B-Squares: Lego for electronics
Connecting blocks are one of the all-time greatest types of toys. Unfortunately, when we grow up, many of us seem to think that it's silly to make stuff just for the sake of making it – we still enjoy putting things together, but they have to be functional. That's where B-Squares come in. The flat electronic modules serve a variety of functions, and can form a variety of devices when connected in different combinations.
B-Squares were created by engineers Jordan McRae and Shawn Frayne.
The squares can be joined side-to-side, top-to-bottom, or stacked, staying in place and transmitting electrical signals to one another via magnetic contacts at each corner. Presently, there are six different types of squares. These include a Solar-Square, that incorporates a 0.25-watt polycrystalline solar cell that can stick to windows; a Battery-Square that contains three AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries; a three-bulb multi-color LED-Square; an iPhone-Square, with an iPhone/iPod dock, USB port and stereo outputs; an Arduino-Square, that contains an Arduino micro-computer; and, a Proto-Square that consists of a perfboard area upon which electronically-gifted users can create their own type of square.
Several Solar-Squares can be connected in parallel to increase their total current, or in series to increase their voltage. In order to change the overall circuit of a B-Squares array, one square can simply be rotated – the LED-Square, for instance, will display different colors depending on its rotation.
While users are encouraged to get creative, there are B-Square "recipes" that show people how to combine the squares to create different devices. These include a solar-powered clock (utilizing the Arduino's LCD screen), iPhone charger, and battery charger. An array of the Solar-Squares can also simply be placed in a window, where they will provide power to an external device through a wire connection. Additionally, a Speaker-Square is in the works, which could be combined with an iPhone-Square and some Solar-Squares (or a Battery-Square) to create a mini sound system.
B-Squares have not yet reached production, although interested parties can reserve them now, in return for product development pledges.
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You get kits to build things via components encapsulated in a plastic block that has metal magnetic contacts where the component leads are attached and a ground plate that everything sits on with the schematic symbol on the top of the block. It was fun to put circuits together just by clicking together plastic blocks on a metal tray...