Paper Circuits: The Adventure Begins

While I’m a big fan of paper and circuits, I’ve never really given paper circuits/circuitry a shot.  Unfortunately, I have no good excuse for this.  (Fair warning:  I’ve been collecting links and ideas on this topic for several weeks now, and even though I intend to break up the post into more manageable chunks, I have a feeling this is going to be a doozy)

1. TapeTricity

Years ago Chris Connors, a STEAM educator/maker and friend, had posted some photos and videos about something called, “TapeTricity” and helped hundreds of kids as young as 3 and 4 years old build their very first circuit at Maker Faire 2013.  TapeTricity is all about making electronics accessible to people by showing them how to make real circuits using cheap and common components while removing the need for specialized tools and materials.  This system of designing circuits made use of several very interesting innovations: aluminum HVAC tape and paperclips along the edges to form electrical contacts.

1. Aluminum HVAC Tape – Benefits and Limitations

Back in 2013 copper tape was reasonably common in artistic settings for use with soldering stain glass.  However, the copper tape wasn’t readily available with conductive adhesive and tended to be more expensive than the aluminum HVAC tape used in Chris’ projects.  While the prices of copper tape with conductive adhesive have fallen over the last few years and conductive inks/paints have become more common, pretty much nothing is going to beat aluminum HVAC tape for price per project.  However, HVAC tape is not without its limitations.  The adhesive is a decent insulator rather than a conductor, the tape only comes in strips about 2 inches wide and must be torn or cut to much thinner strips, and has a tendency to curl at torn edges, and aluminum tape does not take solder well.1 I expect that the non-insulation properties of the underside of the aluminum tape could actually be very useful in conjunction with copper tape – to essentially make for circuit board traces that can cross over one another.

2. Taped Edges – Contact Points

TapeTricity components

As you can see from some of the photos above, the edges of the cards had foil tape wrapped over some edges which were then connected to some of the components.  The result is that the edges of the paper essentially become functional I/O pins.  The nifty thing about this is that it could allow TapeTricity cards to be wired/rewired/networked together.

3. Paperclips – Alternatives to Alligator Clips

Another interesting feature of TapeTricity comes from the use of paperclips.  Paperclips are ubiquitous and cheap23 and, with a little bit of wire, become cheap DIY alligator clips replacements.  While individual alligator clips aren’t that expensive (let’s say around $0.25 each?), the cost of providing a number of them to a room full of students would quickly add up.

These TapeTricity cards allowed kids to color and draw on one side of an index card – then bring their designs to life with electronics on the back and through the card.

4. Lessons from TapeTricity

  • HVAC tape is a great choice for paper electronics with a few limitations.  The adhesive is an insulator which allows HVAC tape to be leveraged in bridges and there aren’t easy ways to solder to it.
  • Edge conductive pads from HVAC tape allow for cards to be powered or networked
  • Paperclips and wire are a great cheap DIY alternative to alligator clips

2. Evil Mad Scientist Labs and Paper Electronics

Evil Mad Scientist Labs is one of my all time favorite open source arts/electronics designers/manufacturers ever.  Not only do they enable other people to realize their plans for world domination, they’re pretty cool people.  I had the good fortune to be able to visit Evil Mad Scientist Labs (now celebrating their 10th birthday!) a few years ago.

1. One Sided Circuit Board – paper, conductive ink, and soldering

Mobius Circuit - 21

While there Windell Oskay and Lenore Edman gave me a tour and showed off their awesome single sided mobiüs circuit board.4

2. Electronic Origami – several methods for electrifying paper

toner - 15

More recently, while researching for this blog post I discovered their simpler, but perhaps more spectacular, origami balloon circuit.  EMSL posted several possible methods for electrifying paper.  Since the post explains each of these methods in detail, I’ll only list them:

  • Using dry mount adhesive to glue aluminum foil to paper
  • Using an iron to fuse aluminum foil to freezer paper
  • Using an iron to fuse aluminum foil to the toner on laser printed paper
  • Lessons on resistors and simple LED/battery combinations inspired by LED throwies

This circuit is beautiful and eerily reminiscent of a certain other cube.  If someone hasn’t made an origami LED paper circuitry companion cube, well, this is just a thing that needs to exist in the universe.

