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There are many children's toys that make sounds and flash lights. Many teach pitch but few teach rhythm.

Jigsaw Renaissance Hackerspace supports kinesthetic learning of rhythm development and offers a cooperative environment for group performance and play.


A child picking up the Jigbox and shaking it will hear the sound of a maraca and see a colorful light flashing. The color of the light will follow the direction and intensity of the shaking. A single simple row of 5 colored buttons invite exploration. If the black button is pressed, the sound of a cowbell is heard, the red button a bongo, and the other buttons produce a plucked string and the sound of a dog-bark.


As the child continues to play, they will find that pressing three buttons together will start a periodic drum sound. In this recording mode, one LED blinks along with the metronome sound. Pressing buttons and shaking the Jigbox plays the sounds as before, but also records a track of all the sounds.


When a group of children get together with their Jigboxes, the built in radios will detect the presence of the others, and the beat lights on all of them will blink at the same times.

The group will learn to coordinate their body movements while listening to their bandmates. This teaches timing and spacial awareness.


Pressing three buttons together will change from recording to playback. The previous track will be played back, but this time the notes will have been corrected so they fall one the beat marker. The child can simply enjoy their recorded track, or make the experience richer by playing along with the recorded track.


As they play along, the metronome LED will blink at the recorded rate while the 'hit' LED will show the notes as they play them.

To reinforce the timing lesson, the color and brightness of the hit LED will change to show how closely they are shaking the Jigbox in time with the recording. The closer they are to hitting the beat, the brighter and greener the hit LED flashes.


A video of a prototype being used can be seen here:


Building a prototype:


We wanted to put the various boards into a box so we could test the shaking and button use.


The main processing board was purchased from Olimex for a different project. To mount the buttons, LEDs and accelerometer, a board was designed to hold these components. The details of this board were included in a previous blog post.

The PCB were built using an “at home” process. The full movie of making the PCBs can be seen on Youtube at:

While we wait for the final configurations of the PCB we assembled the accessory board and processor boards into a plastic case to try the product out. The build order is:

Place the accessory board so the buttons protrude through a slot cut in the front of the box. The LED's align with holes just below the buttons.


Then the processor board is stacked on the back of the accessory board with spacers between the two. The battery pack is added and the speaker plugged in to the processor board. The speaker (not shown) is mounted on the rear of the case.


Finally the case is screwed together:


Tools and libraries

The following tools and products were used to develop the Jigbox:

Olimex STM ( )

Quantum Platform (

STM32 Firmware libraries ( )
Atollic TrueStudio Lite IDE Lite version ( )

EagleCAD ( )


The source code is available on at:

Also in the same github project, in the subfolder 'board' the EagleCAD files are available for the product's circuit and PCB layout.

Let's hope that we're not entering the Headless Chicken phase.


Direction is always good, and we have several.


One direction is describing our first application; we met last Tuesday to come up with a more complete story about how our gadget could be used.


Another direction is getting prototype hardware together and working, including support of the various components that aren't on our chosen development boards. To pursue that direction, we got together over the weekend to build prototyping boards to hold the pushbuttons, RGB LEDs, and accelerometer parts we're planning to use.


Yet another direction is enabling our volunteer programmers to help with the project. We got a software task list together and will be trying to get several programmers working on low-level peripheral support in parallel. Several members have ordered the STM32 Value Line Discovery boards ($10 boards with a 128K STM32 part and an on-board debugger); we will try to use these for developing peripheral code.


Our board construction used toner-transfer methods and kitchen etching and drilling techniques to create a couple of double-sided boards. We ended up with one board that may work fully (haven't had a chance to test it yet); there was a flaw in the accelerometer pattern that will keep the second board from being useful for that part.


Here's some pictures from Sunday's board-building project. We also are producing a video for educational purposes.


The board, pre-drilling:

The finished board, connected:

Hello again, from Jigsaw Renaissance. I promised you a look at our initial bill of materials, so here it is.


Our device has a few core functionalities which we need to work on. These include:


Audio input and processing
Audio output
Interaction through motion (e.g. shaking the device, dancing)
Interaction through explicit input (e.g. buttons)
Communication between devices


To simplify development and hopefully save enough time to get the core features working by the end of April, we have decided to use the Olimex STM32-103STKSTM32-103STK development board. We will modify these with STM32F103RGT6STM32F103RGT6 microcontrollers. This implementation of the Cortex M3 has 96K of RAM and 1MB of flash in a dual-bank configuration, which will be very helpful for some of our planned features. A PCB specific to our device will be designed and fabricated later in the project. As the software is by far the largest and most challenging component of this project, we want to be able to start work on that as soon as possible.




While there is already an accelerometer on the Olimex dev board, we will be working with the Freescale MMA8452QTMMA8452QT as this part is likely more suitable to our final design in terms of cost and features. We will be fabricating a simple external board for this part as well as for some other items such as LEDs and switches. This will help during initial prototyping (i.e. until we design the main PCB).


Our current estimated budget for electronics is as follows. This will leave us with a fairly decent margin for unanticipated issues, casework, additional prototypes, and so forth.


$218 for 2x Olimex boards
$44 for 5x micros
$18 for 3x radio chips
$36 for 3x accelerometers
$100 (?) for 3x blank boards
$50 or so for remaining parts (switches, LEDs, speakers...)


