Prototyping Toolkit 

The Open Minds Toolkit serves as a vital component in the Creative Innovation Labs, providing a versatile and tangible platform for prototyping and innovation.

“Using prototyping technologies like the Open Minds Toolkit, designers and innovators can approach the built environment with fresh perspectives, ensuring that spaces cater to a wide array of needs and abilities. This is the time to re-evaluate and redesign our world to be as inclusive as possible, not constrained by the limitations of the past but inspired by the potential of the future. The Open Minds project embodies this approach, using technology to open doors and break down barriers, creating spaces that reflect the diversity of human experience.” - Open Minds Handbook

Centred around the Raspberry Pi Pico, this high-performance microcontroller board is engineered to interface with a variety of sensors and outputs, from basic to complex. Its integration with Grove connectors opens a world of possibilities for users to explore a plethora of input and output options. Pre-installed with MicroPython and supported by an extensive repository of examples and guides on our GitHub, the Open Minds Toolkit is an accessible entry point for all participants to bring their designs to life, ensuring a hands-on experience that is both educational and engaging.

The Toolkit is capable of controlling multiple outputs, such as motors, lights, screens, speakers, while at the same time able to receive data from multiple sensors, such as light, movement, sound etc. We have included Grove connectors for i2c connections, allowing you to add more complex sensors such as distance, air quality, GPS or a whole range of input or outputs from the Grove ecosystem. Examples for many of the sensors are included on our Github page, as well as more detailed instructions, troubleshooting guides and schematics.

The idea for this board is to try to make it easy to use the inputs to control the outputs. For example, there is a light sensor built into the board which can control outputs depending on how much light is hitting it. Using some code, you could control the colour of the RGB light, or the position of a servo motor, or the frequency of a speaker. Or even send that information to a webpage and display the information there.

The board has a light sensor and a button as its built-in inputs. It also has 2 connectors which can connect to a huge range of sensors from the Grove series of i2c sensors. We have included some example code for a few of those, such as the distance sensor. The board has a few onboard outputs too, such as a simple speaker for playing tones and frequencies, an RGB LED that can change colour and brightness, a haptic motor that can vibrate the board much like a mobile phone’s vibration feature, and a connector that allows easy use of a Servo Motor. This kind of motor allows you to control the exact position of the shaft of the motor to either a specific angle or, if using a continuous servo, the exact speed and direction of the motor. The i2c connectors also allow you to connect a whole range of other outputs too. We have tested parts from the Grove range again and were able to control things like tiny OLED screens.

The Pico W also has a lot of additional pins to connect things to, so we included crocodile clip compatible connections for you to access those should you need them.

Because the Open Minds Toolkit uses the Raspberry Pi Pico W as its brain, it means that any online tutorial related to this board is also applicable. We have pre-loaded the MicroPython firmware so that it is ready to tinker with and code straight away. If you want to change the firmware to something like CircuitPython, it is easy to do, however, most of the example codes will need to be edited to fit. You will need an IDE in order to alter the code on the board, and we recommend Thonny. All of our tests were done using Thonny so we know it works nicely. Use a USB cable to connect your toolkit to a computer. You will need to do a little setting up in Thonny by going to Run -> Select Interpreter.

In the first drop down menu select MicroPython (Raspberry Pi Pico). The second drop down menu should automatically detect your board. If not, then you can do it manually by selecting the port that your board has been plugged into. From here you can try some of the example code in the Open Minds GitHub repository, or use the multitude of Pico W tutorials online on how to code your board.

Building with technology

Building with technology in the context of Design for Radical Inclusion involves leveraging the latest advancements to rethink and reshape our environments to be more inclusive. New technologies provide us with unprecedented opportunities to enhance accessibility. They allow us to reimagine every aspect of our surroundings and how we interact within them.

The expansive range of sensors and outputs available through contemporary technology significantly broadens the horizon for creative solutions. We now have the capability to detect subtle changes in the environment, such as humidity or vibrations, and respond with a multitude of outputs like auditory signals or visual displays. This integration of diverse sensory inputs and outputs allows designers to conceptualize novel interactions within environments, enriching the design vocabulary and paving the way for innovative solutions that can cater to a wider spectrum of needs and preferences, thus opening a world of possibilities for inclusive design.

The advent of affordable microboards and sensors has revolutionised the prototyping phase of design. This technology enables a ‘sketching’ approach, where ideas can be rapidly brought to life and iteratively tested without the pressures and costs associated with final manufacturing. It encourages a culture of experimentation, where the process of trial and error becomes an educational journey, not just a means to an end. This iterative cycle allows for more agile development, where designers can learn, adapt, and innovate with each prototype iteration.

The diverse range of sensors and outputs that modern technology offers extends beyond traditional interaction methods, prioritising various senses and catering to different abilities. This approach embraces the concept of sensory design—where the goal is not to replace lost functions but to amplify existing ones. For instance, a humidity sensor could trigger a visual signal for those who are hard of hearing, while vibration sensors could provide haptic feedback as an alternative to auditory cues. Such innovations allow individuals with different abilities to engage with their environment in new and meaningful ways, promoting inclusivity at every touchpoint.

In every space—from the intimacy of a home to the expanse of urban streets, from digital platforms to the tactile environment of a farm—new technologies can dismantle long-accepted design constraints.

With Open Minds, we’re not providing a universal solution, but we’re cultivating a mindset that sees potential where others see permanence. It teaches participants to harness these affordances, to envision a world where accessibility is embedded into the fabric of all environments, ensuring that inclusion is not an afterthought, but a fundamental aspect of the design process.

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