Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to join a great mix of educators, students, mentors, techies, and tinkerers to try out a new product under development by Chibitronics. The South End Technology Center hosted sticker circuit creator Jie Qi, who let us get hands on with prototypes that take paper electronics to the next level by making them programmable! These materials are not yet on the market and I felt really lucky to get to try them out. While I have used sticker circuits before here in Teen Central to make light-up greeting cards, I have little programming experience. Fortunately, there were lots of great helpers on hand to guide in the use of this new learning tool.
We started with laying out tracks of copper tape, and placing sticker LEDs, the negative side of the LED connecting the a ground (-) tape, and the positive side connecting to the other (+) line of tape. A metal clip with a programmable board attached can then be clipped to your paper, aligning the proper pins to the designated polarity of your tape/LEDs. The board has a micro-USB port that can be used connect to a power source. So far I had success! I had a working circuit that allowed my LEDs to light up in a steady state. Next, up programming the board to use different pins, and having my LEDs blink, turning on and off in a loop.
At this point, we opened a web-based IDE where we would do our coding, Love to Code (https://chibitronics.com/ltc/). This is where I breathed a sigh of relief! I’ve recently been learning how to program a Lilypad microcontroller and this is extremely similar. Anyone, who has experience writing sketches in Arduino will know how to use this and even if you don’t, I’ve personally found this be very approachable for a beginner. There are example programs provided, and so we opened the Blink program, and then just tweaked it to our own project. I reprogramed which pin would be the output for my circuit and specified how much of a delay I wanted between the blinks of my LEDs. To download your program to the board, you use a standard audio port instead of USB. This allows you to, yes, use a computer, but you could also use a smartphone, which I think is very cool.
The last piece we played with is the serial monitor. You can connect this small monitor the board using alligator clips and then code the display read numbers or text. The first program I tried had the display show numbers that continually counted up. Later, I programmed the display to show the same three words on repeat: peace, love, light.
Having practiced all the basics, we then took full advantage of tables full of crafting supplies, got creative and made individual posters, following the prompt of “hope for the future.” This is my final project for the day! I had so much fun and hope to see these materials developed further. We’ve already had fun with paper electronics in the library, and I definitely see this new version of sticker circuits allowing us to get even more creative and have fun with computer science education at the same time!
** I am a novice in electronics and programming with a great interest in learning, that being said, any mistakes in naming components or process in this post are my own.
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* “Ctrl+Z” is all about fearlessly exploring technology. Look here for info about teens, technology, and having fun with new media by Catherine, Teen Technology Coordinator at Teen Central, on the fourth Friday.