Friday, April 4, 2014

Exploring Circuits

Completing the 15 circuits in the Arduino Inventor kit earlier this semester was the perfect entry point for me to learn more about programmable circuits.  There was just enough documentation to support my progress through each of these circuit exercises, but not so much that I felt like I was just walking through the steps.  I had just enough background in programming (which is not much) to start to tweak the code and remix and mashup some of the circuit examples.   However, I kept thinking that this would not be the correct entry point for someone who has had NO background in programming.  So even though the Arduino provides a HIGH CEILING environment for creating,  I don't feel it was low threshold enough for most learners to easy start creating. 

My past experience with Pico Crickets has allowed me to see the type of learning that happens when you have LOTS of arts and craft materials,  Legos,  Sensors, and a low threshold programming environment.  Since PicoCrickets have been retired,  I embarked on a mission to find many different "on ramps" to the world of programmable circuits for different types of learners. 

After seeing some of the products showcased at the Sparkfun table at SxSw I placed an order for a Makey Makey and lots of LillyPad (eTextile) components. It was hard to know which components would be the easiest to start with, so I ordered a variety of different pieces.  My 'mentor' (also my husband)   suggested that I figured out what I wanted to create so I could select the 'right' pieces,  but it's hard to know what you CAN make until you have had a chance at some open play with the tools to see what's possible. 

Several hundred dollars later,  a package from Sparkfun arrived that contained  Lilypad circuits, LED's, and all types of conductive materials (thread, paint, fabric, tape, etc) 

My mind started to imagine all types of possibilities with the components I had ordered.  I wandered through the craft section at Walmart and the Michael's store with a very different lens.   After picking up a few hundred dollars worth of materials and/or inspiration,  I was eager to start playing.

A brief visit to Michael's 

Inspiration from Walmart

While I was drawing ideas for what might become an adhesive walking advertisement for Creating and Making - somehow adhered temporarily or permanently on my book bag,  FED EX delivered another package I had ordered from Little Bits.  In the box were  two Little Bit kits to explore circuits that seemed to have the potential to introduce our youngest learner to the Internet of Things.  Very much inspired by  Little Bit creator, Ayah Bdeir, whose workshop I attended at  SxSw,  I ordered the Premium Kit and the Korg Synth Kit.

If you are not familiar with Little Bits, the best way to learn about Little Bits is from the creator -Ayah Bdier, herself.

Since I was flying back to Vermont this week for 3 professional development events and to spend time with grandchildren,  I had all these packages delivered at my grandson's home.  Watching what happens when packages like these show up at the home of an 8 year old and 2 year old brought lots of new insights (which I will share in another blog post).  But needless to say - my  "planning week"  for my Final Project was spent  exploring lots of possibilities,  and using the eraser end of my pencil as I tried out different ideas on paper and in my head.

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