There are many different ways that we've been thinking about creating experiences that incorporate programming and computation into existing tinkering activities. One of the things that we've been interested in is the possibilities of adapting paper circuits workshops to include more elements of programming and storytelling. Many times when prototyping a new idea, we look around for artists and tinkerers that have used similar tools and techniques to create their own artworks and we use those creations as inspiration for our activity development. I wanted to share a few of the examples that I've seen lately that have inspired me to try out some my own experiments which might grow into projects in the Tinkering Studio.
Frequent Tinkering Studio collaborator Jie Qi from the MIT Media Lab has lots of experience with these materials Workshops with her Circuit Stickers provided us with our first introduction to the possibilities of combining programming and paper circuits with specialized components. Recently I saw a children's book that she created with Sonja de Boer called "Ellie" that follows an abandoned LED on an adventure, providing a delightful and beautiful look at the high ceiling possible with these materials.
Another inspiring example of paper circuits taken to a new level is a piece called Tickytown by K-Fai Steele. I love how the capacitance sensor gives a more lifelike and organic dimension to the flickering lights in the windows. Her blog also gives a lot of great info about the process she went through to create this piece.
As part of the same show at MIT, Becca Rose created this beautiful paper circuit of raindrops called 'curiousity of rain'. I especially like how she keeps visible some of the copper tape that makes the circuits work as part of the design. While it would still be beautiful without the programmed lights flashing and moving, this one really demonstrates to me how compelling adding this extra element can be when incorporated with the design.
In the tinkering studio, we've messed around a bit with the computational elements of the circuit stickers, but I wanted to see if some of our recent experiments with seeed sensor kits and scratchx could be used to program the paper circuits. I created a traditional paper circuit card (and used a Scratch character, Pico, for the design) and built connection points for alligator clips leading to a LED socket grove kit component. When attached to a PWM (pulse width modulation) port, it was simple to use scratchx to dim the light and make it flicker.
I added in a sensor from the seeed kit so that when someone touched the card, Pico's heart beat. This was a fairly simple design, but I was pretty proud of the results. I like how this project separates out the building with the physical copper tape and LEDs from the programming, but gives a reason to work through both aspects. It's great to be inspired by artists and tinkerers who are pushing the limits of these materials as we try to design opportunities for beginners to play around with the tools and participate in a similar process.