Category Archives: Project

Why free play is so important

People are always asking us about our Discover Electronics kit “So what can you do with it? or What does it make?” This NPR segment with Alix Spiegel really speaks to the Sparkle Labs’ design philosophy. Everyone with children should listen to it and read the great free play ideas in the left margin.

But during the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.

One play idea

Activities That Require Planning: Games with directions, patterns for construction, recipes for cooking, for instance.


Building giant buttons for MoMA PopRally : Part 2

We went through a many possible designs but with the short time frame we decided to look for a pre-made enclosure.
A quick trip to Ikea uncovered nicely colored storage containers that can fit together into a button that is 13″ tall. Next to them were some Ikea shelves which are the same size that we can use as a base.

Ikea containers

Next we needed to choose the internal components. The most important part is the spring. We will use mattress foam for the spring. It is durable and will provide stability as you push down the plunger. We will use copper sheeting for the contacts. One contact will be glued to the top and the other will sit on top of a 4×4 piece of lumber. I think this design will be durable, look good, and play well.

The game requires four buttons. We will have the four buttons connected to one another by a wire but have them wirelessly connected to the computer.

So that is the plan. Stay tuned for our next post where we will take you through building the buttons.

Building giant buttons for MoMA PopRally : Part 1

Building giant buttons for MoMA PopRally : Part 1

Kill Screen is curating a MoMA PopRally and asked us to make some buttons for a couple of their games. They want giant buttons which sounds like a fun way to play games in a public space. One of the games is called B.U.T.T.O.N and is from Copenhagen Game Collective. I have yet to play the game but it seems to be much more about your physical relationship to the buttons and the other players. The second game is Canabalt from Adam Atomic. This is a single player, side-scroller that is played with a single button. It is surprisingly fun and requires a subtle touch on the button to control the height of your jump.

These buttons will up for two months and I am a bit concerned about the durability. We will design and build the giant buttons in upcoming posts.

Sparkle Labs Solo Show at Gallery Hanahou

Sparkle Labs is having a solo show in SOHO, NYC. This will be our first real show in the USA! Come see our new projects!

Opening November 4th 2010, the Sparkle Labs retrospective at gallery hanahou will feature a landscape of hi-tech, hi-touch products and tools for inventors. The enlightened team behind Sparkle Labs will teach a simple, hands-on electronics lesson and give away large-scale downloadable cardboard patterns to awaken your creativity and inventor spirit.

With their “Teach, Design, Brand, Market” philosophy, Sparkle Labs seeks to turn consumers into makers. With their line of D.I.Y and D.I.T (do it together) products they invite users to glimpse how gadgets are created and to discover their inner inventor by making their own.
The gallery hanahou show will also feature Papertronics Lunar Modules customized by artists.

gallery hanahou
611 Broadway, Suite 730

Light-up Christmas Tree Project

Use your Discover Electronics Kit to light this easy, paper Christmas tree. Download the PDF and print it on or paste it onto card stock. We used matte photo paper with our printer set to “high-quality.”

Cut out the tree and then use a hard object to score the fold lines. Fold the tree and tape it closed. Choose the LEDs to light up your tree and place them on your breadboard.

Happy Holidays from Sparkle Labs!

download the pdf

Festive Hanukkah LED Menorah

The first day of Hanukkah is coming early this year, December 11th. Hanukkah represents the rededication of the Temple after the first revolt against the Hellenistic empire. They found only enough ritually pure olive oil to light the menorah for one day, but the supply miraculously lasted eight days. The eight candles of the menorah represent these eight days and the middle candle is used to light the other candles. One candle is lit everyday of Hanukkah alternating right and left, beginning on the right.

We made this Hanukkah project using 9 of the LEDs from your Discover Electronics kit. It makes for a really colorful project. Place 9 LEDs evenly spaced across one side of the breadboard (about 5 spaces apart) and bend them so they are directed outward. The resistor values can vary based on the color of the LED but around 220ohms should be fine.

Download the menorah pdf and print it on heavyweight paper or paste onto heavier paper. Cut it out and then cut holes for the candle flames. Paste a piece of thinner paper behind the front panel of the menorah to diffuse the LEDs. Fold it along the dotted lines and place it around the breadboard.

Happy Hanukkah and stay tuned for our Christmas tree project!

Thanksgiving LED Turkey centerpiece project

Brighten up your Thanksgiving Day with this Thanksgiving Turkey! No, not that one turkey. One that will literally brighten up the room!

Print the pictures and paste them onto a thin cardboard, from a shoebox for example. DO NOT cut the paper before pasting onto the cardboard, or it’ll be more difficult. Then cut each piece out, and fit them together with the stand. Once you’re done with that, the next step is the electronic circuit that will go in between the body and tail under the stand.

Create the LED circuit on your breadboard following the directions in the Discover Electronics manual. Place the breadboard between the body and the tail of the turkey. Angle the LEDs so that they shine off of the tail. Choose all different colors of LEDs to make the turkey more colorful.

Now you have a beautiful, light-up turkey display for your Thanksgiving.

Download the PDF