3. Edge-Lit Cards

EdgeLitCard - 31

Another particularly cool post from EMSL is their piece on edge lit holiday cards.  The electronics are essentially the same as a simple throwie or TapeTricity circuit, but the use of scored sheets of plastic allow incredibly interesting display possibilities.

4. Lessons from EMSL

In no particular order, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from EMSL:

  • The conductive ink in the mobiüs circuit has enough resistance that the LED’s don’t really require actual resistors
  • Electronic paper projects need not be merely two-dimensional and adding a third dimension can be truly transformative
  • Scored or scratched plastic plus paper and carefully designed LED circuits can create amazing display possibilities

3. Paper Circuits / Paper Circuitry / Electronic Notebook

Just before Maker Faire 2016 I saw a tweet from Jeannine Huffman showing off her development of a paper circuitry robot panda which would cost about $5 per student.

I was astounded by what Jeannine was doing.  Where TapeTricity was a great way to introduce kids to electronics, making those same electronics smart by adding a microcontroller could make those same pages smart and interactive.  Moreover, a TapeTricity project could be “leveled” up by just wiring the aluminum contact pads to a microcontroller.

1. Jeannine Huffman’s Notebook

I was fortunate enough to be able to catch up with Jeannine at Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 this year and we compared notebooks.  Here’s some pictures of her work:

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I regret that I didn’t take more pictures of Jeannine’s notebook, she’s been kind enough to post much of her designs on her website, her Twitter account, her Google Plus page, and in the 21st Century Notebooking Google Plus community.

2. Lessons from Jeannine Huffman

To just jot down some of the problem solving and ideas I noticed in the few moments when we compared notebooks:

  • Mixing off the shelf electronic components and circuit stickers with conductive ink, copper tape, and soldering
  • Incorporating electronic components, sensors, and microcontrollers with DIY sensors, switches, and other solutions
  • Melding a notebook and electronics – by sketching in, around, and through circuits to provide annotations and instructions
  • Finding a way to create a copper tape hinge that could survive repeated opening and closing of the notebook

4. 21st Century Notebooking

The ideas shared in the 21st Century Notebooking Google Plus community are just too numerous for me to do justice.  Since my blog posts are as much about me documenting my own discoveries as it is about sharing with you, gentle reader, perhaps you’ll forgive my jotting down just a few of the ideas found within a 30 second scan of this community:

  1. Paper electronics with mixed media arts crafts
  2. Paper electronics mixed with origami
  3. From +Jie Qi and @Chibitronics:
    1. Conductive fabric to create conductive hinges for use in circuits spanning more than one page in a notebook
    2. Light up paper helicopters
    3. Copper tape paper speakers

5. What’s Next???

Smart sketchbooks, electronic origami, and the ability to program anything.  With all these incredible designs, pieces of code, and ideas – where can we go next?

Well, I have a few ideas…

  1. When I googled “how to solder copper wire to aluminum foil” the top result was a YouTube video which suggested applying a thin layer of oil to the foil, using a soldering iron with solder to heat up the foil, with the oil supposedly preventing the aluminum from oxidizing, then the wire could be soldered to the foil. []
  2. Or free when you are at a Kinko’s []
  3. Perhaps the better phrase is “complimentary”? []
  4. I hope you will, once again, forgive me as I present these items in the order of my discovery, rather than chronological order? []

Adventures in Chrome OS

samsung chromebook

Samsung Chromebook

My old Toshiba laptop had been slowly dying for a while.  Historically I would simply just go to CostCo and pick up one of their mid-range Windows machines for $500 which would last me 3 years.1

After looking over my various options, I figured I’d give a Chromebook a shot this time.  If it’s good enough for Chris Anderson, it’s got to be good enough for me.2

