November 6, 8AM EST 2017
Chibitronics launches “Love to Code” (LTC):
Blending art and engineering
to tackle the diversity gap in computer science
Chibitronics is reinventing the book with Love to Code (LTC), a new teaching platform where readers craft functional circuits directly onto the pages of a storybook, while learning how to bring the images to life through code. LTC engages a fuller range of creative personalities, providing new pathways toward STEM learning by incorporating personal interests through drawing, decoration and storytelling along side engineering and technical problem solving.
The centerpiece of LTC is a 150 page educational storybook titled Love to Code: Volume 1 where readers create and grow with a friendly cast of characters. The story centers around Fern the Frog. Initially hesitant, Fern’s friends help her embark on a journey starting with turning on an LED and concluding with building compelling lighting effects using loops and multithreading. In the end, Fern – and the reader – will have learned how to make dynamic and interactive art using circuits and code.
To tell Fern’s story, Chibitronics is introducing a full range of made-for-paper electronics, including the Chibi Chip (microcontroller), the Chibi Clip (electronic-to-paper connector), and the Chibi Book (battery-powered ring binder). Everything you need to get started is included in the “Chibi Chip Starter Kit.” In addition to being the first made-for-paper microcontroller, the Chibi Chip is the first microcontroller directly programmable with smartphones and tablets, in addition to laptops.
Once readers have completed our Love to Code kit, we hope they will be excited to create their own interactive projects. Our goal is to empower creators to use circuits and programming as a whole new set of tools for turning what is in their imaginations into something real.
With LTC, everyone can fall in love with coding!
Primary link: https://chibitronics.com/lovetocode
Chibitronics’ Love to Code (LTC) platform re-invents computer education by using familiar tools and materials, like paper and tape, as an on-ramp into the new and sometimes intimidating world of circuits and programming. Readers are encouraged to create, not consume, by participating in open-ended activities that allow them to draw their own scenes and characters. By enabling people to put their own personal touch on projects, they have intrinsic motivation to see the project through despite the challenges inherent in learning something new. There also is no “wrong” answer to our open-ended prompts, giving creative personalities a space to thrive while learning and applying STEM concepts.
This juxtaposition of technology and art is made seamless with a lineup of paper electronic products being introduced by Chibitronics. Readers craft directly onto book pages using copper tape and Chibi Lights LED stickers. Code runs on a custom rigid-flex circuit board called the Chibi Chip. This circuit board can be bent around a paper-electronic clip dubbed the Chibi Clip, allowing the microcontroller to be re-used between multiple projects with nothing more than a squeeze of the clip. Finally, the book is held together and powered by the Chibi Book ring binder, a powered ring binder featuring an integrated battery pack that provides a convenient source of power on the go.
Users program the Chibi Chip with an easy to use web-only environment. There is no special software or driver to download and install: editing happens in the browser, compilation happens in the cloud, and code is uploaded to the Chibi Chip via the common headphone jack. If you can stream music off the web, you’ve already got everything you need to Love to Code.
In addition to lowering the barrier of entry, the browser-only requirement makes LTC the only hardware-based computer education platform that is directly operable with smartphones and tablets. As more households opt to purchase smartphones instead of laptops for children, this feature is critical for taking project beyond the classroom and enabling learners to continue creating and learning at home. This is especially important among households with limited income that cannot afford to purchase both a smartphone and a laptop for every child.
Bringing embedded programming off the computer means that learners can take their projects out of the classroom and into the home, continuing to learn and create wherever they go.
The centerpiece of LTC is a 150 page educational storybook titled Love to Code: Volume 1. The book aims to make learning to code funny, friendly, and expressive with a cast of relatable characters.
“I wanted to create an experience where readers could make-believe while making.”
– Jie Qi, author of Love to Code Volume 1, and co-founder of Chibitronics.
Readers join Fern the Frog in learning the “sometimes hard, but fun” concepts in coding. Initially hesitant, Fern masters the basics of electronics and coding with the help of her friend, Sami the Seal. Their journey starts with turning on an LED, then learning how to blink the LED. Next, they add an element of interactivity to projects by learning how to craft several types of paper circuit switches while learning about variables and conditional statements. In the final chapter, they learn how to create more aesthetically pleasing light-fading effects using loops and multithreading. There is also a comprehensive appendix on debugging where readers are taught how to use critical thinking skills to evaluate, find, and fix problems in projects.
Love to Code Volume 1 is made Freely available via a Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 International license. Everyone is invited to download, translate, adapt, and print copies of the book, especially educators on tight budgets, through this link: https://get.chibitronics.com/ltc-vol1.pdf
Availability and pricing:
The Chibi Chip Starter Kit has a suggested retail price of $85. It contains everything needed to complete Love to Code Volume 1. This includes the 150-page book printed in full color, a Chibi Chip pre-mounted in a Chibi Clip, a programming cable, 2 rolls of copper tape, 36 white LED stickers, 64 conductive fabric patches, a stencil for sketching component outlines, and a Chibi Book powered ring binder (batteries not included – requires 3 AA batteries).
Initially available exclusively through Chibitronics’ on-line store (https://chibitronics.com/shop), first deliveries are expected to be made in early November 2017. Stock is expected to be limited initially as production ramps up to meet demand, at which point the Chibi Chip Starter Kit will become available through other popular on-line retail channels such as Amazon.com.
Note that refill kits for the Chibi Chip, Chibi Clip, conductive fabric tape, LED stickers, and copper tape are immediately available via the Chibitronics web store and on Amazon.com.
Chibitronics combines technology and art through paper electronics to create educational tools and resources aimed at improving gender diversity in technology and engineering. The company is an evolution of Dr. Jie Qi’s research at the MIT Media Lab and is supported by a team of established hackers and engineers. Chibitronics was founded in 2014 in Singapore and is entirely boot-strapped from a Crowd Supply funding campaign.