There are a few key issues which we’re going to face, but the main challenge here is time. A month is really not much to work with for an electronics project of any complexity—and our planned device is not going to be very simple. There are several aspects which need to be working simultaneously in order for the user experience to come together. This involves several fairly complex software tasks in a very resource-constrained environment, even with the STM32F103RGT6’s comparatively ample feature set. Furthermore, we really need to get an initial version into the hands of users and iterate based on how they receive it and interact with it.


kid with instrument.png


Given the constraints of the contest, our planned solution here is to initially stick to a few core features and get them working in as simple of a version as can possibly do the job. This is, of course, what you’d want to do for a reasonably large project anyway. It does leave us a little uncertain as to what the version we demonstrate for the contest will include. But regardless, the contest has provided us with the means to bootstrap the project.


We fully expect that further development will be needed after the contest. We can get some version of the device working in a month, but there’s no way we can adequately iterate it into a form which adequately serves students’ needs. Our hope for the GGHC is to create a version which will get educators interested in working with us to build the version we need to build in order to meet the device's educational goals.


Stay tuned.

At Jigsaw Renaissance, we have been hard at work designing a device which will teach kids that they are capable of creative expression.


Let me tell you how we’re going to pull it off.


We started with a few design constraints. Firstly, the device should be beneficial to students who are being underserved by existing educational institutions. Many students don’t get the attention they need. Other students go to schools which don’t have the funding or faculty to teach subjects that aren’t on a federal watch list, with music and art often being the first to be thrown under a bus. Secondly, we want to loosely target younger students (e.g. ages 6-10) because they are probably less likely to be victims of learned helplessness or social interference, while there is a great potential for long-term benefits if we can make a positive impact on their education today. Lastly, the device should be something which will work for teachers. It should not depend on a lot of technical expertise or on equipment which might not be available, and it should be easy to integrate into the teacher’s curriculum.


Building from there, we did some brainstorming, and came up with a few good ideas which fit our criteria. However, we kept coming back to one idea; that of building a musical instrument which would use electronics to help even a novice have a fulfilling creative experience. Creating this experience would be very empowering as it would teach potentially disenfranchised students to value their ability for individual expression and that they are capable of far more than they imagined.


Current music education—assuming any is actually available—tends to focus on the traditional recorder experience where students are given cheap plastic instruments and made to practice simple tunes. This is not really engaging even for the students who already love music. Our device won’t be great for rehearsing simple tunes, but what it will be awesome for is empowering kids to work together and create improvised music.


How does that work? Well, it’s magic. There are a number of ways you could build it. Many of you are probably already thinking about several options. But for now, let’s just go with magic. The cool story here isn’t how we’re going to build the device, but what it will do for its users. (Come back later if you want to see our initial BOM.)


Here is the basic user experience:


  • Students each have a handheld electronic instrument.

  • It responds to input such as humming, shaking, or pressing a button.

  • The interface is kept very simple and intuitive.

  • Students compose music by freely interacting with the device.

  • Students cooperate by trading snippets of music together.

  • Students explore by sampling sound from their environment.

  • The device helps by providing a beat and gently applying simple musical principles.

  • Students have a positive and memorable experience.


We will play it in the classrooms; we will play it on the playgrounds. We can play it!


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Jigsaw Renaissance

Who we are

Posted by Jigsaw Renaissance Mar 28, 2011

Jigsaw Renaissance is a learning and making community. Sprung out of the heads of transhumanist Willow Brugh, film maker Ben Dobyns, visionary Lion Kimbro, traceuse Janine Cundy, ice cream man Rob Gardiner, and cybernetician Joshua Madara; the organization started in fall of 2009. With mentorship and organizational support through The School Factory and James Carlson, we quickly got on our feet. We moved into our first space in January of 2010, into a bigger one in April, and are currently looking for an even better space to suit our growing needs. Our 50 members gather at the space for events like Random Hacks of Kindness, CyborgCamp, and Dorkbot.


We don't just teach each other, though, we also open our doors to the community with classes like Wearable Electronics, Knit Nite, Bonsai with Powertools, Zombie Preparedness, and Soldering and Coding on Wednesdays. We're currently working with Pinehurst K-8 (previously Alternative School 1) in the Seattle public school system to hold Field Trip Fridays, and are working on establishing closer ties to local colleges like University of Washington and Seattle University. Jigsaw has also been mentioned as a prime example of the future of education in America.


Jigsaw isn't just about education, though. Many of our members make their living out of the space - Journey Quest was fully edited at Jigsaw, Va-Va-Vroom uses Jigsaw as its home base, and Yarn-N-Ink works are hung to dry on the racks at Jigsaw. We've also participated in other challenges before - shipping a resin-encased cupcake to All Hands Active in Ann Arbor, and currently bringing in the last of the Sticker Exchange to be sent back out to spaces all over the world.


We're incredibly excited to be participating in the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge, and thank Element14 for the opportunity. Our core team includes Budi Mulyo, H+ and Android enthusiast; James Gray, grad student at UW's HITLab; Ned Konz, embedded systems creator; Lawrence Leung, software engineer; Willow Brugh, director of Jigsaw; Bergen McMurray, technology instructor at Pinehurst, and more!