This Happened

Published on 05 January 2014

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I saw a talk by Technology Will Save Us at "This Happened". They design and make electronics kits and host workshops where people can build them.

They had some really interesting things to say that applies to my current work trying to design something that's both a kit but also a functional piece of technology people can live with.

Trying to develop products and make "stuff" for good - aim to help people to understand and fix their technology.

"People learn more when they're making something they care about"

TWSU use their workshops to:

  • iterate kits in development
  • get close to their users
  • embed themselves in real needs

Showed 3 images of their electronics at various stages:

  • stripboard prototype (test ideas)
  • workshop-able prototype (test with people)
  • mass-produced kit

People aren't as put off by soldering as you might think. It's part of the appeal of a kit for some people. The pre-made Gamer hasn't sold nearly as much as the kit. In workshops there's apprehension initially about soldering but people quickly get to grips with it.

It's important not to abstract things away -- Braun's Lectron pluggable electronics kits didn't hide the electronics being taught.

The Young Advisors

"The Young Advisors" (NESTA-funded project) following a user-centred design process to figure out what young people are making already. More info

Process: Themes -> Workshops -> Kits -> Test

The outcome of the project was 3 kits testing at the Royal Institution with young kids:

  • DIY Chatter:
    FM radio receiver/transmitter - a modern "2 tins connected by string" learn how it all works
  • DIY Mover:
    accelerometer and data visualisation
  • DIY Gamer:
    game (this turned into product, created a big curriculum around it with fact sheets for teachers, videos, PDFs)

The new computer curriculum in schools is a big opportunity for them to start producing more resources for teachers.


“The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new”
Richard Sennett, The Culture of the new Capitalism