After working with a Samsung Chromebook 2  for a few weeks now, I find that it excels at 70-80% of what I need a laptop to do.  Email, blogging, office style software tasks, and ridiculous battery life at a price that almost doesn’t make any damn sense.  It’s the last 20-30% uses that have been more challenging.  So far, uses items include:

  • Heavy email wrangling.  I’ve got probably a dozen email addresses, all of which are routed to a single Thunderbird install.  Dozens of filters keep it all under control.  Since I don’t want to be bothered by emails from all the accounts all the time, but do want access to them when I need it, I leave my machine on all the time and access it remotely when necessary.
  • Serious Office Tasks.  Google Sheets and Google Docs seem adequate, but I haven’t found them up to the task of gnarly office documents that require significant formatting.3 I inherited a set of MicroSoft Office Excel spreadsheets from someone with literally millions of cells.  I wouldn’t look forward to trying to edit that document in what amounts to a browser window.
  • Dropbox Integration.  I can access Dropbox files using a ChromeOS extension, but I can’t place documents into Dropbox – unless I upload them into the website manually.  Admittedly, if I just switched to Google Drive, this problem would disappear entirely.
  • Arduino Projects.  I don’t know of a way to use an Arduino IDE on a Chromebook.
  • FTP Client.  Again, I don’t know of a way to use an FTP client on a Chromebook.
  • OpenSCAD.  There are a number of web based CAD programs, but even the OpenSCAD web clones don’t work quite as well as a local install.
  • MakerWare.  My MakerBot Replicator 1 Dual is still in excellent working order.  I use MakerWare to slice models, drop them onto an SD card, and then run them on the Replicator from the SD card.

For these items I’ll go and use the old laptop or, more frequently, connect to that machine remotely from my Chromebook.  The thing is, I’d like to eliminate my crappy laptop from the equation entirely.  I think there’s two ways to go from here:

  1. As a friend suggested, I could use Crouton to install Linux on the Chromebook.  Doing so would basically take care of each of my last remaining 20-30% use cases.
  2. Ditch the old laptop and replace it with a small PC designed to be “always on” such as a Raspberry Pi or a mini PC without a monitor.  When I needed to use the device, I would simply use remote access to gain control, do what I needed to do, and move on with my life.

 

  1. Two years of decent function followed by a crappy year of service []
  2. In fact, it was this particular tweet from Chris that inspired me to give it a shot.  I’ve never had a malware infection – something about that tweet just resonated with me.  It’s almost like someone whispered to me, “Switch to a Chromebook and all worries will drift away…” []
  3. It’s a job thing []

Buy Your Own Modem: Save $120/year and Get Faster Internet

money fire photo

Hello Comcast

If you’ve got Comcast internet you’re probably “renting” their cable modem for something INSANE like $10 a month.1

Stop it.  Just stop that nonsense right now.

You can buy a brand new modem off Amazon for $65 (shipped with prime!), hook up the modem in 5 minutes, and have Comcast authorize the new modem in about 15 minutes.  It will pay for itself in about six months, last years, and as a bonus, you’ll almost certainly have faster internet access than your neighbor who is still using the rented modem.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Buy the “ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem – Retail Packaging – White” from Amazon.23  It is possible that some of the models have changed.  You can confirm the latest Comcast compatible models here.
  2. Follow the directions from Xfinity/Comcast to activate your modem
  3. If you get hung up, you may need to call up Xfinity/Comcast at 1 (800) 934-6489.  They had to take one additional step to authorize my modem on their end, but the process was painless.

Switching car insurance or brown bagging your lunch might save you a little money.  But, I have to tell you, it was immensely satisfying to save money, not pay Comcast as much, and speed up my internet connection all in the same morning.

  1. Photo by Images_of_Money []
  2. The white plastic injection molded shell is $65 and the black plastic injection molded shell is $100.  Heck, they can paint mine yellow for an extra $35 []
  3. Yes, that’s an affiliate link []

Nachos and Game Theory

nachos photo

Not yo cheese!

