We’ve developed a set of tools and techniques that make it easy to use microcontrollers as an art or craft material, embedding them directly into drawings or other artifacts. We use the ATtiny45 from Atmel, a small and cheap (~$1) microcontroller that can be glued directly to paper or other objects. We then construct circuits using conductive silver ink, dispensed from squeeze bottles with needle tips. This makes it possible to draw a circuit, adding lights, speakers, and other electronic components. Alternatively, you can make circuits with copper tape (as well as simple circuits without microcontrollers).

To program the microcontroller, we’ve developed a set of hardware and software tools. The TinyProgrammer plugs into the USB port of a computer and loads a program onto the microcontroller. We’ve also developed a plugin for the Arduino software that makes it easy to write the code that runs on the microcontroller. We call this set of tools an “untoolkit” because it provides the ease-of-use of other electronic toolkits but using off-the-shelf electronic components.

David Mellis
Sam Jacoby
Leah Buechley
Hannah Perner-Wilson
Jie Qi