ThinkerToys give e-waste a new life as e-learning tools

Every year a staggering 50 million metric tons of e-waste — TVs, computers and cellphones — are deposited in landfills. In the U.S. we're often removed from the problem, but in third world countries sprawling landfills are often inter-twined with living and working spaces. An initiative has been floated to taking e-waste from landfills and using it to create e-learning gadgets for the local communities.

Designer and technologist Dhairya Dand came up with the idea of ThinkerToys after travelling and observing the landfill problem first hand in Cambodia. He wanted to help find a way to chip away at the e-waste and give the children that he observed working the landfills badly needed educational resources.

The project picks up basic equipment such as TVs, computers, monitors and keyboards and currently uses Arduino to simply transform them into new gadgets that will challenge kids in everything from music, math puzzles and reading.

The prototype devices are helping Dand and ThinkerToys plan for how this project could be deployed to local communities all over the globe. The idea is that ThinkerToys would be open source so plans for the existing devices would be accessible to everyone, as well as being open for everyone to contribute new ideas and plans no matter where they live.

Dand approaches the idea of cutting back on waste while benefiting children with the idea of fun — both for the adults creating the devices and the children who will benefit from them — at the core. He told Core 77:

"As a kid and as an adult," Dand wrote, "I have loved toys that are low-fi, that are DIY and those that surprise, delight and infuriate. Fun should not have a price. I want to convert all the eWaste out there into toys, that is the goal."

Dand plans to expand upon ThinkerToys to create openToys which he calls a "community of e-waste activists and toy designers and engineers,' that will carry the cause out into the community to make a difference.

Those who are interested in learning how to contribute can learn more on Dand's website.

ThinkerToys, via Core 77