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Northeast Ohio is full of creative people following their dreams while trying to make a living. From jewelry crafted out of broken street glass to sound equipment engineered for rock stars, see what people are "making" in the community.

Making it: Big ideas with tiny electronics

In this installment of "Making It," engineer Ken Burns shares the story of how he started TinyCircuits. TinyCircuits is a company that makes tiny electronic products. It could be anything from a tiny processor, to a tiny screen, or even a tiny TV.

Maker: Ken Burns, President & Founder

Business: TinyCircuits

Location: Akron

Twelve years ago engineer Ken Burns took his idea of creating a compact version of an already existing system to the workshop. The result, originally called TinyDuino, is “a small, little modular electronics system. Almost like Legos, where you kinda stack things together,” said Burns. This was the start of his product line and company, TinyCircuits.

He credits TinyCircuits' start to crowdfunding.

“Without KickStarter, we wouldn’t exist. People pledged their money, and gave us the capital to invest in equipment, to buy all the materials to do it. It also convinced us that there is a product here and people want it,” Burns said.

TinyDuino, the first product by TinyCircuits
TinyDuino, the first product by TinyCircuits


“The goal of Tiny Circuits is to make cool stuff. We really like to make some cool things that help teach and educate,” said Burns.

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, plays a big roll in the creation of new products at TinyCircuits.

Because the products are building blocks for all sorts of projects, they can be used in school settings, for arts and even for professionals to prototype new ideas.

The learning doesn’t stop there. "With our little Thumby product, which is a little game system, you can easily learn to program even if you’re in grade school,” Burns said.

Manufacturing in Ohio

“We made the crazy decision that we wanted to make everything ourselves. So instead of outsourcing things, we decided to do electronics here in Ohio,” said Burns.

When you think of Akron, your first thought might not be electronics. But Burns sees the benefit in building his company in Akron.

"It actually makes a lot of sense because you can make things here as cheaply as you can overseas. In our case, it really works out well that we can make things here in Ohio, and provide a good living wage to people. And it’s a lot more fulfilling to actually make it yourself,” he said.

Inside TinyCircuits
Natalia Garcia
Inside the manufacturing facility of TinyCircuits.

Community Making It
Natalia Garcia is a digital producer for the education team at Ideastream Public Media.