Modtronics is a STEM learning toolkit designed to teach electronics and signal flow through modular, modifiable breadboard blocks. The idea first came to me as a sophomore student taking analog and digital electronic circuits class. I struggled initially with the steep learning curve, and many core concepts didn’t settle in my mind till years later after approaching and prototyping larger scale projects.
At the time, I was aware of a product called “LittleBits,” a popular electronic platform with building blocks for young inventors, but the product was incredibly expensive and didn’t allow for more low-level modifications that would be more appropriate for a circuits class.
I set out with a goal in mind to produce a product that bridged a critical transition for electronics students – the gap that exists between the fundamentals and functional projects.
Essentially, there are multiple modules, “Mods,” which consist of a base and a cap. Bases are grouped into three different groups:
- 1) Essentials (power)
- 2) Sound and Event Generation (tone and impulse generators)
- 3) Modifiers (filters and signal processing)
“Caps” are the top mating half to the bases. They manipulate the base (e.g. a sound generator mod) using:
- 1) Light + Darkness
- 2) Sound
- 3) Touch
- 4) Movement (tilt)
- 5) Time
So, in very little time, a user can make a synthesizer that is controlled by touch (turning a potentiometer) and in even less time, modify it to be controlled by light!
Have a look at this first video below. The user places a power supply, tone generator, gate, and speaker on the breadboard, and in 30 seconds, has created a monophonic instrument!
Below, the user inserts another an LFO “Low Frequency Oscillator” module that increases the musical complexity of the circuit!
Below, the user uses a tone generator like in the first video
The circuits are simple and employ basic principles of power delivery, filtering,
And lastly, as part of an open library, users are given the ability to modify the Mods themselves with different resistor and capacitor values, as well as contribute Mods they have designed themselves. A collection of different projects as well as lesson plans are in the works.
For the future, I plan on converting the prototypes to a run of printed PCBs for more user feedback.