For those who are fans of Manga or Anime, the term Chibi will be familiar as one used to describe super cute figures, usually with tiny bodies and huge heads. Chibi also is a Japanese slang term for tiny. Whether it is their tiny size or the super cute things you can create,the name ‘Chibitronics’ was a great choice of inventor, Jie Qi,. Chibitronics combine tiny sensors and electronic circuits with stickers, making it possible for anyone with imagination and some time to create interactive designs.
Chibitronics are an exciting addition to a Makerspace. They consist of tiny circuits on stickers, which can be combined with copper tape or conductive paint to make almost anything interactive. (click on the images below for a larger picture of these tiny stickers).
Although the kits come with extra sticky backing so they can be re-used, the nature of chibitronics is that they are essentially consumable. This means that for those planning their inclusion in a makerspace, they are more effective as a special project material.
The starter kit is a great introduction, and provides everything you need to get started, as well as a comprehensive ‘sketchbook’ that gives examples of different ways of using the components and materials, including creating a simple circuit, parallel circuits, diy switches, blinking slide switches and DIY pressure sensors. Copper tape is supplied, and this or conductive paint can be used to create the circuits. The option to follow the instructions and create interactive examples within the pages of the sketchbook is there, or the simple projects can be reproduced using just paper or card.
The combination of circuitry and creativity that Chibitronics enables leads to a huge number of STEAM opportunities, where artistic creations can be made truly interactive. I created a simple interactive Library poster, where lights indicate different sections of the library when one presses the stickers next to the floorplan legend:
On the back of the colour overlay, are copper tape ‘switches’ that close the circuit to light the appropriate area when the gold sticker is pressed. You can see how it works in the video below:
Online, there is a Chibitronics forum community where ideas can be shared, and lots of wonderful creations to spark the imagination available on the Projects page
For those who want to extend themselves, Chibtronics also has advanced stickers, that enable you to use sound to activate the lights (watch the lights twinkle in the video below when the sound sensor picks up the breath:
or even connect a microcontroller for added flexibility.
ResourceLink has a kit which includes samples of all of these stickers, as well as the sketchbook and a hyperlink to this post. For schools within Brisbane Catholic Education, you can borrow this kit to see what Chibitronics look like in real life (although you can’t actually use the stickers), and to explore whether or not you would like to invest in a set for a special project with your mini makers (students!).
Share your project ideas in the comments; Chibitronics are another fantastic and exciting new way that students can be empowered to apply their scientific knowledge in real and engaging ways to create and invent. Check them out!