Review: Chibitronics Love to Code Creative Coding Kit

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Making Paper Circuits with Chibi Stickers

I’ve been a fan of Chibitronics since I learned that these sweet little circuit stickers existed! In 2015, I learned a lot about circuits alongside my Circuit Girls when my Donors Choose grant for the Circuit Sticker Notebook was funded. I became pretty obsessed with making paper circuits because I was able to learn some of the fundamentals of electronics with my own hands! This obsession moved to sewing circuits because suddenly, this complicated thing known as Arduino became accessible to me (see my For the Love of Arduino post.) I no longer needed to understand breadboarding, I could just build my own circuits with conductive thread. (And through the magic of meaningful making, I now understand breadboarding from crafting sewing circuit projects.)

But wait…Programmable Paper Circuits?!

Last year, I was lucky enough to get a couple of Jie’s new clippable Arduino prototypes- the Love to Code Chibi Chip. This awesome little Arduino clip can be clipped onto a paper circuit so you can program your circuit stickers (or regular LEDS!) I was (and STILL AM) amazed at the ease and power of this tiny little board. However, the most AMAZING thing is that you and your students can program this microcontroller from your phone, iPad, or Chromebook. YES, ladies and gentlemen, from a CHROMEBOOK! No software download is necessary.  Check out the first few projects I made with the Love to Code board here.

Introducing the Love to Code Creative Coding Kit!

Now Jie and Chibitronics have a great new immersive and interactive coding book where you and your students can clip an Arduino board right inside this beautiful binder and program your freshly crafted paper circuits.

K-Fai’s illustrations bring Jie’s instructions to life. There are ample pages for children and students to create their own drawings and circuit traces. Which makes crafting and learning a joy in this all inclusive DIY kit.

We received the kit in November and my 8 YO daughter enjoyed creating and drawing her own circuits. However, the best thing about this kit (that astounded me) is that she learned to tinker with Arduino code and found confidence in programming her paper circuits with MakeCode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She worked through the simple circuits, parallel circuits, and beginning coding projects. She loved adding hidden drawings that only appeared with programmed light.

She’s hiding exclamation points! #papercircuits #makerdaughter @chibitronics @areyouokfai

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Eventually, I started working through the book in some of the more complicated projects, because I really wanted a turn to use this book!

Love to Code / ChibiScript Platform

One of the coolest things about this coding platform with Chibitronics, is that students, teachers, and learners of all ages can program with any type of device (phone, Chromebook, etc) that has an audio jack. PLUS, they can easily find errors in Arduino coding in the ChibiScript platform. (Which is something that is really difficult to understand as a beginner Arduino coder in the original Arduino software.)

When Jie and I taught an ISTE workshop last summer based around the new Chibi chip, I was amazed to see that every educator in the room had success programming with this powerful little board. Most of these educators had never even made a paper circuit, programmed a microcontroller, or seen the Arduino platform before! See their explorations in programming paper circuits here.

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Programming with MakeCode

My 8 YO preferred programming with MakeCode. Once I’d taken over crafting the circuits (because I really wanted to get my hands on the book… sorry kid….) I let my 8 YO program (and reprogram) the circuits. It was super easy to do, especially letting her just write her programs on an iPad. She loves this type of problem solving.

 

So….What’s in the Kit?

The Powered Binder– This amazing illustrated binder has 150 full color pages that can be removed, hacked, and crafted upon. Students can read through Fern’s story and learn alongside this funny frog as she learns how to make simple circuits, and how to program LEDs. The explanations are student friendly and the drawings by K-Fai are delightfully fun. I love how the book uses simple illustrations to cover big concepts. (I also heard that *soon* educators will be able to buy subsequent sections to fit into this same binder. There is room to grow both physically and mentally!) Plus, the binder has it’s own power source, so learners can plug right into this binder and be ready to program! This might actually be my favorite thing about the whole kit, a simple and quick power source solution.

