Firebot

small robot shooting fire

At RobotsConf in Florida Ben was struggling to find a way to make his bot competitive. All the bots started as identical laser cut kits. Whatever to do? Hairspray! Well hairspray and a pilot light that is. The firebot was born. But it didn’t look the part… but that’s a story for another post.

Feltronics Radio

The first radio created with Feltronics, while functional, was a bit complicated. And as can be seen in photographs of our early days, we did not have a consistent product. All of the pieces were cut by hand, and some individuals did a slightly better job. But it worked! A working radio transmitter in felt!

Felt circuit schematic symbols on whiteboard in the form of a radio circuit
Early feltronics circuit with a mix of hand-cut and laser cut parts.

The second iteration of the Feltronics Radio was a work of simplicity. Working with large fuzzy components is great for the the whiteboard in front of a large classroom. But whiteboards are still only so big and complex circuits lead to very busy schematics that also happen to be difficult to comprehend. The answer was to boil a radio down to it’s most essential components. Thus the 5 component transistor radio transmitter was born… in felt. This particular radio puts out a 1Mhz signal. There is a bit of drift as is to be expected in such a simple radio, but that just makes it easier to pick up on a receiver (no phase lock loop radios please). Kids can understand what each of the 5 components do individually and can even work out how then affect each other. Kids literally have the “I know kung fu” moment, and never look back.

Felt circuit schematic symbols on in the form of a radio circuit connected to oscilloscope showing generated 1Mhz waveform
A much simplified radio… with proof of life!

Soldering Station

Kids soldering. One child has a traditional soldering iron, the other is at a station where the soldering iron is held in place and the components and solder are moved under the held iron.

Soldering is often a challenge when you only have two hands. Having another person offer a third hand usually just results in someone getting burned. Ben decided to not only flip the solution (a third hand to poorly hold the object) and have the soldering iron held stationary. This solution worked great but for all the parts and setup it needed to scale to be useful. Hence the multi station solder… station. Complete with lights and fume extractor.

But you don’t always need a soldering station for a group of people. Sometimes you just need a soldering station that can hold the soldering iron for you.

Laser cut wooden soldering station with fume extractor fan, fume containment dome, lights, and captured (held for you) soldering iron
Ben’s improved soldering station that doesn’t involve kids (or adults!) grabbing the wrong part of the soldering iron.