Toy hacking

Buinho Education is a sub-branch of Buinho, a fablab located in the South of Portugal (www.buinho.pt). Besides aiming to contribute to the democratization of access to digital technologies, Buinho has been creating a specialization in the environmental sustainability field of action, since the creation of our region’s first Precious Plastic workshop (www.preciousplastic.com).

Since then, we have been developing innovative strategies that combine environmental and digital education, some of which have been recognized as good practices by the Erasmus program.

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Toy Hacking Erasmus structured course is the result of previous and current activities of Buinho in the teaching of coding, robotics, and electronics using Electric Waste (EWaste), thus also focusing on green and societal competencies development. 

Buinho currently coordinates an Erasmus consortium (PT01-KA121-SCH-000010598) that also aims to bring some of these innovative practices to 12 public schools in the region where we operate. 

We are now sharing through this course a set of best practices that we have been designing and implementing in schools since 2018 when we first designed the first toy hacking and repair workshops in classrooms.

Toy hacking is mainly designed for activities with students from the first and second cycles of students (1st – 7th-year students). It is a fun way to teach electronics, robotics, and even programming. It gives a new life to old toys, bringing new and engaging content that enhances their original function. Toy hacking is very popular with students and teachers all across Europe because it is a simple, costless and engaging activity to have with children that enable educators and teachers to introduce more complex subjects in the field of STEAM.

 

It can be a fluffy toy, a broken music piano, or an RC car. You will learn how machines work, how they are engineered, and hack into their electronic components to have access to unlimited learning experiences with those old toys.

 

With this course, you will learn how to how identify electronic components to later operate them in fun and educational school projects, how to use electronic tools, and how to hack the function of traditional electronic objects with the help of microcontrollers that students can program to do other things.  We will play with sound, light, sensors, remote communication, among other features that will capacitate you to fully extend the possibilities of Toy hacking in your classroom. All our courses are made in a fablab/makerspace environment, which means that the participants will be granted free access to other digital prototyping equipment like laser cutters or vinyl cutters, which can be helpful for the customization of the machines – Inside a fablab, the only limit is your imagination! As such, all the tools will be provided, we just ask the participants to bring a laptop as it will be needed for the software training.

Besides the normal training, we would like to highlight the fact that by taking this course you will also have free access to one hour of online courses and tutorials prepared by Buinho and available on our e-learning platform. Finally, the course also includes a cultural program for the participant, providing the opportunity to visit Portuguese landmarks and experience a bit of our Culture.

 

 

In Portugal, Buinho has been successfully teaching robotics, coding, and digital fabrication to children and youth from elementary to secondary school years, and we want to share some of our experiences with you. We have vast experience in teaching and capacitating teachers from different school years and with zero experience in these subjects. By working with public schools in Portugal we are also well aware of the budget constraints that in some cases provoke digital exclusion of poorer schools, and so have designed educational content that takes advantage of cheap or free equipment and components. In the case of this particular course, we also aim to raise the awareness of our students to the lack of sustainability of our consumerist society and the need to promote recycling, repairing, and reusing as good practices to a more sustainable future.

Target Groups – Elementary and Middle School teachers

Duration of the course – Five days

Total Cost of the Course – 400€

Note: Each class will have a maximum of 12 participants to provide higher quality standards and more individualized support.

Timetable

Day 1

9:00 – 11:00

Welcome session and introduction
We will receive the participants in the working space, making a short introduction to Buinho’s experience in the educational field. We will dedicate some time to getting to know the participants but also their sending schools. You can bring a presentation.

11:00 – 12:00

Learning by Playing – Introduction to ToyHacking learning approach and methodological principles

We will make a short introduction to the importance of Playing in non-formal education practices and some of the methodological principles behind it.

13:00 – 15:00

Introduction to electronics, tools, and soldering

We will start by explaining basic concepts and principles in electricity and electronics, while also taking some time to talk about the importance of tinkering and the Maker Movement for the revolution we are now witnessing in school education.

We will also promote a practical workshop dedicated to soldering simple circuits and creating new futures into old toys. A simple activity that involves adapting power supply and circuit designs to led insertion and other simple hacks that make the toy become more fun and interactive.

Day 2

8:30 – 9:00

Gathering and breakfast
Every morning we will offer morning breakfast to the participants in the working space.

9:00 – 12:00

Introduction to Microbit and Makecode – Using external components and hacking the movement of toys

Micro:bit is possibly the most popular microcontroller in schools today. Its main advantages are ease of use, low price, and powerful capabilities which make it a very complete and attractive solution to introduce robotics in classrooms today. In this morning session we will provide several practical workshops that will introduce to programming for the Micr:bit, and teach you how to control external objects like the toys we would like to hack.

 

After this lesson you will be able to open an old electronic toy and change its functions by using a Micro:bit. You will also learn some fun activities to develop with your students in the classroom.

13:00 – 15:00

Individual project – Adding blinking lights and movement to toys

After the introductory practical workshops, we will help the participants to develop individual projects in Toy Hacking. Using the right tools and toys of your choice, we will start by using and controlling lights and motors into toys.

Day 3

9:00 – 18:00

Cultural Day
We are presenting the opportunity for a group visit to Sintra as part of our cultural offering. Sintra is a charming Portuguese town situated within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra. Hidden among its majestic pine forest, you will discover whimsical palaces, extravagant villas and the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle. We will visit this UNESCO Heritage town, including its Museum and some of the most famous pastry shops. In the afternoon, we will continue with sightseeing and provide plenty of shopping opportunities. At the end of the day, we will return to our accommodation for dinner.

Day 4

8:30 – 9:00

Gathering and breakfast
Every morning we will offer morning breakfast to the participants in the working space.

9:00 – 12:00

Hacking sounds – circuit bending

We will continue the practical workshops, now aiming at toys that produce sounds. We will learn how to make sound glitches by randomly changing circuits paths, and use the micro:bit to reconfigure the toys to play the music we code and/or collect from a microphone

13:00 – 15:00

Final project – Hacking a used toy to take home
Participants can use our E-Waste library and chose the toys that they want. You will be challenged to develop a final course project, apply the knowledge gained throughout the course, and make good use of the material provided by Buinho. During the entire process, Buinho will be mentoring and supporting the development of each individual project. In the end, we will host a small competition to vote for the most popular hacked project, and the winner gets another special gift!

Day 5

10:00 – 12:00

Brunch in Carcavelos Beach

Enjoying the best ocean view, and on the largest beach of the Lisbon Metropolitan area, Buinho organized a final morning brunch to commemorate the end of the training. It will also be an opportunity to further discuss, and in an informal environment, the next steps when returning to the school.

 

Since all of our students will have access to our free online content (which include video tutorials, explanations, activities, and useful work documents), we will also provide the basic information on how to use after this course.  

 

Finally, we will have an opportunity to present other Erasmus courses offered by Buinho, deliver the final certificates to all participants, and take a group photo.