The Chibi Chip on a Chibi Clip – The amazingly accessible Chibi board is pre-mounted onto a chibi clip. This is another simple solution that makes coding so much more accessible. The coder can just pop their clip down on a hand made circuit and test their code in seconds!  (No breadboarding, no alligator clips- just laying down a circuit with copper tape!) This board is USB powered and programmed via an audio jack. The cable for power and uploading is included of course!

chibi clip2

Image from Chibitronics

Copper Tape and LEDs- The kit comes with 2 rolls of copper tape, 36 white LED stickers, 64 conductive fabric patches. Which is more than enough to make a few mistakes and still have tape and LEDs leftover!

The Stencil –  My daughter’s favorite thing in the kit (besides the story and the experience) is the Chibi stencil. She loved using the stencil to hide the Chibitronics logo all over the book.  As an educator, I loved the stencil because it helps when designing your own circuit traces.

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Cost

Yes, the entire kit is expensive for an educator at $85 a kit. However, it’s well worth the price and the activities within will last you and your makers for months. While you might not be able to afford a class set, I’d suggest buying at least one to try it out yourself, or buy a few to try with a coding club. I’m planning on using mine in workshops to help independent learners that want to know more about programming paper circuits. If I had enough in my school budget to buy a class set for my coding club, I would! But for now, I’m going to buy a set of the Chibi Chip boards and supplement with the binder. (Maybe next year I can buy a set through Donors Choose or have a club fee? Things that make you go hmmm……)

Plus as a parent, I think it’s a beautiful gift for a child and well worth the money! (Probably best at 8 and up!)

Bottom Line?

The book and kit is amazing and worth every penny! It’s such a fun experience to be able to tinker and explore programming paper circuits in this binder. The Love to Code board is accessible for makers 8 and up, and the activities are easy to start and build schema quickly.

This set is one of the BEST low floor high ceiling tools in the maker ed market! 

Note: I did not get paid to write this post. I did receive the amazing binder for free and I am thankful to Jie and K-Fai for sharing their art with me. It is a beautiful resource! 

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Makey Makey Marble Maze and 5th grade

colleengravesorgMakeyMaze

#EvilMakeybook and Marble Mazes

Last year Aaron and I wrote 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. We had so much fun creating all of the projects and finding interesting and whimsical ways to incorporate cardboard low-tech making with Scratch coding and mashing it all together with Makey Makey.

As we wrote the projects, we didn’t really envision it as a book for teachers to use with classes, but this fall, I noticed a tweet from Anne Smith. She created a whole lesson around the engineering design process and our marble maze Makey Makey project! Check out her lesson here.

This gave me the idea to see if my 5th grade team at Mason would be interested in having their students design Makey Makey mazes…..and the answer was YES!

Early this spring, each 5th grade class spent a week in the library learning about Scratch, Makey Makey, and creating marble mazes out of recyclables.

Overview of Week Long Lesson

Day One: Students either created a Makey Makey alarm with Scratch or worked on creating a DIY switch with paper and foil. I changed the lesson up for classes depending on how much Scratch or Makey Makey experience they had.

(Note: the pencil alarm in the video below was designed because a kid in their class actually steals pencils….)

#makeymakey and #Scratch alarms to prep for making #evilmakeybook mazes! #storyofmson

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Day Two/Three: Students designed mazes on paper and then began designing a maze with recyclables. The first class stuck to building with straws and made insanely awesome Scratch tricks. The next few classes got more and more inventive with the physical aspects of the maze.

Day Three/Four: On the third day, I taught a mini lesson on creating a roll over switch with foil and a marble. Then I handed out materials for students to begin creating interactive switches Scratch and Makey Makey.

On day four, students were told to get there maze to a finished point and problem solve any Makey Makey interactions by the end of class. Check out this cool trick one of the group of girls figured out:

Day Five: Students had 20 minutes for last minute tweaks and then they were able to share their projects Makerfest style! We invited other classes to come in and play mazes. Students loved sharing their work with others and inspiring the next class to become more and more inventive in their maze making.

Check out all the of their awesome work below:

Making is messy

Just a friendly reminder that everyday was a mess. Make sure you include time for clean up and have the students be a part of the clean up process! Some classes are better about cleaning than others, but it’s an important aspect of life. Making a mess when making is normal, but students need to learn to clean up after. 🙂

Check out other schools making Makey Makey marble mazes!

One of the best things about writing books and sharing projects online is seeing other classes in other states trying out the same project. Check out these other schools makey-makeying mazes!