1. What is the Lux Cube?
The Lux Cube is a do-it-yourself (DIY) electronics soldering project. The purpose of this kit is to provide young, curious Makers with a moderately challenging experience that will motivate them to keep tinkering.
We want youth to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) abilities through hands-on experiential activities. We love to learn this way, so we created the perfect kit that a beginner could complete on their own with basic tools (i.e. soldering iron, solder, tape, 3rd hand, safety goggles).
We chose to simplify a 4x4x4 LED light cube because it was a project we wanted to make at a 4-H summer camp. We attempted to create the cube on prototype boards and do all the hard-wiring too. We quickly learned that this was a disaster. Youth age 12-18 quickly got discouraged, they liked soldering but could not see the light at the end of the tunnel on this project. They lost motivation and quit. This is when we realized, we needed to make this project easier. Everyone wanted a cube that lit up, but no one wanted to solder for 60 straight hours to make it happen.
2. What makes the Lux Cube unique?
We have created the only DIY kit for a 4x4x4 LED light cube that can be completed in 3 hours by anyone with basic soldering skills and tools. No hard-wiring required. Sure, someone with a degree in electrical engineering could follow a guide on instructables.com and make a cube. But they would also have to spend hours sourcing all the components, rig up a placeholder, and wait for all the supplies to show up. We did exactly that. It took us 60 hours to make one cube on prototype board.
After we designed the printed circuit board (PCB), 3D printed a custom placeholder grid and sourced all the components we reduced the building experience to 3 hours. It was an enjoyable experience. We beta tested the kit with your 12-15 and they loved it! If they were somewhat novice at soldering, they all became experts by the end. In addition, they could identify every component in the kit and through an inquiry-based learning experience they also learned the function of each component and it’s purpose on the PCB.
There is no other DIY electronics kit like the Lux Cube.
3. Who needs the Lux Cube?
The Maker Movement needs the Lux Cube. There are 135 million Makers around the world who are constantly looking for a fun project. With the resurgence of the DIY culture and demand for informal STEM education nationally, we are seeing the Maker Movement swell with momentum. Millions of people are attending Maker Faire’s looking for their next “make” – many are educators. These educators are looking for kits they can buy to teach hands-on STEM abilities in informal afterschool and summer camp settings. This is our target market.
Informal educators must buy kits because they are not engineers. They might know how to solder but would have no clue how to source several dozen components or wire a prototype board properly. They need simple electronics kits that will provide youth with a 3-6 hour Maker project spread over 1-3 days. Their youth need to be able to demonstrate what they have created and be proud to show it off in a demonstration or at a county fair, and who does not like something 3-dimensional that lights up?
What we’ve learned
We have demonstrated the Lux Cube with members of our target market from across the country and they want–they need–this kit for their summer camps and after school programs.
Informal educators and camp facilitators have expressed that the project needs to continue past the soldering experience. The cube lights up! Then what?
So our next innovation is the (f)Lux Cube.
The (f)Lux Cube will be the premium version of our DIY kit. We want to create a desktop and mobile graphical user interface that allows users to program the cube’s light sequences so users can have countless hours of creativity, exploration, and computer science experience.
This project will not end with soldering, it will become an educational technology providing a Maker experience as well as an endless number of hours learning computer programming.
Where we’re at now
We have entered the Concept to Company contest to hopefully receive funding so we can purchase a 3D printer for the LED placeholders while we work on injection molding. We need a preliminary patent. We need to create a tutorial with high quality photos and video. The PCB is ready to be hooked up, but we still need to develop the software interface for programming the light sequences. We need to get the word out to informal educators before they start buying their DIY electronics kits for summer camps, so we need to run targeted ads to reach them while keeping enough inventory on hand to fulfill orders.