Android Paint and Draw for your Kids

Over the last years I kept asking my now 5 year old daughter how she would design a simple painting App and how this Painting App should look like. We discussed about the background color as well as how to change and choose colors, the absolute requirement to add the color pink and how to change the brush thickness. The design of the paint and drawing App went completely without the need to read a single piece of written text or menu. We came up with a very simple and intuitive way to touch-draw images for children and to store these images as .png pictures. You can find your free Android Painting App for Kids and Children in the Google App store.

New Project Site for Young Makers

The recently-launched attracted some 3,000 kids in its first week and a half online, including youngsters from Asia, Europe, and South America. Using their parent’s email address to register, any kid can upload digital photos of their handiwork to the site and share the URL of their page with whomever they like.

Isaiah Saxon, chief creative officer of the DIY Co., the business that owns the site, said the first few thousand projects posted on it include “everything from birdhouses to bows & arrows to block forts to amazing paintings to bike jumps.”

Working out of a former laundromat in San Francisco’s Mission district, the headquarters has three long tables made from slabs of Douglas fir on metal frames welded by chief technical officer Andrew Sliwinski, a co-founder of the hackerspace Omni Corp Detroit. The headquarters also has a makerspace for its maker-in-chief, who is identified on the site only as Shawn. The staff of 10 uses an old closet that has been transformed into a treehouse-like conference room for meetings. The “treehouse” was built by Rob Wilson, a Bay Area web wiz who lives in a treehouse that is 24 feet off the ground when he visits Trout Gulch, a homestead devoted to the DIY ethic outside Santa Cruz, California.

“Our goal is to create a youth organization and not a profiteering company,” Saxon stresses. “But we feel that the most sustainable way to build something that reaches a lot of people, is to do it as a business and not be limited by donations and the structure of a non-profit.”

The website intends to roll out some sort of premium service in the near future that will require a modest monthly subscription. Saxon says won’t have advertising, nor will it be collecting or selling data on its members.

Kids can upload pictures of their projects through the site or an app that works on later model iOS devices. After registering with the site and having mom or dad respond to an email giving permission, young makers are advised that the “bad things to share” are “your cat, your face, stuff you didn’t make.” They can make up their own nickname or click on a nickname generator to create one for them. Kids also need to select an animal avatar to represent themselves online. They can be a raccoon, fox, bear, bison, hawk, salamander, sparrow, moose, bobcat, coyote, owl, or turtle. The avatars are all characters in an animated film with a DIY theme that Saxon and his Encyclopedia Pictura brethren have in development.

At the moment the only form of feedback for kids who display their projects on the site are four virtual stickers, all of which express something positive. But eventually, there will be a text-based comment system between family and kids.

“What we don’t want to do is expose kids to the Internet culture of snarky feedback,” explains Saxon. “We don’t want this to be a YouTube-type community where people are posting their hopes and dreams to the Internet and other people are shooting them down. We want to create a respectful community that encourages kids.”

When Saxon said primarily thinks of itself as a youth organization, I asked him if that might include the possibility of kids who like to make stuff meeting up in person. He replied: “Eventually it’s logical that people will want to meet other makers in their area. We know that if we succeed on other fronts that people will want to gather. And we will be a platform to help that happen.”

Smart Wake-Up Timer for your Kids

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Mike Tsao published a nice work with AVR microcontrollers. He realized a smart wake-up timer for his kids who are too young to read the clock. Half an hour before the desired wake-up time, the smart wake-up timer begins to pulse with a low frequency with a red LED, increasing the frequency until the wake-up time is reached. Then the wake-up timer signals shows a green LED, which means that it is ok for the kids to wake-up the parents.

This electronic solution definitely solves a problem every parents have, thanks a lot Mike!

littleBits – Building blocks that blink, beep and teach

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littleBits, a set of electronics as easy to play with as Legos. TED Fellow Ayah Bdeir introduces littleBits, a set of simple, interchangeable blocks that make programming as simple and important a part of creativity as snapping blocks together.

littleBits are an open source system of preassembled, modular circuits that snap together with magnets – making learning about electronics fun, easy and creative. An engineer, inventor and interactive artist, Ayah received her master’s degree from the MIT Media Lab and undergraduate degrees in computer engineering and sociology from the American University of Beirut. Ayah has taught graduate classes at NYU and Parsons and taught numerous workshops to get non-engineers – particularly young girls – interested in science and technology. She is also the founder of karaj, Beirut’s lab for experimental art, architecture and technology. littleBits was named Best of Toyfair, has won the editor’s Choice award from MAKE magazine, and has been acquired by MoMA for its collection.

“Instead of having to program, to wire, to solder, littleBits allow you to program using very simple intuitive gestures.” (Ayah Bdeir)