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BeetleBlocks, WatercolorBot, and Turtle Art: More Explorations

BeetleBlocks, WatercolorBot, and Turtle Art: More Explorations

Over the past few weeks we've been continuing our experiments with BeetleBlocks and Watercolorbot, bringing some new ideas to the fold. We were originally inspired by the SCOTUS decision last week and SF Pride weekend to create some unique rainbow colored designs.

This allowed us to start messing with the set and change 'hue' and 'saturation' blocks in different repeat loops. It was really nice to see how creating the same pattern with hue changes can create a completely different work of art. Its an interesting challenge to convert the hue value (a number between 1 and 360) into the 8 colors that are offered on the watercolorbot palette. I think it will take some thinking about the programming to figure out how much to change the value at different intervals to create the intended designs.

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The next direction that we took was trying to converting turtle art designs into the beetle blocks language. Turtle art began with an series of images that Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman made by programming LOGO blocks (a precursor to both Scratch and BeetleBlocks) to draw geometric designs. The set of blocks is slightly different but with the exception of a couple commands (we'll have more on that later), a little experimentation was all it took to figure out the translations.


The Turtle Art books have only the final image and the code written as text. But for each image, there is a page on the website with the blocks that make up the code, which helps to interpret the programming. Once again I think the WatercolorBot adds another artistic level to the creations.

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Some of the designs took a lot of experimentation to get the code right as well as configure the settings on the hardware to reproduce the proper brush strokes and intensity of color. With this one we had to dial down the 'stroke overshoot' setting in RoboPaint.

This image called 'snowfall' got us going with the idea of combining multiple digital techniques to create a mixed media object. We created this negative image first and then Sebastian had the idea of printing the same image in the lasercutter and lining up the papers in front of a light source to create a glowing landscape.

The result was quite beautiful and speaks to the possibilities of using multiple tools to create the same block of code as a way to explore their advantages and limitatons.

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Lianna created this fairly simple randomized design and 'fabricated' it using the watercolorbot, laser cutter, and 3D printer. It's really interesting to see the variations in each and imagine how each could be suited to become an one-of-a-kind art print, a unique bubble wand, or a designer trivet for the kitchen table. 

I think this could be a much more powerful way to use these digital fabrication devices, not as a end, but as a means to create different projects that the participant can design accoding to their aesthetic goals. Beetleblocks is a great way to get people started with the programming aspect, and the tinkering can continue as people experiment with creating different versions of their designs. I'm not sure about the logisitics of these types of interactions in the drop-in setting of the tinkering studio, but we'll be trying it out this week with visitors in the Tinkering Studio and see how it goes!