Sept - Dec 2016
Global Digital Innovation
Edu Tech 


Tinkering – Illuminating the world and making waves

jie A few years ago Jie Qi, co- founder of Chibitronics and a qualified mechanical engineer, started looking at the idea of paper electronics and making stickers – peel and use circuit stickers, stickers with a twist – stickers that light up. Today, she is acknowledged as one of the pioneers leading the creative digital science movement in art and science that is rapidly spreading across the world. And later this year, Johannesburg – through – hopes to host the country’s first Chibitronics workshop.

I discovered and learn about Jie’s amazing work in 2015 while in Johannesburg and found out that she was at MIT Media Lab working on her research. The timing was was uncanny as I was to be at Harvard this year and so I contacted her when I arrived and her she graciously invited me to her electronic paper brainstorm workshop where we looked at ways to create a a new prototype for reusable stickers. I persuaded her to share the background of Chibitronics amidst her hectic scheduling.

Chibitronics is art and science realised and combines Jie’s love for arts and crafts to build sensors using conductive material. In the process- she demystified circuitry and electronics by creating the stickers. For her it is all magical. For the rest of us – it is circuits and electronics demystified.

Jie sees circuit stickers as a tool to make building circuits and electronics easy – through the process of making, building – using that process for learning. It is also an innovation all by itself and that is its magic. In the process Jie has looked the art as medium – an expression for us to tell new stories as the the paper stickers offers much flexibility to creative expression. It is also a learning empowerment tool and she hopes will engage broader range of audiences and users to understand circuitry as well facilitate technology creators.
From an educators perspective, people have been traditionally consumers of technology and less able to create technology and in Jie’s mind – electronic programming should be a more common language around us. An LED light is the same LED in the power button in your phone / fridge. It is the exact same science.

Jie says she is still learning on the comparative success of Chibitronics with conventional schools and class teaching on circuitry. On art, expression and science as well as what is happening in class as well as the maker movement – getting kids and people to create. STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) is where she wants to be – getting the arts into the STEM learning is something Jie is passionate about and so she is STEAM personified. She has certainly made us see how and where science meets art.

Chibitronics came from the Japanese anime chibi and means – small, cute and friendly the opposite of intimidating and that is what Chibitronics want to make technology.

Jie has written Circuit Sticker Sketchbook available in English, Chinese and Japanese. And while Chibi is more than likely light up in more countries. Jie is writing another book – and we hope to meet Ellie the LED, sometime soon and learn more about circuitry. Bravo to this digital luminary.

This is the era of digital pioneers. Watch out for them here on

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Creator Spaces   Designing Innovation Economics


Ayesha Dawood

I liked this when I came across it “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking" says Jessie Shefrin former Provost of The Rhode Island School of Design and past Dean of Graduate Studies of The Rhode Island School of Design.

I like this too, alot 'design thinking ... is the expression of communication – the form itself...' that is the response I got when I asked John Maeda, at a talk at MIT this year what design thinking is -- Is it the form, is it the way it is presented .. and how does it impact international affairs? His response has got me mulling on innovation economics – and a very 21st century focus. The innovation economics idea was introduced to me by Professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property. And so Professor Fisher I take the liberty to propel this idea to designing innovation economics in the 21st century. So here I am positing Creator Spaces as innovation economics in action. And yes, Prof Fisher, Intellectual Property is important and as you say, only and only if it creatively engages with culture. So I take the creative engaging with the culture of a people, the culture of counties ... to a culture of creation. So, I am building and creating and designing too. Is this Ronald Dworkin`s chain novel theory playing itself out – a step by step building of things.

In particular I focus on Creator and Maker spaces which I call Creator Spaces. It is a movement rapidly gaining traction – and pioneering new pedagogies – tinkering, creator and playful learning pedagogies. No doubt this is influencing and will continue to improve a whole new wave – tinkering, playful learning and learning through play and exploration heralding novel creations as well as iterations in the new edu- tech era.

This is innovation economics birthed. A world of tinkering, software and hardware creation including an immersive engagement with technology and with materials –that is what empowers us to be courageous and creative. To make, to create – the art of playful learning and innovator spirit is boldly borne.

In seeing what we create – both online with immersive engaging of technology to building with our minds and hands to creating with materials to embracing the realm of possibilities and yes frameworks ( the lawyer in me screams legal frameworks as much computational thinking calls for system frameworks ). That is the power of Creator Space. They energise, motivate, uplift and propel growth in ones own sense of self, in creativity, in making, in building, in designing and cognition and critical thinking. And this is why it makes sense – it is innovation economics in both the digital and physical – a new form of a connected world – a world of immersive technology made simple – a world of creative making and a world of design and designing new things – software, new hardware, new things and while the search for new hardware forms and hardware materials is increasingly opening up new possibilities in materials.... Creator Spaces are about working with what is available as well making new from afresh and in that process new forms are birthed – New software creation is Creator Space and open source learning and remixing also lend impetus to this. See what amazing creations Scratch, an open source computer programme inspiring community learning and inspiring kids to create stories, animations and games - initiated at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group - is doing for kids globally here

Designing Creator Spaces is about inspiring people to take charge of their minds and ideas. I marvelled at watching the excitement and agility of the kids at MIT `s Scratch Day this May. Boundless enthusiasm and fun creations – and such confidence.

A new creator pedagogy in the making – yes – but maybe not so new in Africa and emerging economies where creator crafts and tinkering necessities were birthed. It is this staple that will take the shift to tinkering and artful play in emerging economies to levels unparalleled and a boon for innovation economics. Now that is design thinking innovation economics.  Creator Spaces is innovation economics. And yes, Intellectual Property matters.

Ayesha Dawood is a lawyer, writer and artist and educator. She is a Harvard and South African educated lawyer (@ConsultAyesha) She has an LL.M from Harvard Law School and is a recent Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.