Use old battery powered toys to make your own custom musical instrument or noise maker! Download it. Print it. Make stuff. Send it to your friends.
Warning: Only experiment with devices that are battery powered. You can seriously hurt yourself if you modify things that plug into a wall outlet. We take no responsibility if you injure, hurt or kill yourself while using our books or videos. If you kill yourself, it's not our fault. :)
This project involves taking electronics workshops for adults and adapting them to be more suitable to children and people that wouldn't normally have the chance to work with electronics. In particular, we have targeted students 9-12 years of age from underserved communities to help these students in "circuit bending" (Ghazala, 2004) - the process of hand-modifying battery powered children's toys to build custom electronic instruments. Our goal is to instruct individuals
with no prior experience in computing or engineering in the fundamentals of electronics.
Between 2010 and 2014, Garnet Hertz led a team of researchers and students at UC Irvine to develop a workshop guidebook specifically targeted to children.
We will accomplish these goals through design, implementation, and evaluation of:
A series of free hands-on workshops with low technical requirements to introduce
STEAM to school aged children in under-represented and low-income communities
through partnerships with community organizations.
Involvement of undergraduate students with similar cultural backgrounds as mentors and
workshop assistants for research and outreach activities.
We believe the combination of inexpensive and familiar materials, low technological requirements, and a clearly designed curriculum and guidebook have contributed to the strong success of this initiative.
Project Workshops and Events
Circuit Bending Workshop #1: Art Center Media Design Program
24 Jan 2010, Pasadena, California
Garnet Hertz led a one-day workshop in January 2010 at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in which participants brought sound-making electronic toys to modify by hand. Although many had no experience with electronics, 90% were able to successfully produce their own custom electronic device from scrap materials.
Circuit Bending Workshop #2, University of Southern California, Institute for Multimedia Literacy
24 Jan 2010, Los Angeles, California
This Circuit Bending workshop was taught by Garnet Hertz at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC on August 5th 2010. A custom instructional zine was commissioned for this event. The workshop was held as part of "Broadening the Digital Humanities", which designed to foster innovative multimedia research. Sponsors include The University of California's Humanities Research Institute, USC's Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the electronic journal Vectors.
Circuit Bending Workshop #3, University of California Irvine, Department of Informatics / Civic and Community Engagement
27 Jan 2011, Irvine, California
This Circuit Bending workshop was taught by Garnet Hertz in the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine on January 27th 2011. The workshop was held as a training session for students interested in acting as mentors in expanding the circuit bending workshops to children in underserved communities. The name of this initiative is the "Technology and Community Outreach" (TACO) project. This workshop was the first exposure to soldering or electronics for most students.
This Circuit Bending workshop was taught by Garnet Hertz at the Transmediale electronic art and culture festival in Berlin, Germany on February 4th 2011. The workshop was held with Jussi Parikka, co-author of the Vilém Flusser Theory Award nomined paper "Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method" which provides an academic basis for circuit bending. During this workshop, enrolled participants disassembled battery powered devices and toys, modified them, and performed their customised instruments.
Circuit Bending Workshop #7, Verano After School Program
11 March 2011, Irvine, California
This was the first time the workshop was given exclusively to children. Ages ranged from six years old (as seen in the video below) to twelve years old. Our curriculum guide was also provided in a bilingual English / Simplified Chinese format.
This was the second time the workshop was given exclusively to children. Renuevo is a small private school in south central Los Angeles. Our curriculum guide was also provided in a bilingual English / Spanish format.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1224131. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.