Friday New Product, and Useful News on the Useless Box

Continuing in the tradition of mixing up the previously purely on-topic posts, we have a few things to announce today, other than bringing you still-brand-new-cool product. First off, the announcement from our Chief Geek:

Make Something Useless Useful

At Solarbotics, we put in substantial effort in creating kits for people to use to fulfill a purpose. But making a kit for something that by its definition is useless made us pause and ponder this irony. We generally don’t philosophize during working hours, but something about this disturbed us, and we want to fix it.

To this end, we are now officially making the Useless Box, USEFUL. As of today, Solarbotics is donating a percentage of past sales of Useless Boxes to Charity in the form of a $1100 donation to Plan Canada, where we’re assisting education in Africa in the form of paying for:

  • Building a well for a class
  • A School vegetable garden
  • Two sets of Classroom essentials
  • Building and stocking a school kitchen

Going forward from here until December 31st, we’re also taking 50 cents from the sale of each Useless Box and saving it up for a second contribution.

To further make our “Make something Useless, Useful” campaign appealing, we are also including a free PCB (a $2 value) in all Useless Machine kits sold at Solarbotics. This PCB makes the wiring up of a Useless Box trivial and error-free (assuming your soldering isn’t …useless).

So if you were thinking of doing something useless for somebody this holiday season, join us in making it a bit useful for somebody else.

Dave Hrynkiw
President, Solarbotics Ltd.



And now to this week’s collection of new stuff!

Mega Solarbotics Arduino Freeduino Enclosure (SAFE)
The Solarbotics Arduino Freeduino Enclosure (SAFE) is a laser-cut acrylic case for your Arduino Mega. It also has the added feature that it can house an Arduino or Freeduino instead with a MEGA amount of space left inside.
Wide VESA Mount (200x100mm)
By popular demand, we offer you the wide VESA mount for our SAFE line of enclosures! It allows you to install your application to the back of a High-Def LCD monitor or plasma TV, and tuck all the cables away with it for a clean project install.
OPB704 IR Reflective Object Sensor
The OPB704 IR Reflective Object Sensor is a focused reflect sensor that is used for the detection of changes in a surface. It will save you from ever falling off a cliff! Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. It will save your robot from ever falling down the stairs! That’s better.

Seems like the Useless Box is the star of the show today, because now we are also offering…

Custom Useless Box Tops!

Useless Boxes are a hit. Christmas is coming up. Put these two together, and we got a new service for you – custom laser engraving of Useless Box tops. Get yours customized with a picture of your family, team, group favourite html tag, hex code, or cat! This option is available if you order a set of four Useless Boxes – we’ll put the same design on all 4 boxes.

To order your custom artwork, select Custom Top x 4 option in the product dropdown, add it to the cart and place the order. Send your order confirmation  along with your greyscale artwork and instructions to, and we will take care of it from there. Make sure you follow the Custom Engraving Guidelines and check out the the Useless Box Template for a hand laying out your design.

You can see some some of our acrylic engraving tests and examples on our Flickr photostream.

Vector engraving example

   Raster engraving example

Typically, and black and white vector design (AI, SVG, EPS, etc) looks the best when engraved, with its sharp edges and high contrast. Bitmap/raster images (image files like a JPG or GIF) are bit trickier to work with, but they look pretty good too. A good candidate image for laser etching will have good contrast, detail and clarity. Also, make sure you convert your file to greyscale – if the image/photo doesn’t look good in greyscale, most likely it won’t etch so well either. So pick your art carefully, and we will do our best to make it look good.

Aaaand that was everything for the exciting news for tonight. I was also going to add 15 entries of non-exciting news that include me brushing my teeth, apple pie for lunch, some coffee grinds research and a comparative table of impact of the Solarbotics floor covering hues on our office dog behaviour. But I will refrain.