CharmBits

Overview

CharmBits are module circuit wearables that educate children about circuit design and basic electronics.

This was a semester long project in the graduate-level Interactive Device Design course at UC Berkeley.

The Team

Doug Cook: Embedded Systems, Hardware

Elizabeth Lin: Interaction Design, iOS

Ian Shain: Mechanical Design, Hardware

Kiyana Salkeld: iOS, Project Management

User Research & Target Market
We found that our target market is children in primary school between 2nd and 6th grades. It is this range where children are mentally capable of comprehending circuitry and crave ways to express themselves through gadgets, jewelry, and clothing.
We conducted observations in the San Francisco Exploratorium and interviewed Elementary School Educators to inform our design process about educational growth amongst various age groups.
Competitive Analysis

There are many competitive products in the educational marketplace, such as littleBits, Goldieblocks, and Snap Circuits. CharmBits addresses a missing void, however, by teaching children about circuit composition while still providing for personal expression through wearable jewelry.

Use Cases
charmbits use cases
1) Child / Parent: Parents can use the iPad companion app to facilitate lessons as the child follows along.
2) Child / Child: Children can combine their CharmBit creations to build more complex interactions and learn together.
3) Child: A child can interact with the CharmBits all by themselves, learning at their own pace.
CharmBits bits

The various types of CharmBits. These will behave in different ways depending on the embedded sensors or hardware.

Physical Construction
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The circuit board inside the FDM CharmBit base

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A closeup of the spring-loaded pins used to establish the power and logic connections with the circuit board

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Showing the electrical integration in the band. The outermost wires were used for power while the inner wires were used for CharmBit-to-CharmBit communication

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One CharmBit clasping onto the band.

 

iPad Companion Application

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The iPad app walks parents and children through interactive stories that teach electronic concepts and help debug problems along the way.

 

Possible Improvements

We scoped this project to be wearable, which dictated that our modules be quite small. Fitting all the hardware into these small modules proved quite challenging. We also would have liked to mold our parts, as 3D printing our parts led to more brittle and less attractive pieces. We would have also liked to create a flexible PCB to mount into our band, as the wires created a bulky and rigid band.

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