Though we use all manner of electronic gadgetry every day, few of us know what makes them tick. Learning about electronics and programming can be tough though and, let's face it, a little dry. A number of startups have made efforts to spice the learning process up recently – making use of robots, modules and micro labs to make experimentation fun and accessible. The latest to join the crowd is Mad Tatu with a circuit building system that rises up from the table top for 3D projects that look like a crazy plumber has turned his hand to teaching.
The Elex Pipe project began 2 years ago with the aim of developing a unique edutainment game for teaching kids about electronics, problem-solving and troubleshooting. After much prototyping, the Mad Tutu team is now at the pre-production stage with a system made up of different plexiglass pipe-like modules – or elements – that have the electronic circuit components sealed inside. The pipes are transparent so that young minds can see what's going on, and the design is also said to protect the elements from rough handling.
Elements are connected together to form a circuit using strong magnets instead of cables, but rather than a flat layout, the Elex Pipes can be built up three-dimensionally from the table top. Modules include a USB charging pipe or battery element to power the elaborate 3D circuit creation, laser LED and mirror modules to build lighted grids, a step-up converter, a volt meter, a gel LED capsule, a metal detector and various connecting pieces to bring the designs together.
To help youngsters get the best from the game, a companion mobile app is being developed. This will offer a quick view element library, with information on each module and hints on which types work best together, present the learner with challenges and even allow control of some components over Bluetooth. There will also be tutorial videos online, and an Elex table base has been developed to supply current where it's needed in a project (though 3D circuits can be built without it).
The developers have turned to Kickstarter to bring the project into production. A number of game kits are on offer, ranging from a simple four part set to a 25-piece laser kit to a 100 part ultimate version. Pledges start at US$25 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in December. You can see more of what's on offer in the pitch video below.