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Easter Egg Hunt

We usually visit extended family at Easter-time and my sister-in-law puts together an Easter Egg hunt for the boys and their cousins. This year, of course, we are confined to our own home so it fell to me to devise the clues.

Fortunately, I have been evaluating the Mindsets products and kits to see what we could use in our home learning next term, and several were ideal for generating codes and hidden messages.

Clue 1: Morse code

The components for this clue can be found in the Crumble Starter kit.

The boys had to connect the battery box to the Crumble, then connect the buzzer to output A (as indicated by my very cryptic clue). I had pre-programmed the Crumble so the buzzer would cycle through the Morse code for “S”, “H”, “E”, and “D”. A few minutes later we were off to the shed!

Clue 2: Invisible ink

This uses the “UV” bank note checker kit, which I had pre-soldered, and a UV pen.

The 7-year-old had received a Harry Potter “Marauders map” for Christmas which has hidden features revealed by a “magic wand” with a UV LED so he had no trouble knowing how to decipher this clue and reading the message: “look in the washing basket”.

Clue 3: Copycoder

In the washing basket, the boys quickly found a Copycoder. This is popular in escape rooms all over the world: you generate an unreadable message on the website www.copycoder.com and the lenticular surface of the Copycoder unscrambles it.

They’d already seen the scrambled message at the start of the hunt, so they knew exactly where to use the Copycoder.

Clue 4: Periodic Table Crossword

The week before Easter, both boys had been reading an Usbourne book about the Periodic Table and quizzing me about the facts in it. I decided to turn the tables and see how much they remembered.

The 10-year-old quickly realised that the squares highlighted in red spelled the final clue: “WARDROBE”. The treasure was found!!

Treasure Hunt complete.

Note: Our boys are 7 and 10 and we kept the clues simple enough that the 7-year-old had chance to participate fully. You could easily adjust the difficulty, though. Can you think of any other STEM activities that would make good clues?? Let us know…

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Injection Moulding Christmas Decorations

As we are entering the depths of the festive season, we felt it appropriate to have a blogpost or two with a seasonal theme. The principles of this post however, will be applicable any time of the year.

We are going to be using our injection moulding kit to make some Christmas-themed tree decorations and fridge magnets. For those of you unfamiliar with the kit, it can be used to teach the basic principles of injection moulding, but at a very low cost compared to commercial equipment. You create a 2D mould by either lasercutting a material e.g MDF or acrylic, or by bending a thin aluminium strip. Once this is sandwiched in between the two large plates, you can inject it with a thermoplastic – in our case, coloured hot-melt glue. This method means that basic injection moulding is achievable by all, and on a low-budget.

Without further ado let’s get into our project! First of all, we need to think about what is is we are trying to make. As it is nearing Christmas, we wanted to go for something festive. We decided on making tree decorations/ fridge magnets. The principles for our moulds will be pretty much identical.

To start with, we are going to make a Christmas tree-shaped mould, using the aluminium strip. We measured our maximum working dimensions, and planned a tree-shape within that range.

We then set to work creating our mould. It’s a good idea to turn on your glue gun now, if you can keep it in a safe place, so that it is ready to use when you’ve finished your mould. We need to bend the aluminium strip into our required shape. This can be made much more difficult than it needs to be. The main thing to remember, is to start near the end of your strip, so you aren’t trying to bend it in on itself too much. We modelled our shape using ‘sheet metal’ mode in Fusion 360. The great thing with this, is that we can unfold our model, and create a template. But you could easily print out a template and mark out where you need to bend the metal.

Once you have your mould, you need to place it inside the outer case. Don’t forget to place it so that the injection hole is within your desired shape. It also helps to slightly grease the mould, to allow the glue to separate from the case/mould. We’ve placed a small magnet inside the mould, and held it in place with another magnet on the outside.

*Note that we have made a clear acrylic top plate, to make it easier to see whats happening inside.*

Once you’ve screwed the top plate of the mould on, double check that there aren’t any gaps, and that the case isn’t bowing. You may find it easier to place the ‘wings’ of the mould plates the same way, so when you screw them together, they hold the wire frame tighter. This is especially useful if you can’t quite get your mould to sit flat.

The other method for mould making, is to laser cut a piece to go in between the plates, to replace the bent wire. This time, we’ll make a snowflake tree decoration.

Once designed and cut, follow the same steps as before, to create your object.

You can then either glue some string to the decoration, of pierce a hole in the top, and pass some thread/wire through.

And there you have it, your very own DIY injection moulded Christmas decorations.

If you have a go at this project, or any other, we’d love to see! Get in contact with us via email, or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

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Christmas has arrived!

Our first proper Christmas since we moved in to our new building with Redfern Electronics (designers of the Crumble Controller). We’ve decided to mark the occasion with a suitably decorated tree!

We connected 20 Sparkles and a Sparkle Baton together using croc-leads. We then wrapped these around the tree, with the Baton on the top. The croc-leads are almost a decoration in themselves!

The Crumble is connected to a Raspberry Pi, which is connected to our network, meaning we can remote-desktop in and change the lights! It’s pretty much an IoT Christmas tree.

We decided to add our big red button near the base of the tree, to allow the user to cycle through the light sequences. The code waits for the button to be pressed (in this case push to break), and then it starts a new sequence of lights until the button is pressed again – then it moves on to the next sequence.

We decided that the tree was a bit bland, especially during the day time, so we added a few more decorations to it.

And there we have it, our IoT Christmas tree, ready to be programmed by anyone in the office.

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Halloween: Jitterbug Spider

For this project you will need:

  • A Jitterbug kit;
  • A fresh battery;
  • Paper/Card to make your design or a printed template;
  • Scissors;
  • Paints/colouring pens/pencils
  • Phillips and flat head screwdriver.

Task: To create a Halloween inspired Jitterbug

The Jitterbug kit provides a great opportunity for children to explore simple circuits, motors and the power of forces. The off-center mass, when spun at high speed, creates vibration which causes movement in the bug. The movement can be controlled by adjusting the rubber legs underneath. The bug kit can then be decorated however you wish.

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1First of all, we emptied out our Jitterbug kit to check that we had everything we needed.

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2We then printed out our template, coloured it in and carefully cut it out.

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3To make the legs more ‘leg-like’ we folded them lengthways. We then added a crease about 1/3 of the way along the legs, to add a joint (knee?)

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4After this, we lined up the plastic body with our card version and marked where the holes needed to be. We then pierced these so that the bolts went through. Next,  we glued the legs onto the back of the body, adding sellotape to keep them secure.

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5We then connected the spider’s body to the plastic chassis. We added the nuts onto the bolts and tightened them.

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6Next, we added the plastic tubing for the legs, carefully screwing them on until they were tight.

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7 We then continued the Jitterbug as-per the instructions. We used a piece of spare paper to help keep the motor in place it its mount. We then attached the battery leads to the motor tabs.

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8Finally, we stuck down the battery box, making sure that we could see the switch!

9And there you have it, a Jitterbug spider fit for Halloween!