The birth of an idea
I've always enjoyed making electronic gadgets for my kids, especially my son, who is definitely a budding geek. When he was only a couple of years old, he was fascinated by anything with buttons or switches. So I made a box with lots and lots of different buttons and switches and lights.
What was really cool was that depending on how you set the switches, different buttons lit different lights. Anyone who played with it, kids and adults both, found it very engaging.
After many years of use, the box fell out of favor, but it still got picked up and played with once in a while. Of all the toys I made for my kids, this one seemed to have some real staying power.
From kids to kits
I was always pretty proud of this project, even thought there's really nothing to it inside the box. I occasionally thought about making some kind of kit out of it, but it never went anywhere. You know when you have a day job and a busy life, you don't always have time to follow every idea to fruition.
So years later, when Jameco created a new site called Club Jameco, I decided it was time to try it out. The idea behind Club Jameco is that electronics hobbyists can create designs and Jameco will market and sell them. Project designers get a commission based on sales volume.
Most of us don't have the time and resources to market our own electronics projects, so here's one way to do it without much hassle. As a geek dad, I was pretty excited about the opportunity to take an idea I had made for my own son, and get it made into a kit that other geeky parents could enjoy. My intent is to show the GeekDad community what creating a project at Club Jameco entails, and to provide some commentary on how the process was for me.
Disclaimer: I don't work for Jameco, and I don't make any money by referring people to join Club Jameco. I may eventually make a little money if people like and buy my project, but that's not what this post is about.
Below I'll describe how the various steps in developing a project work.
First you describe your project in a brief, like this one:
This is a screen capture of my project brief on Club Jameco.
This step is pretty easy. After you submit the project brief, you wait for Jameco to approve it. For me that was pretty quick.
Jameco reviews and approves the project brief, and it gets posted for user member feedback
Once Jameco approves your project brief, it will be posted to allow Club Jameco members to provide feedback. They can comment and ask questions. Users can also vote on your project to show their interest.
Document your project
You can update your project brief, create a bill of materials, and document the step-by-step Instructions to build it. You have a limited time to get your project documented, or Jameco will drop your brief. This prevents people from locking up a good idea and never following through. I found they were flexible with me about extending my due date once I showed them I was making solid progress and was serious about completing it.
You can use any products in Jameco's catalog for the Bill of Materials. You can even use products from other websites. Though I imagine Jameco will like it more if you mostly use theirs. For my project, I decided to stick to products I could source from Jameco themselves.
I found Jameco's web interface a little frustrating, especially for creating the step-by-step instructions. It was a bit slow at times. My project had a lot of steps, and there was a lot of scrolling up and down. It's not terrible, just a bit clunky.
Jameco approves your project, develops the kit, and sells it
When you go to submit your project, you have to accept their terms. Basically, you retain the intellectual property rights for the project, and Jameco gets exclusive right to sell your project. You can actually sell it yourself too, as long as this does not interfere with Jameco's ability to sell.
Once I submitted my project, I was notified that there had been a lot of interest from designers in submitting projects, and there was a backlog on reviewing them. Since so many people submitted project briefs, Jameco uses the Club Jameco members' votes to prioritize which briefs they will review first.
Here's a picture of the completed new prototype of the "Fun Light Switch Box". It's a lot more polished looking than the original. I also used a circuit board and jumper wires, which will allow you to "re-program" it. So if your kids get bored with it, you can change how the buttons and switches interact. The original was just hard wired connections soldered directly between switches and lights.
My son and his friend were just playing with the new prototype on a car ride, and it kept them entertained for the entire 30 minute trip. It was gratifying to see that the box still entertained my now 8 year old son. It held equal fascination for his friend, who happens to be a 9 year old girl.
Sales and getting paid
I'm still waiting for my project to be approved. Once it is, Jameco will kit it out and sell it. Designers receive royalties based on quarterly sales. The more they sell, the better percentage you get.
Voting for others
It's nice to support the community. So if you join Club Jameco, check out what projects others have submitted too. If you see anything you like, help the designer out by voting for it.
To vote, you will have to log in at Club Jameco by creating an account or using your existing one.
If this blog inspires anyone to join Club Jameco and submit an idea, please let me know! Also, while you at it, vote for my project, the Fun Light Switch Box.