What did you play with when you were growing up? Do you think that the options have increased or decreased? Have you heard of, or experienced “smart material” that could be used for “child’s play”?

As you listen to this talk, think about what you know concerning the importance of play in the life of a child.

Why you should listen:

A maker of things and open-source advocate, Catarina Mota is co-founder of, a collaborative project dedicated to do-it-yourself experimentation with smart materials. This is a new class of materials that change in response to stimuli: conductive ink, shape-memory plastics, etc. Her goal is to encourage the making of things; to that end, she teaches hands-on workshops on high-tech materials and simple circuitry for both young people and adults–with a side benefit of encouraging interest in science, technology and knowledge-sharing.

Who is she:

She’s working on her PhD researching the social impact of open and collaborative practices for the development of technologies. In other words: Do we make better stuff when we work together? She is also a co-founder of Lisbon’s hackerspace altLab.


  1. When you look at toys in a store, what seems to be the trend? Do they spark the imagination and encourage creativity? Is there a gender bias?
  1. Survey people who are somewhat older than you (people in their 40s or 50s); ask them to describe their favorite toys from their youth. Ask them to compare today’s toys with their favorites.
  1. Can you find any toys that are made with smart materials (look both in stores and online).
  1. She said that. “There was a time when we understood how things worked and how they were made, so we could build and repair them,or at the very least make informed decisions about what to buy.Many of these do-it-yourself practices were lost in the second half of the 20th century.” Agree or disagree with this statement and give evidence to support your belief.
  1. Just for fun, create “paper speakers” and amaze your friends and relations with your ingenuity!
  1. Why is it important for us to “understand smart materials now.”

Play with smart materials with Catarina Mota


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