Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Adding Physical Computing to Scratch with PicoBoard

Well I started with a plan to use the makey  with Scratch and even had a plan to procure one. The folks at Sparkfun at SxSwEDU offered up there Makey Makey to me on the last day of the exhibit, so I didn't order one. I showed up at their exhibit on the last hour of the last day and almost walked away with one. But unfortunately got engaged in a great discussion with Jeff one of their reps that is very connected with the Vermont Maker movement and we started to make plans about future collaborations and I walked away forgetting to grab the makey makey. It wasn't sure that we were going to be stationary long enough for me to order one now, but alas, I remembered that I did have a PicoBoard with me and that this could possibly serve a similar function in that it also works with Scratch. Working with the constraints of using materials I had with me in the bus - I came up with the idea of making a "portable drumset" for people who "live in a bus" and reached for some picnic supplies to help solve this "problem" <<grin>>

I apologize ahead of time for quality of the video, I was focusing on making and realized AFTER the fact that I should have gotten out the tripod. (sorry)

I started by using the resistance sensors on the Picoboard to make a physical drumset play a virtual drumset created in Scratch. Once I got that working, I decided to add new features that would use each of the sensors found on the Pico board.
the slider sensor adjust the volume of the drums
the push button changes the Lighting (stage background color)
the light sensor was used to make colored laser lights appear when its dark
the sound sensor turns the stage to dark with an Thank You message when you applaud loudly (now that I think about it I should have applaud loudly result in an encore performance)

I need to give credit to the user cwb2001 on the Scratch community whose "sprites" I found that would serve my purpose. I learned that if you try to download the sprites from the online community, they did not work in my local version of Scratch, but if you click on the individual costumes, you can export the png locally (very useful tip for remixing for those of us who are NOT artist). I also want to acknowledge Mr. Michad from Nebo Elementary School who has some great lesson ideas for music, technology, and more for the idea of creating a drumset.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

SxSW Synergy with CNC

My First Cut is a story of Synergy and one more fun story I will be able to tell about Living and Learning Mobile. I can't wait to have some time to add it to my blog. When  the CNC topic was introduced  in our Physical Computing class, I had NO clue what CNC was and started to read about it and learning about gCode and all the converters and the multi steps from the design stage to the CAM stage. Seems like it was accessible with enough scaffolding but also offered many points of failure. (the first of which was having a Mac).

I kept looking for opportunity to complete this assignment and am happy to say that thanks to events like SxSwCreate (which was open to the public and did NOT require a SwSx badge), and maker groups who are active on Twitter, I was able to complete my first CNC project, and use the soon to be released EASEL app along with the Shapeoko 2 at the Inventables station. I believe that the affordability and accessibility of these two tools will mean that school Maker Labs will end up with both a 3D printer and a CNC mill. Easel took the complexity and extra steps out of the equation. It currently only does 2D, but is on the way to be able to work with 3D. I encourage you to sign up for the release which is happening over the next 2 months

Here's my Synergy story

Saturday, March 1, 2014

SCRATCH that Creativity Itch

Probably my favorite learning tool in the world is SCRATCH as it makes THINKING and LEARNING really visible. You can take any pedagogical textbook and illustrate its key concepts using Scratch as a tool.

(can you tell I'm a fan)

Here is a video I captured from my Tech Savvy Girls Camp of a group of young ladies designing their first game in Scratch. I filled the room with lots of fun creative objects to provide inspiration.The girls were asked to use the physical objects in the room to design a game. The game had to have at least 1 FAIL state and 1 SUCCESS state. Then they were given a short intro to Scratch lesson, and then asked to use Scratch to implement their design.

Here is their final Game Implementation on Scratch - Can you you use the cursor keys to navigate the frog through the maze.

This example  was an "outside" of school learning activity, but Scratch can be used in the classroom, as you can see from this "connecting Scratch to literacy" example.

A few years ago I went on a mission to move these creative type activities INSIDE the curriculum and worked with another Creativity enthusiast colleague to kick off a project that we called "Create Simulate Innovate"

I was astounded at how hard it was to get teachers to buy into this idea. Even my most creative teachers went would respond with "sounds like a great after school activity" or 'perfect for enrichment class".

I did have a few successes and here is one of them.

A fifth grade teacher who I saw a connection between teaching kids procedural writing in language arts and SCRATCH. She discovered that having kids "LIVE" and "EXPERIENCE" procedure was a perfect connecting to WRITING out procedures.

They examined the ultimate procedural writing text - "cookbooks" then create their own Interactive procedural pieces using "Scratch" before they moved on to the actual writing piece (which I believe was a local assessment)