Londoners are rediscovering the pleasure of make-it-yourself objects. While tackling homemade bread, knitting a scarf or even building a bike may seem attainable, few would believe they could make their own synth or speakers. That’s what Technology Will Save Us is there to teach them.
Simple DIY kits guide even complete beginners to understand the mysteries of circuits and hardware programming: “They are designed for everyone to be a maker, you don’t have to have any prior knowledge – you just learn as you go,” says Alexandra Wilks, Communications Manager of Technology Will Save Us.
Far from being a closed-off world inhabited by geeky experts whose life is dedicated to computers, technological innovation can become a “side project, almost like a hobby” for London’s crafty types.
It doesn’t matter if the result isn’t perfect at the first try: “We think the future of technology should be a bit messy – Technology Will Save Us is not about having things that are slick and polished, but to have fun with things,” says Wilks.
Launched in 2011, Technology Will Save Us was born after artists Bethany Koby and Daniel Hirshmann found a laptop in a bin near their house in Hoxton. The pair started questioning what people do with objects when they are broken – and realised that most just throw them away because they are too scared of taking them apart.
“If you have an awareness of how things work,” Wilks explains, “it is quite simple to fix them. It starts from tiny, little things, but it gives you your power back. It makes you realise you shouldn’t be frightened of technology – objects are there for your use.”
Technology Will Save Us’ anti-consumerist and green philosophy has been it a hit with educators. Five schools and multiple families in the local area have already adopted the kits for their ‘hands on’ approach to learning. The Electro-Dough Kit, a popular choice for children as young as two, teaches how to turn conductive play-doh into puppets adorned with LEDs. All they need to do is connect the wires provided to create a fully-functioning electrical circuit.
Grown-ups have been captivated by the Gamer Kit, which lets them code their own video-game. A mini computer joined to the back of a retro Game Boy-inspired console is all that is needed for it to work.
In less than two hours, you could build your own proto-theremin or speakers – provided that you know how to use a soldering iron. “Maybe it’s not exactly intuitive, but you can learn with a bit of practice. If it does go wrong, the kit will simply not turn on…” says Wilks. For the clumsy ones, there is no refund – you’ve just got to keep trying.
According to Wilks, 6-year-olds seem to have a higher chance of succeeding than adults: “Obviously they’ve got to be supervised, but kids are not afraid of soldering irons – which means they just go for it!”
For those who do not want to meddle with 360 degree heat, the Synth Kit and the Thirsty Plant Kit are ready to be pieced together with no need for heavy ironwork. Rather than being like techy Ikea flat-packs though, these kits do not provide quite ALL the bits and pieces needed and leave some room for individual creativity. For your synth and speakers, you’ll have to create a Boombox out of whichever material takes your fancy – which seems only fair in a project which intends to give people their inventiveness back.
“The great things about these kits” says Wilks, “is that when they’re finished, they are never finished forever. Once you start learning, you can start improving, endlessly improving, endlessly be creative.”