Co.Design

Wanted: Teague's User-Friendly Kit For Young Hackers

This clever kit can help just about anyone make just about anything interactive.

From a first-grader curious about how a clock works, to a designer who needs to make a quick-and-dirty mockup of an in-development gadget, we could all use a little help when it comes to understanding and manipulating our interactive world. Two designers at Seattle-based Teague, Matt Wolfe and Adam Kumpf, think their open-source electronics kit called Teagueduino can go one step further--turning anyone into a machine-creating, robot-making, game-designing whiz.

Teagueduino is based on Arduino, a widely-used open-source electronics prototyping platform with its own hardware and software. While Arduino seems simple--a tiny circuit board uses programming commands or sensors to prompt actions like turning on lights or starting motors--it definitely requires some level of hacking expertise. As fans and users of the platform, Wolfe and Kumpf wanted to bring Arduino’s barrier of entry even further down, so someone without any electronics or programming knowledge could be comfortable using the boards and the software. According to Tad Toulis, a creative director at Teague, their goal is to bring the concepts of hacking and prototyping to people who don’t consider themselves designers or engineers. "Our hope is that the device will not only get picked up within the prototyping and the design communities but that we’ll be able to get it into the hands of grade-schoolers and high school students as well."

Wolfe and Kumpf simplified the boards to five inputs and five outputs that don’t require soldering to connect wires to them. They then created a user-friendly interface for the programming language that allows even beginning coders to easily send commands from their computers. Finally, to round out the experience, they’ve created a full range of peripherals like knobs, buttons, speakers, LED lights, and servos (remote control devices) that come with their kits. Plus, an online community includes detailed directions and photos for projects that will only increase in numbers as more people start experimenting. While $160 might seem steep for basic electronic equipment that could all be procured for a fraction of the cost, Teague points out it’s less than other similar electronic platforms (Pico Cricket goes for $300) and much easier to use.

Now for the fun part. During their own prototyping and testing phase, the designers at Teague created some sweet (and silly) applications for their new tool. Among the projects that have already been made with a Teagueduino is a hilarious low-tech version of Super Mario Brothers:

The "video game in a box" uses a side-scrolling background and a hand-operated Mario that must avoid obstacles.

Here’s a paper cup robot.

An all-important laser-pointer game for cats.

And five Teagueduino boards that communicate using Morse code, telling the LED lights on each to switch from T-E-A-C-H to L-E-A-R-N in sequence.

Pretty awesome, right? The Kickstarter project is already funded, but if you pledge $160, you’ll get one of the first Teagueduino kits delivered to your door.

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