Evil Mad Science
Inspiring the Next Generation of ScientistsBy Angela Rolls
Most business are well established before implementing a blog. It's not often that a blog evolves into a business, but that's exactly what Evil Mad Science did. It started when co-founder Lenore Edman, with no previous background in electronics, began playing with LEDs for bicycles. It wasn’t long before Lenore and her husband, Windell Oskay (a research physicist and co-founder of the Open Source Hardware Association), began working on more ambitious projects and together started a blog to document their tinkering. Their blog, Evil Mad Scientist, laid down the foundation for Evil Mad Science LLC.
The business idea started when the two took one of their blog projects, their Interactive LED Dining Table, to Maker Faire (the family still uses it as their dining table). It was so popular that they were compelled to create a kit version.
"We knew how much hard work had gone into wiring up everything, and that it would be too tedious for many people to do. So we designed circuit boards to make into a kit to be able to share that project. Of course, in order to sell those kits, we needed a business license, and it blossomed from there."
Evil Mad Science has seen many of their products grow from blog projects. One of Lenore's favorite parts of designing kits is seeing the unimaginable, creative things other people construct.
"By offering tools and kits that help people start projects or learn new skills we grow our community – whether or not they end up being evil mad scientists," Lenore said.
Several kits and projects are inspired by games, which helps to augment and maintain interest in electronics, art, and technology. The Meggy JR RGB LED Matrix Game is one kit that utilizes a game platform to increase both artistic and technological aptitude. It's designed to help enforce basic electronics skills like soldering, but can be expanded to help its builder acquire valuable programming skills. It also encourages the use of artistic creativity by allowing the builder to design custom handles if they wish.
The Bulbdial Clock Kit, like the Meggy Jr, utilizes basic electronics skills and allows for user customization. It uses LED shadows of different lengths to tell time. The kit is both software and hardware open-source and hacker friendly. Not only does the builder get to practice soldering and LED lighting, but optional programming capabilities and case options allow users to take the kit to a new level.
Kits like the Meggy JR and Bulbdial Clock help light the electronics fire in budding evil mad scientists. That's exactly what Evil Mad Science aims to do. They strive to maintain their motto, "Making the World a Better Place, One Evil Mad Scientist at a time." They sponsor a local high school robotics team and strongly support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) – an educational initiative that takes the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) a step further to include art and design.
The business radiates a quirky and fun charisma. They hand out business cards that are printed circuit boards and have a shop cat named Zener Diode. Everything they do highlights Lenore and Windell's appreciation for fun, art and quality education, as well as their ambitions to help improve electronics knowledge and skills, and spread interest in DIY projects.
It may have been Evil Mad Science's output of quirky educational kits or their love of art and open source platforms that caught the attention of Bruce Shapiro. He created the Original Egg-bot, an open-source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects like ornaments, golf-balls, light-bulbs, stones and more, to teach electronics, mechanics and the software needed to create motion controlled projects.
Bruce eventually decided that the Egg-bot should be better accessible to the DIY community. He teamed up with his son, Stanford computer science graduate Ben Trombley, and an embedded-systems engineer Brian Schmalz to transform the Egg-bot into a DIY kit. Brian created the EggBotBoard while Ben created the software version to allow users to draw in InkScape. The trio teamed up with Lenore and Windell to refine the kit in order to make home assembly possible. It has since brought the DIY community a new medium for limitless creativity.
"I love the Egg-Bot because it gets used by such a wide range of people... crafters for ornaments, egg carving, and other marvelously detailed creations... libraries, makerspaces and hackerspaces [use it as] as an intro CNC tool," said Lenore. "It's right at the intersection of art and technology, and is easy enough for almost anyone to be able to use it."
Evil Mad Science is all about taking creativity to the next level, bridging the gap between art and technology, supporting education, and inspiring new minds to transform themselves into evil mad scientists. Kits like the Original Egg-bot, Meggy Jr RGB Kit, and the Bulbdial Clock Kit help them to accomplish their mission. Jameco carries these and more Evil Mad Science kits like the Diavolino, Alpha Clock 5 Kit and Larson Scanner Kit.
Have you worked on electronics projects that bring together art and technology? Share your story at [email protected].
Angela Rolls holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Grand Valley State University and is the Managing Editor at Jameco Electronics. Originally from Michigan, she currently resides in California's Silicon Valley. Her interests include animals, traveling, writing, science and photography.