Second downside: it has no immediate effect! This is because the ink get’s conductive only after a couple of minutes, between 10 and 20 to be correct. That diminishes the learning effect extremely as learning and tinkering is a lot about trying things out and getting immediate response.
This is being tackled by a competitor – circuit scribe. They also offer a conductive ink, but it has two big advantages: One – it let’s the electrons flow immediately, no waiting required. Second: it is more subtle as a material as you can see if you compare the two pictures above and below. This means for kids it is more fault-tolerant. On the other hand you have to paint a little bit more careful to avoid non-conducting sections.
The third approach comes from Chibitronics – also a nice and creative solution to the problem. They solve the no-wire requirement in a different way – with copper tape and stickers for the other components like LEDs, sensors etc. This also has immediate feedback, is easy to work with and even more fault-tolerant than Circuit Scribe because unless you cut the tape it will conduct electricity and unless you physically cross the tapes you will not have a shorting.
If you once again have a look at the picture from circuit scribe above you can btw see how nice the stickers from chibitronics can be combined with the conductive ink approaches. For me this seems like the perfect match because these stickers are just awesome and easy to handle, and personally the circuit scribe ink for me seems the easiest way to draw a circuit.