Kids + Teens

Blinkybugs!

Blinkybugs started as an afternoon project a few years ago when I was trying to think of something creative to do with a bunch of electronic parts I had laying around. I thought it would be interesting to try to use these parts sculpturally, but also as part of an electric circuit that actually did something. I eventually came up with a simple “bug” that sensed movement through its antennae, made from bits of guitar string which formed a simple switch that caused the bug’s eyes to blink when they wiggled even a little bit.


My first bugs.

I released some of my first blinkybugs “into the wild” of San Francisco, attaching them to fence posts, trees, and other locations throughout the city, where they would hopefully surprise and intrigue passers-by. They seemed to mysteriously disappear after just a few days!


An early blinkybug in the wild.

I also showed the bugs at a few gallery events, and then heard about something called the Maker Faire—a huge gathering of tinkerers, artists, and other DIY folks held annually. It seemed like a great place for Blinkybugs, and it was—they were a big hit. At the time I was building the bugs myself, but more and more people expressed an interest in building their own, so I started offering workshops at events like the Maker Faire, and at museums like the Exploratorium. It turned out to be a great activity for adults and kids alike, and I loved seeing the creative variations people came up with!


A “blinkybug army” (an earlier design).

I also started offering Blinkybugs in kit form. The original design was tricky to assemble, requiring some soldering, so I came up with a simpler design that was solder-free and easier to build. One unintended effect of this redesign was that their appearance changed from robotic and a bit sinister, to much more cute and fuzzy.


Making a new friend.

I’ve been producing the kit myself for the last few years: a simple boxed kit with downloadable instructions. This was a great way to share Blinkybugs, but I’m very excited about this new version I created with the help of Chronicle Books, with comic-book style instructions illustrated by Alexander Tarrant. This format is a great way to convey step-by-step instructions in a visually interesting way. I think people will find it fun and easy to follow, and I look forward to seeing what new and interesting bug designs people invent!


Newer, easier-to-build design (the version in the Chronicle Books kit).

The book includes a section on taking care of your blinkybug so it lasts a long time (the very first bug I built still blinks!). It also has a section talking about the science behind Blinkybugs, which I think makes this book and kit a great introduction to basic concepts about electricity.

 

Check out this great post on Boing Boing with a first-hand account of Blinkybug building, and another on the Popular Science blog.

Want to win a copy? Comment below and we’ll pick 3 people at random to receive a FREE Blinkybugs kit! And, if you’re in the Bay Area, come to a workshop at Red Hill Books in San Francisco on Sunday, November 7th for an in-store bug building event!

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