Like kids in a candy store

This morning I had a short meeting with the Cardboard Teck Instantute (aka Ben Matchstick and Pete Talbot), who have a residency at Generator next month.  These guys are so good at building toys, games, vehicles, whatever entirely out of recycled cardboard plus a few pieces of wire and rubber band that they’d never really needed to learn about arduinos and servos and IR sensors and LEDs and all the other electronic bits that geeks like me take for granted.

So I showed them the simplest possible thing: three extra lines pasted into the standard arduino servo sweep example that make the servo wave its little arm back and forth only when a PIR sensor has detected someone moving in front of it.  “We could do things with that,” they both said. Then I gave them a quick tutorial on the structure of basic arduino programs, where the stuff you want to do once  at the beginning happens in the setup function, and the stuff you want to do forever happens in the loop. And each time through the loop you can check your sensors and count how many times something interesting has happened, and then trigger some action when that count reaches the right level.

And then I started telling them about all the other kinds of sensors and displays you could stuff into a cardboard chassis — that’s about where they started talking about striking a balance between cardboard low-tech and semiconductor high tech.

At Generator there are piles of arduino-compatible parts that members can borrow for prototyping, and a laser cutter that’s way more precise and reliable than an exacto knife following hand-drawn templates. This could be really cool.

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