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.
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.
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
On Saturday we led a giant collaborative chain reaction machine as part of Tinkerfest, a day-long celebration of making and tinkering at Chabot Space and Science Center. There were a bunch of community partners sharing workshops and activities with kids and adults who made the trip up to the Oakland hills.
On this Saturday, April 22nd, we'll be facilitating a large scale chain reaction at Chabot Science Center's Tinkerfest event! I wanted to share a behind the scenes look at how we are getting ready for this workshop and give a sense of the process of gathering materials, building examples, and continuing to equip our mini workshop in the east bay hills.
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.