Last night during dinner I was reminded of an article about an optimal game theory strategy for playing Memory.1

Game theory is all well and good, but rarely does it intersect with real life situations.  Being a competitive sort, I’ve always enjoyed reading about game theory, but have had little chance to put that kind of knowledge to use – until now.

Memory, or Concentration, as it is sometimes called is a relatively simple game.  Players put a bunch of cards face down and take turns flipping over two cards, one at a time, trying to make a match.  Make a match and you get to flip over two more cards.  At the end of the game the player with the most pairs wins.

Apparently the optimal strategy was determined some time back in 1993.  This article does a really good job of explaining the theory in depth.  The strategy boils down to this – at any given moment during the game the player with more information and the ability to flip over a card has a slight edge.  Accumulate enough of these such edges, while minimizing your opponent’s opportunities, and you’ll be more likely to win.

In a more concrete sense, the strategy dictates that when you flip over a brand new card that you cannot now match to a card previously flipped over, it makes more sense for you to flip over a card everyone has already seen than to flip over a brand new card.  The reason is that you probably have a low probability of picking a match for your new card out of the whole lot – and a corresponding high probability of showing your opponent two cards they’ve never seen (or a card they’ve never seen and a card they can match with something they have seen).  Thus, you let your opponent uncover new cards and you use that information to make more matches, while simultaneously depriving them of additional information they can use to make more matches.2

How does this relate to nachos???

You see, I’m not the only competitive one in my family.  When it comes to the crispy salty greasy delicious fried bits of cheese that cover a tortilla chip, my lovely daughter is every bit as cutthroat as her father.  Last night I picked a veggie laden chip off the top of the nacho pile – to reveal a crispy nacho dripping with cheese underneath.  My hawk-eyed daughter was apparently monitoring the pile as I obliviously ate, spotted it instantly and grabbed it.  Meanwhile I was stuck holding a veggie nacho.  Like a chump.

Now, I’m not the least bit bitter.  I’m glad she spotted an opportunity and exploited it.  And, whether she realized it or not, she was using information and game theory to improve her dinner experience.  She was actively allowing me to take the most available nachos while she took the most satisfying nachos.

Damn it, I couldn’t be more proud.

  1. Photo by @joefoodie []
  2. Both of these articles are really great and do a much better job of explaining this all than I have.  If you’re interested in game theory at all they’re worth a read. []

MOAR WHISTLES

The other day I was trolling Thingiverse1 looking for the best quick-printing model to show off DIY 3D printing to 3rd graders.

After a bit of searching, I found it: the simple whistle.

There are whistles a-plenty on Thingiverse, but the DarkAlchemist remix of the muddtt Emergency Whistle is easily the smallest by far.  I compared these two against several other options, tossing all of them into my slicing program and doing a visual double-check for good measure.

Emergency whistle, clear PLA as designed by DarkAlchemist

Emergency whistle in clear PLA as designed by DarkAlchemist

There’s no doubt about it – these are SMALL.  They are less than 2.7cc2 and weigh about 1.2 grams a piece.  Best of all, they print very quickly.  Printing just one whistle with 0.2mm thick layers, including printer warm up time, took 7 minutes.  10 whistles at once?  Only 47 minutes.

Naturally, I took the opportunity to print up 20 more whistles.  This is what 30 whistles looks like:

THIRTY emergency whistles, clear PLA as designed by DarkAlchemist

THIRTY emergency whistles in clear PLA

That got me thinking – could they be even smaller?!

Turns out they can.  I redesigned the whistle in OpenSCAD with a hacky thickness adjustment.  In doing so I discovered that the existing designs on Thingiverse used 1mm thick walls.  A one-millimeter wall thickness is pretty good if you have a small part that needs to be sturdy – but a bit of an overkill if you just need a small functional quick-printing thing.  By removing the little loop at the end of the whistle and creating a wide hole in the top of the whistle, I reduced a fair bit of plastic while keeping the ability to be connected to a cord.

