Friday, December 28, 2012

Adafruit to Teach Electronics Through Puppets in New Kids’ Show

By Mike Senese 12.27.12 2:02 PM

The Circuit Playground crew. Image: Adafruit

Adafruit, the kit-based electronics retailer and promoter of hobbyist engineering, is aiming to teach electronics to a younger demographic. So young that they’re enlisting the help of puppets.

Their new online show, titled Circuit Playground, will teach the essentials of electronics and circuitry to children through kid-friendly dolls with names like Cappy the Capacitor and Hans the 555 Timer Chip. Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Adafruit’s founder and chief engineer (and 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year), will host the episodes, with her team assisting with onscreen and puppeteering duties.
“We’ll have each component have a story, a song and something to do,” Fried says. “We’ll have live feeds in our factory on how things are made. It’s a little Elmo for engineering, a little Mr. Rogers for resistors and a little Sesame Street for Circuits.”

Adafruit is familiar with online broadcasts, hosting weekly “Show-and-Tell” and “Ask an Engineer” shows on Google+ and Ustream for over three years. Circuit Playground was a natural extension for them. “We saw the audience and the participants getting younger with more advanced projects, so we figured there was something there,” Fried says.

One of the first episodes will focus on robots. “ADABOT our robot muppet has a song about how robots can take pictures from mars, and be self-driving cars,” Fried explains. “We want to celebrate the fun and good parts of making things, and even tackle complex subjects like what’s ‘good’ to make — friendly robots for example.”

As a learning companion, Adafruit has also recently produced the coloring book E is for Electronics, and will carry plushie dolls of each character and an add-on for the eponymous Circuit Playground iPhone/iPad app.

Episodes will premiere this March on Google+ and Ustream. Fried holds hope for them to  inspire the upcoming crop of designers and builders.

“Will there be a generation of engineers 10 years or so from now saying, ‘Hey, I became an engineer because of that crazy electronics show Circuit Playground‘? I hope so.”

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