Thursday, June 20, 2013

Old School Radio Shack for New School Cool!

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Dan Alich creator of the DuinoKit!  Thank you for joining us today Dan.  

Thank you James, It is a pleasure to talk with you today about my KickStarter project.

The DuinoKit stirs up old memories for old geeks like myself of springs and wires and Radio Shack kits, was that the idea?  Could you tell us more about the DuinoKit? What it is and why you made it?
Yes, As a child I played with those electronic kits with the spring connectors.  The 150-in-1 Electronic Project kit  was most likely my most memorable toy as a child.  I had to go on eBay and buy a used one for my son to play with.  I think he has three of those kits now to build on.

During the last several years the introduction of microprocessor into hobby electronics has opened up an entirely new ball game for building electronic gadgets and gizmos.  I have bought many parts and components to build projects, mostly found in books, and then going to buy more components for the next project.  I tried using the Arduino projects with my children and in my classroom, however with the little parts, specification codes and colors used to identify the parts, it was very difficult teaching the kids how to understand and build into projects.

Then the idea of the DuinoKit hit me.  Why not place most of the common parts in a kit with simple wiring so people without electronics experience can start to build projects and making little gadgets.

What makes Arduino so special and why create an electronics project kit around it?  

There are several microprocessor development boards available today.  I found the Arduino the best choice because being open-source, there is a large collection of documented projects and instructions on how to build projects, a simple Internet search of “Arduino Projects” will literally return thousands of links.  The Arduino is a reliable, building platform that many others have duplicated.  As a matter of fact, Several other microprocessors could be plugged in the same spot on the board and the components could then be used for building in the same manner.  This kit will work with more than just the Arduino Processor.

What kind of projects can you make using this kit?  

There are literally an unlimited list of projects and gizmos that could be built.  The main focus of this kit is to develop building separate modules that could then be combined into larger more elaborate designs.  With this kit it would be very easy to build projects such as:
Light Detection Meter
Infrared Remote Repeater
Liquid Crystal Alarm Clock
Countdown timers
Remote Camera controls
“Trip Wire” Alarm using a light beam or laser pointer
Temperature Sensor with Alarm
I have even found design plans online for a Fart Detecting TV Remote (when it detects gas in the room, it will change the TV channel.  Presumably aimed at preventing the release of noxious fumes in the family room) and “secret knock” detecting door locks.  The possibilities for combining ideas are endless.

I plan on releasing the DuinoKit in conjunction with an online learning community where you can share your projects and and get advice or assistance on your ideas as well.  There are also others sites that do this as well.
$160 for the Junior kit, and $220 for a full size kit definitely moves this out of most “it’s a learning toy” prices.  Who is the target market for this kit?  Are you expecting schools to buy these for class use?  

I know the price seems a bit high for a “toy”, but if you take a look at the complexity of these kits and manufacturing, you will see the value.  I have taken every step I can find to reduce costs but the printed circuit board, carry case and included book add a lot to this project.

I would like to provide these kits to middle and high school students and hopefully get them used in school clubs or classes.  Many schools offer LEGO robotics in the lower grades, but there is nothing to build upon at the higher levels.  I know there are new, demanding curriculums and lots of topics to learn in the classroom.  As a society we have taken out many practical learning experiences and replaced them with “knowledge” learning.  This kit will hopefully buid on understanding of electronics and computer programming that will turn into a hobby or even a profession for many your learners.

How important do you think it is for the future of our kids to have an electronics background and education such as the one provided by the DuinoKit?  

Learning how to make, build and fix things these days is more important than ever.  Most electrical engineers are where they are today because of the early electronic kits.  In our new global society it is more important to know how to create, develop and build new and exciting products.  

As a mathematics teacher I often get asked “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”.  This here is a practical application where math, science, logic, and physics are applied in a hands-on project based environment.  Kids will not realize the thought process they will gain by understanding electronics and programming.  They will use these reasoning skills for the rest of their lives in any profession or vocation.