I exported a version with 0.5mm thick walls and a copy with 0.4mm thick walls.  Printed at 0.2mm layers the 0.5mm thick walled version was functional – but the 0.4mm thick walled version was not.  The layers didn’t fully overlap, causing small gaps which prevented the whistle from making any noise.  Printing the 0.4mm thick walled version at 0.1mm layers3 turned out both beautiful and functional.  Best of all, they’re 1/3 the weight of the 1mm version!4

Three emergency whistle in black ABS as remixed by MakerBlock

Three emergency whistle in black ABS as remixed by MakerBlock

A friend recently suggested that his plastic filament supplier of choice ships via Amazon Prime for a ridiculously low $22-23 per kilogram.  Ignoring the amortized cost of the robot and electricity, I could make about 2,500 whistles for about 0.88 cents a piece!

Now, just imagine the following scene.  I take my HedonismBot ((As my MakerBot Replicator 1 Dual Extruder is named)) to my daughter’s third grade class.  I show off the robot printing a single whistle and call a random student up to test it.  Thank you, a pat on the head, and the whistle is yours!  Golly, I guess that’s the whole show everyone.  Oh, you want a whistle too?  Check under your desk.  You get a whistle!  You get a whistle!  You get a whistle!  You ALL GET WHISTLES!  What’s that?  Your sister is in second grade?  It just so happens it only took 80 hours of printing to make enough whistles for every damn student, teacher, and student teacher in the school.

MOAR WHISTLES.

  1. and Youmagine!  I can’t forget you Erik and Team Ultimaker! []
  2. Close approximate dimensions: 8mm x 8mm x 42mm []
  3. Basically, twice the vertical “resolution” []
  4. Just 0.4g each?! []

How to Enable WiFi on Dell Mini 9 Running Ubuntu

Dell Mini 9 (ours is red, not pink)

Dell Mini 9 (ours is red, not pink)

My elementary-school-aged daughter wanted her own laptop.  However, I wouldn’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a computer only to have her step on it, throw something at the screen, or snap the power cord off in the jack.  My solution was to dust off an old Dell Mini 9 that had been sitting around since it stopped recognizing its battery and load Ubuntu on it.  The reason for the Ubuntu rather than the native Windows that came with the laptop is that it would take forever to do anything with all the Windows updates.

And, Ubuntu1 was just fine – except that the wifi adapter wouldn’t work.  After a bit of searching, I finally found the solution and am documenting it here as much for myself as for you, dear reader.

  1. Connect the laptop to the internet via an ethernet cable
  2. Bring up a terminal window by hitting CTRL + Alt + T2
  3. Type “sudo apt-get update” into the terminal window and hit Enter.
  4. Wait for the update to finish.
  5. Type “sudo apt-get –reinstall install bcmwl-kernel-source” in the terminal window and hit Enter.
  6. Wait for the update to finish, restart the computer and you should be ready to go! 3
  1. This was actually my first foray into using Ubuntu []
  2. I learned how to do this here []
  3. The original site where I learned this fix appears to have been taken over by malware – so I used Archive.org to visit an earlier version []

How to Fix Broken Flip-Flops

We went to Hawaii last year and had all kinds of adventures.  While on these travels, I took a stance against the $40 flip-flops available at every corner and bought a pair of $1 flip-flops at the local Walmart when we stopped to buy water and supplies.  It wasn’t long after coming home from vacation that the plastic strap began come out of the foam sole.  While I wasn’t expecting a lifetime of use out of the flip-flops, I did find a way to quickly and cheaply fix them.

Occlupanid, bread clip, bread bag clip, bag clip, plastic bread bag clip

These ubiquitous plastic clips found on so many bread bags

Step 1: Find a plastic bread bag clip

This little bit of plastic is the only thing you’ll need to fix your flip flops.1 You may be fortunate enough to find a stash of these in your kitchen junk drawer.

