I write this blog after a weeks holiday with the family, which means 2 things, i'm more relaxed, and I've been reading :)
The book of choice was Alan Sugar's autobiography (What you see is what you get), interesting read and i enjoyed it a great deal. The thing that i found most interesting though were his early days, where he'd create a transistor radio from basic components, design a chasis and then go into manufacturing and then ultimately sell the product. Very exciting and all fairly crude, which left me thinking, things are so complicated these days, i'd have loved to have been a pioneer back in those days, but now things like this are so difficult to do.
I couldn't be more wrong!
We're now live in an age where collaboration, communities and open source are the norm. Where start-ups and and genuis-like software developers and product designers are creating tools to help the masses experiment. We live in an age of 3d printers, which are relatively accessible, and although are very expensive for a polished product, allow prototyping to be done fairly easily. 3d printers get lots of coverage in the news and on technology websites, but there are also a couple of other tools/ideas that can also help the budding product designer.
The first is the advance in inkjet circuit printing, this is where circuits can be printed using an inkjet printer, previously this sort of technology would set you back over £30,000, but these days you can start prototyping with as little as £250. Essentially it allows you to print circuit boards on standard A4 paper and using some adhesive or double side tape, you can fix components to create simple devices such as calculators. Check out this link for more info... http://www.fastcolabs.com/3021471/hack-your-useless-inkjet-to-print-electronics-circuits
Scientist in the US are even taking this one step further by creating a pen containing silver ink that will allow you to simply draw circuit boards! (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13989376)
Ok, so the inkjet printed circuit boards still require a base knowledge, and a bit of time to begin experimenting, however there is a really easy entry level kit out there. Makey Makey are a company that sell a kit that allows you to turn everyday objects into controllers and keyboards, just by creating a circuit. Apart from the kit, which sells for $49, all you need is a computer and you can be experimenting in minutes. There's even tutorials and guides on things like using a banana instead of a spacebar!
So now there are tools that make exploring electronics easy and fun, so why not buy a makey makey set and start experimenting, get the family involved and see what experiments you can create.
I’ll definitely be playing with these with my boys, and hopefully it’ll get them engaged thinking about how devices work, rather than just expecting them too in ignorance, and whilst they may not become the next Alan Sugar, they may at least tackles problems in a logical approach and not be phased by just seeing something as too complicated.