The following are some of our favorite things and stuff used in Invent To Learn workshops. Enjoy!
Find and stock up on the best books for tinkering, learning, invention, and more selected from this list!
The Best Invention and Tinkering Books, plus other cool stuff – including toys and kits
Soft Circuits, a facilitator’s guide to getting started with wearable computing or e-textiles.
Lilypad Protosnap Example Code – 2 sketches that demonstrate how all the LEDs, buzzers, buttons, sensors, etc work (Zip file lilypad_protosnap_examples)
3n “Experimental Math” laboratory
Parts and Kit Suppliers
TortugArte (en Espanol)
- Request copy of Turtle Art from its authors
- Gary Stager’s Turtle Art activity cards created by Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert
- Early mathematics activities for Turtle Art by Gary Stager
Makedo FreePlay Kit For One $15.30 (larger sets are also available)
Wicked cool reusable connectors, hinges and child-safe saws for building cardboard constructions.
Rolobox Reuseable Wheel Kit for Boxes $13.95
Wheel sets for cardboard boxes. You need these with Makedo!
Circuit Scribe Pen
Draw electrical circuits on paper with a quick-drying non-toxic pen. Use magnetic components to prototype your inventions before using LEDs, sensors, switches, and other components.
Purchase maker sets, classroom sets, and components at ElectronicInks.com
Make electronic circuits and projects out of paper with electronic light, effect, and sensor stickers!
Watch the amazing circuit sticker videos!
Purchase a Circuit Sticker Starter Set from Amazon.com
The Hummingbird Robot Kit and Fitch
The Hummingbird is a $199 robotics construction kit allowing the invention of robots with found materials. The Hummingbird Duo is a newer wireless version due in late 2014.
The Finch is a $100 robot with motors, lights and sensors. It allows for computer programming experience with robotics without building the physical robot.
The littleBits web site has a complete store, spare components, and countless project ideas.
Dot and Dash Robots
Wonder Workshop has created Dot and Dash, lovable robots controlled directly or programmed via iPad, iPhone (some models), and Android devices. So far, the programming options are limited to a Scratch-like version of Blockly, but the robots are robust and quickly embraced by young children.
Arduino microcontrollers from SparkFun are a good deal. There are many types and you will need to do some investigation to determine which ones are best for you. If you aren’t sure, start with a kit. The Arduino Starter Kit from Arduino has a great book.
We use the Sparkfun Arduino Inventor’s Kit in our workshops. These kits offer an “all in one” package with an Arduino, breadboard, a variety of parts, jumper wires, LEDs, etc. and a booklet with instructions for 10 beginner projects. ($90 suggested retail)
Once you know what parts you need, order separately to make up your own custom classroom Arduino kits! Attach “shields” to add functionality to Arduinos such as GPS, Ethernet, displays, and more.
You might wish to try block-based programming of the micro controller over the Arduino IDE via the free Ardublock.
Raspberry Pi and other Microprocessors
The latest version of the Raspberry Pi computer.
The new competitor to the Raspberry Pi in the sub-$50 computer market.
WiFi for the Beaglebone or Raspberry Pi
MaKey MaKey Deluxe Kit – Sparkfun sells this kit that comes with the USB cable, plus handy jumpers, alligator clip leads, and copper tape. ($59.95)
You can also buy MaKey MaKey directly from the supplier with the USB cable, jumper wires, alligator clip leads, and a quick start guide. ($49.95)
There’s no adequate way to completely explain Makey Makey, “the invention kit for everyone,” but you need to own at least one of them! It’s an easy-to-use interface between almost anything in the real world to almost any computer software that responds to keyboard input. But that’s a boring explanation for something that helps create whimsical and fun inventions! Learn more:
MaKey MaKey website – You can buy a MaKey MaKey, or look at the galleries of video projects or use the provided apps that you can control via the keyboard.
We use LEGO WeDo in our workshops. Since the demise of the fabulous PicoCrickets, this is the most versatile LEGO set for easy to use robotics construction.
An early-childhood robotics construction kit that may be controlled via Scratch.
Wearable Computing, Sewing, and Soft Circuits
Lilypad is a special Arduino board specially built for wearable computing projects. There are many types for different projects, sizes, and features. (approx $20) See this Sparkfun page for a variety of Lilypad boards, accessories, and kits.
A brilliant way to get started with e-textiles! This set contains everything you need for simple wearable computing projects. The ProtoSnap comes with the Lilypad and several components (lights, buzzer, switch) already attached. This lets you prototype your invention and get your program working. Then you can “snap” the board apart into components to sew them into a garment and connect with conductive thread.
This is a lot easier than using a breadboard to prototype a soft-circuit.
Conductive Thread is a necessity for soft circuits and wearable computing projects. You will likely get some small bobbins of conductive thread if you purchase Lilypad kits, but for classroom use, purchase a large spool. Available from Sparkfun (stainless steel) or Amazon (silver plated nylon core), among others. The silver plated thread tarnishes and can’t be soldered, while the stainless steel is a bit harder to work with.
Sewable coin battery holders are really useful for e-textile projects.
Flora is an Arduino-based board for wearable computing projects similar to the Lilypad, but with cool modules like GPS.
Conductive Paint and Supplies
Make interactive electronic greeting cards out of paper! A classroom set for 30 kids is available for $90.
Paint and markers for paper-based circuits.
If you don’t wish to scrounge for parts, the Squishy Circuits Kit is a great way to go!
Supplies and Other Cool Makerspace Stuff
Conductive tape for all sorts of projects. Sticks to paper, cardboard, foam, and other material.
Lots of inexpensive bulk LEDs. Ebay is also a source for bulk LEDs.
Sugru various prices
Miraculous shapeable air-cured rubber, because “the future needs fixing!”
You need a multimeter if electronics projects are underway.
This is big! A complete inexpensive green screen studio in a bag!
Table Top Studio
Essential for stop-action animation projects and close-up photography. Everything folds up into a carrying case!
$60 – 70
My late friend, Steve Ocko, invented this programmable floor turtle (robot) for Milton Bradley in 1979. There has never been a more powerful easy-to-use robot available for kids since.The good news is that some lunatic bought the rights to the Big Trak and is manufacturing new ones 30+ years later.Kids from 5+ will play and learn with Big Trak for ages.