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Step 2: Push plastic strap through flip-flops

Before I attempted this fix, I was already just pushing the plastic strap through the hole in the foam sole.  This worked for a few days, but would eventually work itself loose all over again.  After several weeks, the plastic strap would come out after just a couple of steps.

All you have to do is push the strap back through the foam and have your plastic clip at the ready.

fixed flip flop, fixed flipflops

Just push the plastic bread bag clip around the plastic strap and wear the flip flops as normal

Step 3:  Place plastic bread bag clip around plastic strap

All fixed!  I broke off part of one of the “teeth” on the bread clip as I took it on and off the flip flops while taking these pictures.  Although it worked for several more weeks, I think it would have lasted much longer if I had never taken if off or if I had added a little bit of hot glue to keep it in place.

  1. There is WAY more written about these little plastic clips than I would ever have imagined.  But, that’s the internet for you. []

Your Restaurant Website Sucks

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL?!

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL?!

Dear Restaurant,

Your website is really bad.1  It is literally preventing me from giving you money.  Don’t take this the wrong way, all your competitors’ websites suck too.  Fortunately, I have come up with a quick and easy list of things you can do to make your website not suck:

  1. DO prominently display
    1. Phone number2
    2. Address3
    3. Hours of operation4
    4. Your menu in HTML with descriptions5
    5. Bonus points for also having a downloadable PDF of the menu6
  2. DO give important information such as whether you accept cash only
  3. DO NOT have a flash, music, or animations7

Thank you,

Your (soon to be) loyal customer,

MakerBlock

  1. Photo courtesy of Chris Blakely []
  2. So I can call you []
  3. So I can go to you []
  4. So I can be there when you are there []
  5. So I show picky eaters you have a good place to eat with things they will like []
  6. So I can give everyone a copy of your menu []
  7. I will close the browser window and never eat at your restaurant []

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

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While I’m not much one for impulse buys, I was unable to prevent myself from purchasing the Adafruit Trinket-Powered NeoPixel Goggle Kit Pack.  If you’re on the fence about dropping the $40 for this kit, let me help you out with the pro’s and con’s list I went through before buying my own.

  • Cons
    • I literally have no practical uses for these goggles
    • Other than flashing lights, they don’t actually do anything useful
    • Once assembled, they can’t be used as goggles since (a) the LED’s are too bright to expose to even your closed eyes and (b) if you’re able to close off the glare, you’ll have an incredibly narrow field of vision
    • The kit is $40
  • Pros
    • They are seriously badass animated LED flashy goggles
    • Sourcing all the parts separately would easily cost you $50, which makes this a deal at $40

Kit Review

As I have come to expect from Adafruit, the kit is, in a word fantastic.  The parts are all packed neatly, wrapped, protected, and in a nice black cardboard box.  If you’ve never purchased a kit from Adafruit or checked out one of their tutorials, you’re really missing out.  The tutorials have lots of high quality pictures, helpful step-by-step directions, and little tips along the way that will undoubtedly make you a better hacker.

I got the basic electronics up and running pretty quickly.1 From there it was relatively easy to install them into the goggles.  My wife and daughter, both skeptical when I first told them about the goggles, immediately demanded their own upon seeing mine.

If you end up buying this kit, I would recommend not doing what I did – hotgluing the Trinket and NeoPixel rings in place.  Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly what you need to do to make affix these parts in place for wearing.  The thing is – within 24 hours of completing the project my mind was boiling over with ideas of how to Make it Better.™

Hacking the Goggles

The thing is, the kit is actually capable of doing a whole lot more with very minimal hacking.  Assembled exactly per instructions, the goggles use just one I/O pin on the Trinket, leaving four unused.  The evening after I had assembled the goggles, I dismantled them in order to pull out the Trinket, and soldered additional wires to pins 2, 3, and 4 and spliced three new wires to ground.  After soldering a big 12mm tactile button to each of three sets of wires, I hotglued the buttons above the right lens.  Now I can use these buttons to interact with the goggles in some small ways.

