Crafting With Code Experiments

During our month long tinkering residency at Chabot Space and Science Center, we tried several initial experiments with combining coding and craft. We prototyped different ways of making art with physical and digital tools and started to explore some of the aspects of “computational tinkering”. 

Workshop at I/O Youth

Last week Google held its annual I/O conference for app developers and as part of the celebration, they invited school groups from around the bay area to try out hands-on activities and get excited about science, technology and programming.

We joined our friends at Science Journal, Little Bits, MIT Media Lab, and Toontastic to set up a wide variety of experiences around the room for the kids to test out. We brought a bunch of mechanical parts from dissected singing and dancing toys as tools that learners could use to experiment with simple circuits.

Drawing Automata Ideas

During our tinkering residency at Chabot, we've started testing out different ways to make art machines that trace a path as they move across the table. Previously we've built scribblers that use an offset weight (hot melt glue stick) to vibrate and create motion. As well, last summer we worked with the tinkering studio team and LEGO foundation to prototype LEGO technic art machines with more complex movements. These initial experiments have inspired us to expand on the ideas and create some key parts to allow for deep explorations while maintaining the frugal materials and recycled aesthetic of the scribbling machines activity. 

Circuit Bending Workshop

There are a lot of ways to reuse parts from dissected singing and dancing toys. We’ve mounted the mechanisms to use in electricity explorations or chain reactions, we’ve sewn the fur and stuffing to create mash-up toys and recently we’ve been investigating possibilities for hacking the circuit boards inside.

One of the ideas that we’ve been interested in exploring more is ‘circuit bending’ or the act of making creative short circuits to produce unexpected tones, sounds and music.We’ve done a few experiments, but to really dig into this topic, we invited over a couple guest tinkerers with some experience in the area

Old Toys, New Circuit Boards

Over the last few weeks, we've been searching high and low for used toys all over the Bay Area and harvesting them for parts to create circuit board sets, chain reaction elements, and dissection/remixing examples. I recently came away with a great haul from (the sadly recently closed) Thrift Town in San Francisco. As usual, once we stated dissecting these toys, we discovered some new mechanisms and unusual paths for investigation.  

Ryan Jenkins
Benicia Mini Maker Faire

On Sunday, we set up a pop-up tinkering workshop at Benicia Mini Maker Faire. We brought an arduino powered bubble blowing machine, a new version of our toy dissection tool kit and a bunch of toy parts mounted on circuit blocks to explore with participants.

Ryan Jenkins