TOOLBOX MAKE LOOKS AT KITS
With his deranged-but-cute robot good looks, the
ThingamaKit analog synthesizer is great fun to
build, and even more fun to play with. Whether I’m
trying to make it sound like a lounge act from the
future or a game of Space Invaders, I can’t seem to
put it down.
The kit is beautifully designed: a clearly labeled
circuit board, bagged and tagged components, and
excellent printed instructions, complete with full-color photos of the build process. You supply basic
soldering skills, a few tools, and an evening or two.
ThingamaKit has knobs to tune the waveform
rate and shape of his main oscillator. This by itself
sounds roughly like emergency-room equipment on
His true power is revealed when you look into his
light-sensitive “eyes,” a pair of photoresistors. The
amount of light he sees with his right eye adjusts
pitch, which means you can wave your hand around
to play him like a theremin. For bleepier sounds,
use his blinking “LEDacle” appendage as a light
source. His left eye and its corresponding LEDacle,
switches, and knob adjust the modulator, which
affects the tempo of the bleeps and adds audible
sidebands at higher frequencies.
The net result is a space-age sonic freak show.
ThingamaKit is both a satisfying build and an
adorable, noisy companion. —John Edgar Park
Wave Shield for Arduino Kit
I’m fascinated by electronics and I’m always looking for practical ways to learn about them. It’s not
enough to read about how things work; sometimes
I just need to get my hands dirty. Lately I’ve been
hacking on an Arduino for a rudimentary cocktail-serving robot, and I decided I needed to get some
sound on board. Some research brought me to the
Wave Shield kit sold by Adafruit Industries.
The kit is a PCB “shield” that piggybacks onto
your Arduino to add audio playback. It plays 22kHz,
16-bit .wav files from an SD card through a standard
The Wave Shield is a great, low-barrier-to-entry
way to get sound into your project. Unfortunately,
the Wave Shield does take up a sizable chunk of
RAM to buffer the audio on the Arduino, but overall
it’s a neat little kit to work with.
Assembly and soldering are a snap; it took about
20 minutes to get it ready to plug in and test. On
the programming side, Adafruit has a fairly extensive
library to download, as well as a bunch of code
examples on the site.
As long as you aren’t expecting hi-fi audio
quality I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the
Wave Shield kit, and at 22 bucks it’s worth it just
to have your Arduino compliment you on your