If you’re thinking of modifying your goggles like my own, you’ll need a little more ribbon cable, three big tactile buttons, a battery extension cable, black craft foam, and a hotglue gun.  You don’t really need the extension cable, but it will make keeping the battery inside the goggles and recharging the battery much easier.2

The Adafruit website provides several other ways to extend these goggles.  You can their tutorials to make the goggles sound reactive, controllable by bluetooth, or if you’re using something more powerful than a Trinket you can add an accelerometer.

My Setup

If you’d like to use my animations, you can find my code on GitHub.  I’ve updated the code with several animations:

  1. Larson Scanner.  This is just a single LED lit up, travelling from the left to right and back again.
  2. Wave Scanner.  Two LED’s are lit up, one travelling along the top of the lens and another along the bottom, until it reaches the far side of the goggles, then back again.
  3. Infinity Scanner.  A single LED travels around one lens, then around the other in an infinity pattern.
  4. Spinny Wheels.  Four LED’s on each lens spinning.  This is part of the original sketch from Adafruit.
  5. Sparks.  A single LED on each lens lights up briefly.  This is part of the original sketch from Adafruit.
  6. Sirens.  One red spinny wheel and one blue spinny wheel.
  7. aStrobe.  The right and left lenses flash white on and off.

The buttons have specific uses as well:

  • Button 1 (on pin 2) makes the current animation brighter
  • Button 2 (on pin 3) cycles through the animations
  • Button 3 (on pin 4) makes all LED’s light up bright red (won’t destroy your night vision!)
  • Button 2 and 3 simultaneously make all LED’s light up bright white (destroy everyone’s night vision!)

If you are going to go through the trouble of building this kit, I would highly recommend adding buttons to it3 and leaving the USB port on the Trinket exposed for later re-programming.  There are a few little tricks you can do with just a single button – treating a button click differently than a button press of a certain duration – but I feel that these would probably be more difficult to use than just adding a second button.  With two buttons, there are up to three combinations4 , with three buttons would have up to seven combinations5 , and four buttons seven billion combinations.6

At this point, I’m still experimenting with with ways to make the goggles more useful/awesome.  Perhaps another post is in order?

  1. It would have been even quicker if my Trinket skillz weren’t so rusty []
  2. Beats the hell out of trying to get your goggles right next to a USB cable. []
  3. Or, at the least soldering wires to the pins for later use []
  4. 1, 2, and 1 + 2 []
  5. 1, 2, 3, 1 + 2, 1 + 3, 2 + 3, 1 + 2 + 3 []
  6. I might have gotten carried away with the math on the last one… []

DIY Shrinky Dinks

Peter DINKlage

Peter DINKlage

The other day I stumbled across a method of making DIY shrinky-dinks.1 Today my daughter and I gave it a shot – they turned out really well!  Here’s how you can make your own:

  1. Cut Plastic Pieces
    1. Locate polystyrene which is easily identifiable by the number 6 in the recycling triangle
    2. You’ll find clear plastic polystyrene is used in plastic salad bar containers, to-go trays, and plastic cookie trays inside boxes of cookies
    3. Shape the plastic as desired with scissors and a hole puncher to round edges and make holes
  2. Decorate Plastic Pieces
    1. Color or draw with permanent markers (Staples usually has some kind of deal on a pack of colored Sharpies)
  3. Bake and Shrink
    1. Preheat oven to 375
    2. Place plastic pieces on a piece of parchment or aluminum foil (colored sides up) on a baking sheet
    3. Put the baking sheet in the oven
    4. You’ll notice the pieces curl or warp significantly, possibly even rolling around.  They will eventually flatten out.
    5. Once all of the pieces are flat, pull the baking sheet out, take the parchment off the baking sheet and let the pieces cool

When they shrunk down, the “hole punch” holes are the perfect size for adding a small metal ring for use in a necklace or charm bracelet.  With a slightly larger hole you could probably make a decent keyring fob.

  1. Credit to Alyssa and Cindy for the ideas []