All posts by Laura Pierson Wadden

How the Creator Kit saved me from the electronics store

Confession – I hate huge electronics stores. You can find everything there, but there’s one big catch: the people at these kinds of stores are usually unhelpful and mean.* On my first electronics store adventure I didn’t have a perfectly detailed list of what I needed and it ended something like this: I almost cried,** left in a rage, and questioned my Arduino abilities.

When I signed up to attend Open Tech School’s Physical Computing Club 1.0 I had instant nightmares of the electronics store. The computing club session was about audio and Open Tech School hosted it at the FabLab in Berlin. I thought that I needed all new components and imagined myself walking through each unmarked aisle staring – eyes glazed – at thousands of not-quite-right tiny electronics.

Open Tech School's Physical Computing Club

Open Tech School’s Physical Computing Club

Instead of facing fear head-on, I ignored the store and woke up on Sunday with no new parts in my toolkit. Slightly worried, I blindly chucked my Fritzing Creator Kit and computer in my bag and headed off toward the meetup.

At FabLab I shyly sat down and started setting up my work area. Arduino mounting board – check. Instruction book – check. Wire components – check. Resistors – check.

I flipped through the Creator Kit book for ‘audio’ and found an activity within a minute. I felt immense victory:

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 16.10.54

I imagined all the parts that I didn’t have and an electronics expert patronizingly waving an “I told you so” finger at me. I persevered and started assembling the project.

To my surprise, all the supplies were in the kit. All of them!

all-the-things

I was ready to go. With the book in my lap, the Fritzing sketch on my screen, I came up with this set-up in about 10 minutes:

Two potentiometers and a Piezo

10 minutes!

Then the fun part began. I used the potentiometers to alter the tone of the sound and the frequency that the tone played. The result was quick and rewarding:

Me as a professional DJ

Me as a professional DJ

With the Creator Kit, I was able to head to a meetup without any preparation and jump into the topic at hand. From there I could experiment and play with other parts of the kit. Huge electronics stores are still intimidating and frustrating, but the Creator Kit helped me jump into a hackday without any extra preparation.

*Mad props to the nice old man who always smiles and is patient with me. There is good in the world, after all.

**Johanna actually cried.

You can learn more about Open Tech School and Physical Computing Club at http://www.physicalcomputingclub.org and follow them on Twitter at @PhysCompClub and @OTS_BLN

Hello [fritzing] world

Hello, Fritzing world. My name is Laura and I’m a creator / programmer and organizer living in Berlin. If I’m not planning a new project or talking with people about a whacky idea, then I’m probably thinking about one. I moved to Berlin about a year ago and got involved in open tech / rails girls / maker things when my friend and I started going to Everything together (yes, Everything). Workshops, meetups, tangentially related conferences, you name it. Johanna and I were there.

Johanna and I at Everything:

soldering mamas with our arduinos
hot mama arduino Saturdays

This Fall we’re testing the new Fritzing Creator Kit. We’ve worked with Arduinos before, but this is our first foray into the Fritzing world. We’re going to try each project, try our own projects and document the process through this blog.

i.e., make things, break things and drink (lots of) coffee.

Since we’ll blog regularly in the next months, I asked Johanna a few questions to help you get to know us better. Follow the entire series, stay tuned on the Fritzing blog and follow us on Twitter: Laura Wadden and Johanna Santos Bassetti.

You have a degree in art, you’re interested in agriculture, you’ve worked in product strategy at various startups, and you even picked strawberries while living on a Danish island. What got you involved in Fritzing?

Ever since I was a little girl I watched my dad solder things. And I knew that by soldering things he was making other things happen. At that point I didn’t really understand what computers were, but I liked the soldering process. And then when I understood what computers were, I got interested in how to make computers do stuff that serves you as a tool. I thought of them as potential translators of the physical world and imagined ways of using computers to measure how plants grow. But I didn’t know about sensors then.

So you thought about programming machines as a little girl? Awesome!

Exactly.

How did you get involved in Fritzing and Arduinos this time around?

I worked with Arduinos back in 2011 doing wearable Arduino work for a friend’s exhibition during Club Transmediale. He had a Lilypad, sensors and speakers that I sewed into a lab coat with metal string. I had to figure out a way to sew it so that none of the connections touched while the participants moved so it wouldn’t short-circuit.

How has the Berlin maker scene – Fritzing, Open Tech School, the workshops we’ve gone to, Hackidemia, the Kids Hackathon, etc. – influenced your involvement in Arduinos & Fritzing?

The project back in 2011 was really on the outskirts, but Arduinos stayed on my mind. Then all of a sudden it was much more accessible through these meetups. People were willing to share their knowledge and teach – that’s the first time I felt it was possible to work on my own projects.

What about those meetups inspired you?

The Open Tech School meetup was inspiring because there were tons of projects happening at the same time and so many different types of learning in self-organized groups. The diversity of approaches was titillating: There was a table of sound tinkerers! There was a wearables table! And a table of complete newbies!

I think seeing how collaborative, open and fluid the community was made me feel safe to try whatever I wanted and feel supported by other people.

And I inspired you too, right?!

Yes! When I started doing these projects with you – that’s when I noticed how well we work together. Our different learning  complement each other. And I realized how much fun it is.

Do you have any goals with our Fritzing project this Fall? What are you trying to get out of it?

I want to test some ideas that I’ve kept locked in my brain vault for the last decade. With Fritzing, they are potentially doable now. I am excited to get to it!

Follow Laura Wadden and Johanna Santos Bassetti on Twitter and keep up with the Fritzing blog to find out what happens next in their learning adventure.