Education

We are excited about education

We remember that sense of awe and excitement from our first assembly code program lighting up an LED. We remember that feeling of power, thinking "Now I can control the world!". Not in an evil, Hollywood way. Instead, in a geeky, 'Ooh, what can I control next?' kind of way. We want to bring that same thrill and excitement to you and your students by sharing our products with you!

Here are some ways in which our products can help you

Don't buy our products!

No, really! Your classroom budget is too small to pay for our products (we know, we're teachers). Instead, get your fellow teachers excited about our circuits, too. Then, download the circuit drawings and send them to a pcb manufacturer in your area. It's okay, our products are licensed as 'open hardware' (see the legal info) and can be shared. Get your local manufacturer to do a run of 100 or more boards and divide them between a few schools—they'll cost way less than our website store price.

If you're even more thrifty than that, you can make your own circuit boards. The UFO, for example, is really simple and can be made using silkscreening or toner transfer methods. We can't help you with that, but give it a try—there's lots of info on the web to show you how.

Don't build the whole thing at once

Our products are designed to let you add parts in stages. We made them that way because we wanted to maximize the value we got out of the circuits for our classes as the students progressed from year to year.

Is this a familiar scenario? You build a circuit with a class one year. The next year, you need to build a different circuit with the class that progressed. There are two problems with this approach: 1, you spend money year after year for the same kinds of parts (power supply parts, chips, sockets, LEDs, etc.) that don't really make the project do anything exciting; and 2, the 'newbies' that get parachuted into your class in year two quickly get lost because they didn't get to learn the basics in the previous year.

Problem solved! We designed products like the CHRP with three distinct levels of functionality (you can of course do more or fewer levels). You buy the common parts just once for each student's project, and the next year they add new parts to their existing circuit, expanding its capabilities as well as their skills. And, the newbies can work at their own level on the same hardware as the rest of the class.

Serve up a different flavour every year

The BMP circuit is designed to be at least five different projects. Make it as a locker alarm one year, and a robot the next. You save money by using the same parts, and the students get an entirely new project every year, unless you hold them back for five years!

Breadboards are not fun

Breadboards are okay for learning about circuits, but it's really hard to make a breadboard into a robot. We designed our products so our students could make fun and exciting take-home projects instead of take-apart projects!

Use our time, not yours

We spent lots of time and effort making the circuits, activity sheets, and lessons on this site so you don't have to. They are all licensed under a Creative Commons license so you can use them without getting that guilty, 'am I breaking copyright?' feeling.

 

Here are some more budget-saving tips for our projects

Recycle old junk

Motors for robots are expensive, and the hobby store kind usually draw high current and quickly drain your batteries. We found some great motors for BMP-bots in old CD-ROM drives and cassette players. Printers, scanners and fax machines are a great source of stepper motors for use in CHRP experiments, too.

Buy surplus

We regularly find suitable parts at electronics surplus stores for much less than the normal retail price.

Forget servos and gears

Have you seen those nice robot kits using servos as motors? Yeah, us too. But because we teach electronics-focused courses, any money that we spend on expensive servos and gear motors is money that can't be spent on circuit parts and cool features. So, we came up with the simplest, cheapest robot platform around—and it's really easy for students (and teachers) to make!

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The ultra-simple CHRP robot platform consists of a single piece of 1/2" MDF, with a saw-cut groove across the bottom for the axle. The axle 'floats' in the groove, and the weight of the robot ensures good contact between the motors and wheels. All of the parts are fastened on to the MDF, and two phototransistors and an LED mounted on the bottom of the CHRP board look through a hole in the MDF to create our line-following robots.