After being exposed on Twitter for nerding out on visual programming, scratch and beetleblocks, I wanted to make sure I shared some of what we've been working on over the past week or so in that area.
Flo, one of our interns for the summer, got really into trying to make custom blocks that mirrored some of the commands in turtle art (arc and circle) which took an extreme detour into her high school trigonometry lessons. Hopefully she'll explain all these calculations in her own words in a blog post soon!
We also took a string art design that Nicole made a few months ago (before the beetle block craze) and tried to convert it into code. It's a really nice example of using the technology to create the same object with different machines.
I'm also interested in seeing how small we can print objects that we create with beetleblocks to try and make something that we can do with the time constraints of the museum floor. If the experience is really about tinkering with the code, I think printing a small (mostly flat) design on the 3D printer serves just as well as a tangible result of the project than a larger print that could take multiple hours to make.
As a first step toward trying beetle blocks on the museum floor, we tried the activity out with our 'project explainers', a group of facilitators who we work with to run workshops the tinkering studio.
At the end of the hour we went around the room to share what we all had been working on. It was really nice to see them discuss their projects, what worked well, and what they struggled with, in a similar way to how we might describe a scribbling machine or marble run.
For the first workshop with the explainers, we allowed for more freedom to explore the software on their own, but for our second try, we introduced a more focused prompt. The group had to create a design using only eight selected blocks. We also created these cards to show how to make some simple shapes to help get them started. This seemed to be a more productive way to run the activity and actually resulted in more complex programming.
And as an experiment, we tried bringing a computer and watercolorbot into the tinkering studio to try programming out with visitors. It was a slow time in the museum but we got a couple groups to participate in the activity. We had a group of teenagers and a family with young kid both try it out! I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of the prompts, environment, and logisitics, but it seems like we'll be nerding out on visual programming with visitors to the Tinkering Studio more in the near future!