Meet Buzz, a “Pixel Pal” You Can Build and Program

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Buzz is a cute robot circuit board you build and program.
Buzz is a cute robot circuit board you build and program.

Soldering Sunday‘s new Pixel Pal Buzz is a cute robot-shaped circuit board with two LED lights for eyes and a belly button buzzer, available now through Kickstarter. Pixel Pals are fun and educational kits that develop STEAM skills. Buzz starts with a few easy components to solder, but unlike most starter kits, it keeps growing from there.

Paul Gentile and Jean Consorti started Soldering Sunday as an outgrowth of the FUBAR Labs makerspace in NJ. Soldering Sunday’s mission is to encourage novice makers by developing kits and projects that are easy and affordable yet educational. They designed their Pixel Pal kits as a way to fill the gap between beginner soldering kits and complex kits that are too intimidating and expensive for most beginners. The problem with most starter kits is that once they are completed, there’s nothing more to do with them.

Pixel Pals burst past this limitation: they are fully compatible with Arduino microcontrollers, and using an adapter they can work with the Raspberry Pi microcontroller as well. Makers can program their Pixel Pals and customize them using their own creativity.

Kids showing off their Buzz and Chip projects.
Kids showing off their Buzz and Chip projects.

Buzz is the second of several Pixel Pals that Soldering Sunday intends to offer, each with its own personality and functionality. Chip was the first, and has been built by thousands of beginning makers all over the world. Like Chip, Buzz is a cute robot with LED eyes that can be powered with a battery from their “Pixel Power” board, or connected to a microcontroller. Buzz’s belly button buzzer adds the dimension of sound.

Buzz is available with a "Brain Board" for programming, or use your own Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
Buzz is available with a “Brain Board” for programming, or use your own Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

Soldering Sunday has added a “Brain Board,” an ATTINY85 microcontroller that can be programmed with the familiar Arduino development environment. The “Brain Board” includes light and touch sensors, so Pixel Pals can be more interactive than ever before.

Gentile and the Soldering Sunday team run workshops regularly at the FUBAR Labs makerspace in New Brunswick, NJ. They’ve also traveled to the Bay Area and World Maker Faires in California and New York, and other maker events. They’ve built thousands of kits with individuals and families. Kids of all ages really get into it.

“Kids and even adults are so amazed when they finish their Pixel Pal and see it light up for the first time,” says Gentile. “Their faces light realizing, ‘I did that!'”

Soldering Sunday is offering Buzz via a Kickstarter campaign that launched at the end of September. Reward levels are available for individuals as well as packs for educators and groups. You can even get both Buzz and Chip with the “Pixel Pal Perfect” reward levels, which is what I ordered. My daughter and I are excited to receive our kits and start building.

To find out more, visit the Pixel Pals Kickstarter page.

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