Materials of Electronics in Nature

In March 2020, we taught a version of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design’s “Materials of Electronics Course” modified to take place at a field station in Costa Rica with Co-Instructor Paula Te.

Dates: March 9-13, 2020

Location: Las Cruces Research Station, Costa Rica


Workshop Schedule

(From paula’s documentation)

Course Schedule

Day 0: Workshop setup (soldering stations, material stations, learning areas, signage, Andy’s in the wild toolkit)

Day 1:

Intro (outside under a bamboo grove). Soldering a drawdio kit. Learning about each of the components, following a trace on a PCB, drawing circuit diagram.

Students make sounds with nature. Record a clip of themselves and share out.

Simplest circuit. Coin cell + LED. Build a coin cell holder. Challenge: Firefly attraction! Create a switch for the LED.

Night hike: use our new LED + switches to mimic firefly blinking patterns. Explore nature at night!

Concepts: traces, conductivity, resistivity, sound & oscillations, energy storage, water + conductivity, timer circuits

Tools: solder, multimeter, wire strippers

Materials: nature, pcbs, drawdio kit, copper tape, coin cell battery, binder clip, LEDs, wire

Day 2:

Simple switch shareout. Circuit review. What if we wanted to power LED with 9V battery? Adding resistor into the circuit, with V=IR.

Build simple circuit with resistor in breadboard.

Solar panels, introduction. Explore range with multimeter and panel. Combine energy with actuation: LEDs, motors, etc. Create charge circuit.

Concepts: energy generation, energy storage, Ohm’s law, overcurrent in LEDs, breadboards

Tools: breadboards, wire strippers, jumper cables

Materials: resistors, solar panels, motors, charge circuit, diodes

Day 3:

Exploring more sensors and actuators. Resistive carbon paint. Photo resistive sensors. Magnetic reed switches, IR sensors. DIY potentiometers

Life sketch with electronics. Mimic something in the environment in electronics. Presenting sketches in the afternoon.

Concepts: sensors and actuators, inputs and outputs,

Tools: hacking in the wild preparedness tools (see Wearable DiNa Studio by Hannah & Andy)

Materials: carbon paint, photo resistive cells, reed switches, IR sensors, potentiometers

Day 4:

Ultimate design exploration: Go out on a hike, ask a question about nature, use the tools you have to answer those questions or learn something about it.

Day 5:

Presentations of explorations and learnings, debrief, and play.

Fast Jungle Face Shield

Our little jungle lab is trying to help manufacture face shields for medical workers, and we tested many designs out on the internet. The fastest design we have used so far is our own modification


based off the Georgia Tech Medical Innovation design

The headband just needs
-acrylic-laser cutter
-Rubber band

-(optional) Eva Foam or Self-Adhesive weather stripping (for forehead comfort)

For the face shield, ideally you have thin sheets of PET that you can laser cut as well, but if you don’t you can use A4 transparency sheets (like we will be) or a sliced up 3 Liter soda bottle (like we also use).
The key advantages of this design are

SPEED- Each takes only about 5 minutes to cut, and maybe 8 minutes total to make (compared to 1.5 hours for a 3D print), plus you can nest them to use less material!

and the

-The headbands can be cut out of Acrylic, PET, or most other plastic sheets you might have (could possibly use wood and MDF, but might be harder to sanitize)

-Can attach different types of simple or disposable face shields like A4 transparency sheets or 3 Liter soda bottles

There are plenty of other designs out there that may be nicer or fancier or might make sense if you have a fleet of 3D printers instead of a laser cutter. Figure out what works best with the materials you have. Here in Panama most of the stores except grocery stores are shut down, so most of these materials you can find at the Super 99 grocery store (e.g. EVA foam and Plastic sheets or soda bottles)

For the face shield, ideally you have thin sheets of PET that you can laser cut as well, but if you don’t you can use A4 transparency sheets (like we will be) or a sliced up 3Liter soda bottle (like we also use)