Circuit Benders’ Ball

Thomas, BJ and few friends did a workshop this past weekend at The Columbus Idea Foundry on building a Two Transistor Light Theramin.

And what exactly does that mean you may be asking? Well essentially it is noise maker that has a light sensor on it. But in the process of building that the kids learned how to solder the very small electronic connections and they learned how to create a simple two transistor light Theremin based on the 1976 Forrest M. Mims III design.


Both Thomas and BJ knew how to solder form previous classes they’ve taken. But building the transistor was something new for them both. BJ thought it was even more difficult than working on computer boards like he’s done in the past.


All the kids ended up with their own noisy little transistors, whose sole purpose seems to be only to annoy all the older people within earshot.


Circuit Bending at The Columbus Idea Foundry

Circuit bending is the creative customization of the circuits within electronic devices such as low voltage, battery-powered children’s toys and small digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators.

But before you can start on the circuit bending to have to make your “bending buddy.” During which you will learn how to solder, drill plastic, mount components, and work with hot glue (really?) these are all essential circuit-bending skills. Making the bending buddy took most of the 2.5 hour class. Nut now that we know what we’re doing we could whip one out in 15 minutes or so. Waiting for the instruction and tools when in a group takes a bit of time.


Once you’ve got your bending buddy all put together, it’s time to take your toy apart. Who doesn’t love taking things apart?

The best toys for circuit bending have some or most of these attributes:
– Battery operated and makes noises electronically through a speaker
– Looks easy to take apart and put back together
– Has lots of extra space inside
– Already makes cool noises
– Music toys like keyboards and drum toys
– Toys from the 1980s and 1990s
– Talking toys with voices that sound computerized
– Simple noisemakers like greeting cards or one-button noisemakers
– Non-motorized toys (can be done but makes for more take apart time)
– Something you can live without if the circuits get fried.


Then it’s all trial and error, keep moving around your clips touching different spots on the board trying to make interesting noises. Thomas didn’t have much luck making music but he did recreate many of the circuits and was able to make the toy make sounds without pushing its buttons.


The bending buddy in action:


Thank you to the circuit-bent rock group, CMKT 4 for driving all the way to Columbus from Chicago for this interesting and very noisy program.

We are looking forward to doing more classes at The Columbus Idea Foundry, it is such a cool space.

The Columbus Idea Foundry is Columbus’s own community workshop, DIY learning center and creative space. Our goal is to teach introductory hands-on classes in fields such as welding, silversmithing, blacksmithing, jewelry making, small and large metal casting, stained glass soldering, CAD/CAM/CNC, laser cutting, vacuum forming, screenprinting, electronics, and more. Once trained to use our resources, members may rent time on our tools to practice their skills or work on personal projects.