Thursday, 9 June 2016

Teknikio Review: Origami + Tech = Creativity

Teknikio make kits for children and beginners to spark an interest in technology. Combining craft, design and tech is one of our favourite things here at Tech Age Kids so we were excited to get our hands on Teknikio's Activating Origami Set.

I tried the Teknikio Activating Origami set out on my 9 year old son who has done electronics before, including with papercraft, but hadn't tried much origami.

Disclaimer: Teknikio provided this kit for review. We don't guarantee a review and will only feature products that we can genuinely recommend.

Components of the Teknikio Origami Set

The set includes: several sheets of coloured origami paper, a vibration motor mounted on a board, a battery holder, conductive tape, mini split pins, colour-changing LEDs, 2 batteries and the instructions to make a vibrating origami penguin.

Fold the Origami

My son decided to start with the penguin model that you get instructions for. He chose red paper (there was no black or blue included.) He was a bit confused by the origami symbols. If you look in the Activating Origami Set Guidebook online the symbols are explained so we'd recommend having that open on a device alongside the printed instructions.  Once my son got the idea he was able to follow other origami instructions too and he even added his own fold to create a penguin tail.

Add the Electronics

Once he had made the penguin he looked at the instruction for adding the electronics. He has worked with electronics components before so he was comfortable with this but there's more info on circuits in the online guidebook.

My son carefully cut the tape to length (the measurements are in Imperial units, but he just found a ruler that had Imperial as well as metric.) The he laid everything out and realised that the tape was a bit too short (he had measured it correctly.) So he adapted the design a bit. He wanted the electronics inside the penguin rather than on the back so he was quite happy with this.

He needed help pushing the split pins through the paper and tape - I got out my sewing unpicker which is great for things like this. Everything worked smoothly and the penguin was soon turning around in circles.

Experiment with Movement

He wanted more penguin-like movement so we experimented with adding blobs of sticky tack to different places on the penguin until it moved forward which made him very happy!

His verdict: "I like that it's origami with electronics. Origami is an interesting thing to do. It's quicker to make it than if you're sewing."

Next he wanted to use the LEDs that are included in the kit. On the box they are shown attached to an origami penguin. He decided he'd like to try to add eyes to a model of his choice. He found a simple origami fox that he liked and made it. (You can find lots of simple origami animals on the Origami Club site along with animations and videos that are really easy to follow.)

Design Your Own

We experimented and found that the LEDs needed to be connected in parallel which was a bit of a challenge. He really enjoyed designing a circuit. The added dimension of needing to work out where things would be when the origami was folded added an extra challenge!

He decided that he wanted the battery hidden inside the model so that you could take it out to turn it off. He didn't want to remove the battery holder from the penguin model so we made this model without a holder using the second battery. (It's very easy to move the components between projects as they are just attached with split pins.)

We added some electrical insulating tape (left from making our real-world Minecraft storage) to our toolkit so that we could avoid short circuits in a small space. We joined the positive legs of the LEDs to where the positive side of the battery would side and likewise the the negative. We bent the LED legs along a fold in the origami fox.

My son was very pleased with the result and his younger brother was fascinated too. I think we've got an origami set in a cupboard somewhere. Looks like Teknikio is just the thing to get the kids interested in it.


My nine year old says: "I like the creativity, it's not just 'make this', you can make other things too." That pretty much sums up the Teknikio approach. The kit does have a starter project to get kids skilled up, but then it launches them off to see what else they can do with the bits in the box. He loved that origami is much quicker than sewing or 3D-printed based electronics projects. 

Ready-made Electronics Kit

I suspect that this approach will confuse some parents who are used to rigid step-by-steps kits where there's a right way and a wrong way to make it. And very techie families will feel that they could source components themselves (note to those families: these are very nice kid-friendly components and work well together as a set.) This Teknikio kit is a great midway point between a limiting kit and buying a set of components which is a daunting prospect for many parents. 

Kid-Friendly Components

As someone who has tried lots of electronics components and kits with my kids I can see that a lot of thought has gone in to the materials included in the the kit. The mini-split pins mean that components can easily be reused or disconnected to save the battery. And the conductive adhesive ribbon is lovely. (We've often used aluminium tape, but the tape in the Teknikio kit is much nicer.)

Develop Kids who Tinker

Here you get a kit that has been designed to encourage kids to tinker. It definitely had that effect on my son. As soon as he perfected the example he was straight onto making his own model. 

The kits are recommended for age 7+. Younger children will definitely need help from parents but will love what they can make. Origami appeals to a wide range so the kit would also work well for tweens and teens who will be able to work independently.

Challenge Kids Electronics Knowledge

There's actually plenty of potential to challenge more experienced youngsters when you combine origami with creating your own parallel circuits as you have to make sure you avoid short circuits when the origami is folded.

Buy: Teknikio kits on Amazon

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