Tonight we landed a $1000 grant from the appropriately-named KW Awesome Foundation to launch an event we’re calling “Hacky Hallowe’en”*.
The plan is to teach two fundamental and essential skills that are sadly neglected in our education system.
- Pumpkin carving
Did you know that many children reach adulthood today without ever having learned how to carve a pumpkin? We’ll provide a safe, supervised environment in which children 8 and over can learn this crucial skill, under the guidance of expert pumpkin carver and friend of the Lab, Jeff Schmidt.
Rather than simply outfitting the carved pumpkin with an old fashioned, dangerous and–dare I say–obsolete candle, Hacky Hallowe’en’s participants will then move onto building an electronic device that will flicker with beautiful LED light.
Soldering, of course, is foundational to Kwartzlab’s DNA. We’ve held several Learn to Solder workshops in the past and have been itching to do it again. This way, we can take out skills out to the community and instruct many more people than we can accommodate in the Lab.
James Bastow, circuit maestro, has designed the simple yet powerful device that anyone can learn to assemble. He’ll be building the circuit board that we’ll be using for Hacky Hallowe’en. The prototype above is something he whipped together in an afternoon to show what can be done. The kit that we’ll offer will have four orange LEDs, rather than a paltry pair of red ones.
We live in a world of electronics. Learning a simple skill like soldering and seeing a bunch of parts turn into a working device is the first step to realizing that all those gadgets that everyone uses every day are made. They’re made by ordinary people. You can make them too. It gives you the courage to take things apart and see if you can put them back together again, or re-purpose them after they stop being useful. It opens up a door to understand the world around you a little bit better.
What’s more, each of the Hacky Hallowe’en LED flicker devices is powered by a similar microcontroller as the Arduino. They can be programmed. After Hallowe’en is over, participants can bring their board into Kwartzlab and we will teach them how they can make the lights flicker in different ways, or add motors and make them work, or LED arrays that can display messages, or switches or sensors.
Once you know how the basics of these electronic devices work, you can start to build robots or home security systems or cat food dispensers or anything else you want! It all starts with a few blinking lights.
Below are the slides we didn’t get to show to the KW Awesome Foundation trustees, here for posterity. Many thanks to Eric Gerlach for putting the presentation together and making an awesome pitch.
* For the record, I wanted to call it “Carve-Free Sunday”, but that idea was quickly shot down for what are perhaps obvious reasons.