A Cardboard and Tape Pushbutton

There’s a new switch in town! It’s a Cardboard Push Button! You may have enjoyed the Cardboard Knife Switch, or tolerated the Cardboard Slide Switch, but this pushbutton is my new favorite.

For this project I ended up doing all of the illustrations first before I took any photos, and actually used the illustrations as a guide for some of the photography. Typically with these projects I build the thing first, then figure out how to best create a set of instructions, and sometimes that means photos, and sometimes it means illustrations, and usually it’s a combination of both of those.

I’ve also strengthened my ability to create isometric drawings quite a bit. If you compare this project to the knife switch, you’ll see the improvement. I took a few drafting classes back in the 1980s & 1990s (pre-computer!) and I still enjoy creating technical illustrations quite bit.

This switch can be used with any simple circuit, and is perfect for paper circuit projects, but can also be used with microcontroller projects and for any Crazy Circuits projects since you’re probably already working with Maker Tape.

I ended up creating a few fun illustrated examples of button tops for the guide, but then I thought it would be nice to actually create and photograph them, so I did that too. And like many of my cardboard projects, I’ve tried to keep things simple. It’s all straight cuts, and you can make this with an X-ACTO knife, or a box cutter if you do that sort of thing. It’s also great for a laser cutter, and you can easily scale this up to larger sizes since it’s just stacked pieces so it’s parametric.


Paper Dino Friends!

Who loves dinosaurs? Well, besides every kid I’ve ever met, some adults love dinosaurs too! I’ll note that these are not my designs, but I really like them! We’ve got a T-Rex, a Triceratops, a Pterodactyl, and a Plesiosaurus. While I did not design these dinos I just finished updating all of the instructions, and created new photos and videos for each one.

The instruction sheet for each was updated to change the method of construction so that Maker Tape was used, and used to its strengths. These are a few years old and still had instructions for using copper tape. (Boo!) Things are much simpler now with the conductive nylon Maker Tape which is stronger and easier to work with.

The studio we’ve built at Brown Dog Gadgets in the last year makes doing all the media creation a lot easier. We’ve got a permanent setup for video streaming, and I use that for any of these “hands on” making videos. Each video needs to be 30 seconds or less, so with a bit of editing and speeding things up, we can hit that mark.

Nearly all of our projects had a PDF component that at a minimum shows a diagram, has a template, and sometimes has step-by-step instructions. Typically there’s a lot of illustration involved, but we still try to keep in simple, and crank out as much new material as we can.

These dino friends are great for a classroom or camp experience, and work great for kids 10 and up. (Kids younger than 10 may have some dexterity issues dealing with the LED legs and the tape.) You can cut out the shapes with scissors, or an X-ACTO knife, or a laser cutter, though we really like using a Silhouette Cameo which slices through construction paper quite easily. Lots of options!


Crank Activated LEGO Circuits

The latest project for Brown Dog Gadgets is a LEGO-based, crank-activated circuit. This is a simple build that uses LEGO along with Maker Tape to allow a rotating cylinder to close a circuit.

The trick here is that Maker Tape is not just conductive, but it’s strong, and can be stretched just a bit against the cylinder to provide good electrical contact. Besides a few LEGO bricks on a baseplate we’ve got some round LEGO pieces for the cylinder, two bricks with holes, a long and short axle, and a beam with axle holes to make the handle. Overall, pretty simple.

This is one of those projects which really highlights what Maker Tape can do. There really isn’t an easy or reliable way to do this with wire, or with copper foil tape.

The video below shows the circuit in action, and if you want more, we also showed it off during one of our live video streams that we do each week.

As always, get the full details of this build on the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Site. And yes, we’ve got a lot more fun coming with crank activated circuits!


A Clothespin Piano

Hey there, it’s another project! This one (like many others) can be found in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Database. This is a piano (another one) but instead of buttons we’ve assembled our own “keys” using clothespins. It’s a Clothespin Piano! They’ve already got springs to snap back to a “closed/off” position, so adding a little bit of Maker Tape was easy. (And yes, we had lots of clothespins around from the Simple Coin Cell Battery Testers that we make.)

Here’s a nice illustration to show the connections and how to assemble it. You could print this page and use it as a guide, and we’ve also got a PDF that can be used with just the outline of the clothespins and and tape. (I actually laser etched some cardboard for my version, which made lining things up very easy.)

We used 1/4″ Maker Tape and 1/8″ Maker Tape. The former for the clothespins, just to get better surface contact, and the latter for the Crazy Circuits connections.

Worth noting is that these are “Normally Closed” switches (or “NC”) instead of “Normally Open” (or “NO”) switches, so we’ve reversed the logic in the code to handle that. (Also fun, if you disconnect all the keys it’ll just play notes all the time.)


UFO Badge

Hey, it’s time for another badge! This time we’ve got a UFO Badge. It’s another Brown Dog Gadgets project that’s a great example of using Maker Tape.

The PDF file contains two pages you can print onto cardstock and then cut up and make into the badge. (Full instructions are in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Database.)

These badges are fun, cheap, and easy-to-make wearables. They feature simple circuitry that requires no soldering, just a few components and some conductive tape.

(Note: This one doesn’t actually blink, but you can use whatever LEDs you like. The 10mm Jumbo LEDs at Brown Dog Gadgets have built-in resistors, which make them great for simple projects like this.)