As a fan of the Maker community your project seems the perfect fit for those folks.  Have you reached out to that community when setting up this project?  I am trying to reach into the Maker community with the DuinoKit as a learning tool.  I have worked with several individuals, book authors and Arduino enthusiasts during the development of the DuinoKit.   

What makes your kit better than those Radio Shack project kits of old? Better than just buying an Arduino board and building from scratch?  
The “Kits of old” were all solid-state electronics, no programming and to really create you own original project, you have to have an in depth understanding of electronics.  It is very difficult to read and understand many of the codes on electronic parts and how they hook up for projects.  Additionally, if you turn any kids loose with multiple electrical components, most will be lost or hooked up incorrectly and burned out fairly quick.  When you have your next project idea, you will need to go online and order the new parts and wait for them to arrive.  With this kit, you can focus more on the coding and have the parts at your disposal to experimenting.  I have also integrated in several components into the kit to make the connections easier and prevent typical situations where parts will be burned out or not function properly.  An emphasis that I like to explore is wireless communications and this kit includes components to RF (Radio Frequency) and IR (Infared red) communications in projects.

What do you think is the appropriate age group for your kit? I have tested this kit concept and had good results starting at age 8-10 for most learners.  Since the microprocessors involve both programming and electrical wiring, this is a good kit for about 10 years old up through an adult.  Really this can be used by anyone just wanting to experiment and try some new idea.  Most kids start developing this at about 8-10 years of age when they want to build a robot to clean their room.

How did you discover Kickstarter?
A while back I had a friend launch a comic book on Kickstarter (Moriarty) on KickStarter.  I have been watching and pledging on projects ever since.  With a Masters degree in business we never even looked at the process of Crowdfunding for starting a project or business.  I think it is a great resource to testing a product and producing original inventions or art.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I to have some Stretch Goals in mind and I’m also soliciting ideas from backers.  If I meet my goal pretty much all of the funds will go directly into the kits and shipping.  If I can go over my goal I can get slightly lower production prices and add in some components or modules into the kits and the funds are available.  I don’t want to send out too many updates during the campaign as it is easy to get overloaded with messages, however I will be soliciting input from the backers on how WE can create the best learning kit on the market.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  I have had a good following through the development process of this kit and keeping interested parties in touch with the project.  I also have some examples on YouTube, have been working on Twitter and just received an interview request from WLOS-TV in Asheville NC.  KickTraq has been in place since day one of my project providing valuable data and I’m also registerd with offerning at least 5% of my profits to be seeded back into other projects on KickStarter.  I also have a review on and have been picked up my

I’ll be happy to discuss this project with anyone interested as I really think it will help with learning and fulfilling the “next big idea” for a lot of people.   I would welcome any other interviews and websites as I’m really trying to make this learning kit available to youth for the advancement of education and understanding the technological world.  We will need these kids to develop the next wave of innovation and they cannot wait until college to discover the process.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Have a very solid and through plan.  Don’t try to price gouge the market, after all, these are your early supporters and they will help you succeed.  It is difficult exposing yourself to friends and peers, but take a chance and you will learn many things along the way.  Hopefully you will get to have your project funded and produce your passion.  If you love the project, others will also.  If you are just trying to “make a quick buck”, the public will see this and most likely not get funded.  Oh yes, the 30 or so days of watching your project gain acceptance are stressful.  Don’t plan on being able to take your eyes off the computer screen for very long.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
I guess my biggest parting words would be to keep creating and sharing your projects with the rest of the world.  Nobody knows how many great inventions or projects are sitting in a closet or basement, go ahead, share them with the rest of the world.  Who knows what will happen?  If you do not have an idea yet, watch sites like KickStarter and help so others dreams be fulfilled.  Maybe this will inspire to to publish your book are artwork or reveal the next great invention.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you for your time and looking into the DuinoKit project.  I hope this can become a reality for thousands of learners and help the next generation to understand the technological world we live in.  

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