A Conductive Paper City

The conductive Paper City is a project from a team of three Italian designers; Giulia Poli and Fabio Prestini from Laboratori didattici di Fabio e Giulia, and Enrica Amplo aka La Tata Robotica.

We had the pleasure of experiencing the Paper City first hand at the Maker Faire Rome 2017, and found out more details about the concept, design and how it works. 

Paper City is a project, created from simple elements, that brings participants to reflect about their ability to work for a common project, and to consider the city as a place to live actively.

The conductive Paper City is a ludic-creative learning experience: inspired by Montessori’s and Munari’s Methods, through Steam Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). It conveys important notions through a gamified and practical approach, using design skills and circuitry. The aim of the project is to encourage kids to use different materials and design handcrafted creations.

Technology can be the way to entice them to learn traditional arts and skills, by making them more attractive.

Enrica says that their choice of using paper, an ancient material, combined with advanced technologies, like the conductive paint, electronic boards and circuits, shows that a dialogue between the past and present can be possible. It can also bring new ideas to life.

Paper City is a birds eye view of a city map, with paper buildings. The map has been drawn on white wood and painted with acrylic paint. Paper-origami buildings are built from templates by the participants during the workshops.

To make the map interactive, they painted some paths with Bare Conductive Electric Paint and connected them with alligator clips and cables to the Touch Board electrodes. 

In this way, every path can play a different city sound. Each Touch Board pin (electrode) can trigger a different city sound – a ring, a dog, cat sounds, etc. They were uploaded to the board as simple mp3s.

The sounds stop and play through touch. Instead of using direct contact to the ink path, they use buildings (which were also painted with conductive paint) as a part of the experience.

Holding the building in hand and placing it on top of the conductive paint paths triggers the city-sounds, creating the magic experience.

Beside the Bare Conductive Touch Board and Paint that they used to produce the city sounds, they also built some mechatronic circuits to make the kids think about energy and resources. They are simple little electronic building blocks that kids can combine, which initiate their thoughts on electronics, power, lights and motors.

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