Creating Electric Dice

As soldering is one of the basic skills we hope for kids to be comfortable with at our studio, we decided to arrange a workshop to help them improve the soldering skills and gain a deeper understanding how electric circuits work.

Enter electric dice

The idea of an electric dice is pretty simple — small metal balls in a constructed acrylic cage provide conductivity and randomly light up different connected LEDs.

Spoiler alert — it was not all that simple.

It all began well

There was a lot of soldering, clearing wires, bending legs of LEDs and figuring out how to match the schematics. Everyone was engaged, with all our crew members supplying a helping hand holding either wires, soldering iron or various other small pieces on the table.

Photo credit: VIVITA Estonia

Soon it was clear we would not finish the dice within the original workshop time. After having spent 2 hours on soldering, but not yet having assembled the box, we understood it is time to wrap up for the day and arrange a follow-up session.

Enter day two

Everyone found their projects and the soldering could start. It seemed that the first workshop confirmed the participants’ soldering skills as nobody needed extra help in that anymore. That said, the schematics was still slightly complex to figure out, but with a bit of step-by-step advice everyone managed to make it work.

Photo credit: VIVITA Estonia

Next up was testing the circuits. There were some faults in the joints but they were all easily fixable. On one of the dice the LED legs were soldered backwards and it took a bit of tinkering to troubleshoot and fix it. In the final phase we assembled the carcass of the dice with hot glue and could start playing around with the dice.

There was a slight problem with steel balls and conductivity which means the dice was flaky. At times, it would light up the LEDs, and at other times it was nearly impossible to get a full 6 (or 7 in our case) LEDs to illuminate. We tried various steel balls, different wires and different sizes to improve the reliability of the dice, but nothing helped.

Back to the drawing board with that.

Photo credit: VIVITA Estonia

Luckily none of the participants were bothered by that minor flaw. Everyone was happy to have finished with the project and that their dice “kind-of” worked.

All in all the workshop was a success. Everyone learned and practiced lots of soldering, learned about LEDs and electric circuits and made something from start to finish by themselves.

Photo credit: VIVITA Estonia

Overall learnings

  • It was good fun, everyone was very engaged, the time flew past, there was always something to do.
  • Everyone needed some extra help, not sure if more prep would have changed anything.
  • Soldering is very enjoyable to everyone irrelevant of the age.
  • Although we covered the basics on how and why soldering works and how to do it safely, but still one child got minor burn with the soldering iron.
  • The schematics was a little challenging as we had 20+ individual solder joints. It was clearly an ambitious goal to finish all that and also assemble the acrylic box within the originally planned 2 hour timeframe.
Photo credit: VIVITA Estonia

The Electric Dice workshop was inspired by a project in one of the kid-oriented maker books recently available at Humble Bundle.

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