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Connected to our Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, & Math (STEAM) Toys for Kids, we’re sharing a Crowdfund Roundup of some great campaigns in the same STEAMy space.

circuit-stickers-triptych

circuit-stickersCircuits you can stick & scribble

I am totally stuck on Chibitronics’ Circuit Stickers by Jie Qi and bunnie Huang, which at the time of my writing has hit a possible record-setting four million percent of its goal (Ha! They were going to do this whether all of us funded their project or not.)

Call me crazy (and I am craaaazy about this campaign!), but to me this product feels revolutionary: an upheaval of the categories of who will feel comfortable messing around with logic and behavior. It has the potential to be as effective for the technology education community as what we saw with the introduction of LEGO Mindstorms 15 years ago. Because, really, who doesn’t love stickers? And what artist (young or not-so-young) wouldn’t love a sheet of self-adhesive sensors and outputs? I can just picture it: a rack of these between the scratch-and-sniff and the foil decals. Think of all the young engineers these can inspire. Once they get the attention and widespread adoption I hope they’ll receive, Circuit Stickers are sure to make circuits as commonplace as weaving, knitting, and clay in hobby shops and summer camps. I can’t wait.

circuit-scribeSimilarly, Electroninks’ Circuit Scribe, by S. Brett Walker and Analisa Russo seems to have sprouted from the same branch of the tree as Circuit Stickers, making it easy to lay down conductive ink with a mere squiggle. I expect it too will put electronics into the hands of crafty kids who get lost between the Sharpies and the gel pens. It’s an exciting time to have aspiring artist-engineers

WatercolorBot's SuperAwesome Sylvia and Windell Oskay. Lenore Edman, not pictured. Photo courtesy of Evil Mad Scientist.

WatercolorBot makers Super Awesome Sylvia and Windell Oskay. Lenore Edman, not pictured. Photo by Windell H. Oskay, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

The most awesome of artbots

Super Awesome Sylvia’s WaterColorBot is what I wish every Kickstarter campaign could be: a collaboration between a fantastic pair of artist-engineers (Lenore and Windell of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories) mentoring a young person whose ideas and maker chops they respect. And the result is a thing of wonder and joy.

Young engineers abound

Some others of our favorite building/tinkering kits for kids started out as successful crowdfunded campaigns: MaKey MaKey (over 2,000% funded!), GoldieBlox (long before their heartwarming, whimsical-cum-controversial video), and the dreamiest dream house kit, Roominate. I’m also looking forward to what happens next with a new kit called ATOMS, which counts U2’s Bono among its supporters.

popup-pinholeWish I’d seen these earlier…

Two more completed campaigns I just discovered, that piqued my interest:

The Pop-Up Pinhole Project from Kelly Angood combines paper  construction and medium-format photography into one happy product with a great story. Happily, you can get a Videre from the company that popped out of the project.

Mazing Deck. Playing Cards with a twist & a turn. Check out the video. Right after the 50-second mark, maze-maker (and magician!) Brian shows off mazes he made while doodling in grade school. “This is what I was doing while the others were learning how to spell and do math.”

The Kano Kit

Can Kano do it?

I’m also intrigued by Kano by Alex Klein and Yonatan Raz-Fridman, a stylish computer-building kit that holds great promise. Read Alasdair’s interview with Alex. At nine times its funding goal halfway through its campaign, it has a shot at reaching MaKey MaKey’s level of success.

Fun pitches

While these are a few our family didn’t support, I want to give them Honorable Mentions because I liked parts of their videos. The Choosatron, an interactive fiction arcade machine, jams a surprising amount of silly story and creative fun into less than 4 minutes. I love the “chapter titles” on the pitch video for Teagueduino: and I imagine the team had a lot of fun conceptualizing and putting together those setups for “make”, “play”, and “learn.” Also, the paper-cut animations at the start of The Island‘s pitch are pretty swell. My 5-year-old watched the video for Star*bot with me and then shouted, “I wanna do it again!” We live on a “Halloween street,” meaning we get thousands of trick-or-treaters on the block. We may put one of these to work as a pirate next year!

99% engrossing (and invisible)

Lastly, check out the podcast and radio show 99% Invisible, a real treat for the curious designer in all of us, no matter how old or young we are. Its producer (with the enviable moniker Roman Mars) says it’s about “design, architecture and all the thought that goes into the things most people don’t even think about.”

Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka

Michelle, or Binka, is the Director of Custom Programs for Maker Media, overseeing publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.


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