A landfill that stretched as far as the eyes could see, filled with eWaste. All the keyboards, mice, screens that we had thrown as useless pieces of junk, are lying there. Families upon families migrated from the villages to work here in life-threatening conditions for the rich pay of a dollar a day. The smells of lead, asbestos fill the air. And kids - barely 7 and 8, are working here - school was just not interesting enough. This was the horrific scene I was standing in at suburban Phnom Penh.
As a designer and engineer, I asked myself what should I do, I do not have political or economical power enough to make a difference. eWaste and kids not interested in education. What should I do? Ah! there there, eWaste = partly functional gadgets at no cost and kids = maybe fun interactive toys made from those gadgets?
With that thought, ThinkerToys started, converting eWaste into educational fun interactive toys. Tinkering was a central part of coming up with new toys, and these toys were made to make the kids think, and yes that's where the name comes from, Thinking X Tinkering = Thinkering.
To begin with I made four of these toys, each different in their own way. Each uses an item of eWaste and turns it into something new and unexpected. Each is ultra cheap to manufacture and fun to play with.
The current prototypes have been made using Arduinos, with off shelf standard components. The final products will also remain open-source, made from SMD components.
Who doesn't love music! And with Keyano we are bringing the sound of music to every kid out there. Keyano turns an ordinary keyboard into a piano! With the keys musically mapped to notes, you are sure to enjoy endless hours of fun.
How about some quick math puzzles? Basic addition, subtraction can be an invaluable skill for any kid. And we just made it all the more fun. RandoMath is a small LED screen connected to your computer keyboard, and asks you random math puzzles.
How about carrying a treasure trove of stories in your pocket? Storynory has recorded fun stories in your local language. Plug in a speaker for collaborative storytelling or just a headphone to submerge yourself in some cool stories.
Educational games? Drawing? Spellings? Pictures? All of those and more on TV++. Connect any old TV or CRT monitor and make it TV++, add a keyboard or a mouse for controls. This is a power packed mini computer designed for kids to be hooked on to the TV again, but this time for good reasons!
ThinkerToys are modular kits manufactured and shipped to landfill areas, eWaste is directly connected to these toys without any modification. The resulting combination turns the eWaste (keybaord, mice, speakers, monitors) into something totally new and unexpected. eWaste is reused, kids learn.
Moving ahead by moving together - openTOYS is a platform as much an effort to create a community of eWaste activists and toy designers and engineers. All designs, all circuits. all code and all business open-sourced. Together people can make a difference.
Calling all designers, engineers, entrepreneurs and just about anyone who wants to make a change!
Solutions to problems can come in unexpected ways and in beautiful combinations. With a whack on the other side of the head, we can translate two problems into new solutions.
Have a keyboard and mice lying around?