Last Thursday, we hosted a Bay Area Maker Educator Meet-Up (BAMEM) at the Exploratorium with the theme of tinkering with Scratch and Makey Makey. Nicole and I set up several half-baked (or less) prototypes that we hoped would inspire the group to think about possibilities for tinkering with these tools and suggest ways to combine the physical and digital realm. The stations included light and shadow, paper circuit storytelling, sound and music, a few really rough ideas, and a 'scratch lounge' for beginners. As a follow-up to the workshop, I wanted to share links to the hardware and websites that we used as well as some notes from the reflection discussion at the end of the workshop. At BAME meet-up, we used a combination of hardware that we've been messing around with that move toward lowering the threshold for the electronics portion of the activity. These tools include the following items:
Seed Studio Grove Kit - This shield connects to the top of an Arduino and lets learners plug and play outputs like LEDs and sensors for light and sound without worrying about wires, resistors, or breadboarding. We also used the relay block that allows the Arduino to switch on and off an element with a separate power source with more voltage. Nicole mounted these elements on wooden blocks a la circuit boards which we think makes them easier to use and more approachable.
Makey Makey - Makey Makey acts like a computer keyboard and allows learners to build switches out of familiar materials to control a wide range of programs including Scratch projects.
Mesh Sensors - Ryoko has been experimenting with these sensors which are programmed through an Ipad app and can control motors, lights, and sensors that can all be triggered wirelessly. We're interested in incorporating these small components into projects like chain reaction, light play, or other tinkering activities.
For the programming element of the activity, we used Scratch-based visual programming language both through the regular site as well as ScratchX, an experimental space for the Scratch team to experiment with adding new extensions to the system. Scratch - The regular Scratch site allows users to create all types of projects, share, and remix them. It's developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten team at MIT media lab and is something that is a great introduction to programming for people of all ages. ScratchX - This experimental site adds blocks that control Arduino pins. It's a little bit clunky with the grove sensors but once you start with programming you can create patterns, if/then statements, and projects that interact with the digital and physical world. Scratch Educator Guide - There are tons of resources on the scratch site for teachers and educators. As a way to get started thinking about tinkering in the digital world, we've been testing out ways of adapting pre-existing tinkering activities including Light Play and Paper Circuits. We have a few resources for starting point materials and prompts for those basic activities that can be a springboard for explorations into the digital world and programming.
Paper Circuits - For paper circuits, we created a few example projects like an alarm clock, firefly, heart, and sunset that we thought would encourage participants to try to make blinking, fading and rhythmic patterns when connected to the LED outputs.
Light Play Instructable - Light play is something that we spend some time with the LLK team experimenting with a few months ago. For the BAME meet-up we just used relays to switch the lights on and off but we are imagining that in the future we could find ways to make color changing, fading, and sensing lights with help from our colleagues at MIT.
Specifically for some of the activities or prototypes, we've added a couple of extra things for explorations of music and motion that we think are specifically good for Scratch and Makey Makey experiments.
Servos - Nicole built version 2.0 of an Arduino-powered xylophone that essentially has the same mechanism as her bubble blowing machine, two servo motors hot glued together. In Scratch, you can program each motor to move a set number of degrees and patterns to create a wide range of movements to play instruments or accomplish other tasks. These motors were also used in the Robot Petting Zoo workshop that Nicole and I participated in a few months ago. Bluetooth Speaker - We think there's a lot of potential in creating musical instruments with homemade switches and Makey Makey and it seemed like an interesting path to include a small Bluetooth speaker in the cardboard creation. This speaker seemed to work well but I think any small wireless speaker would be great to try.
At the end of the session, we used the 'compass points' Project Zero thinking routine where we analyze the experience with four prompts representing each of the cardinal directions. For east, we identified things that EXCITE us about tinkering with Scratch and Makey Makey projects. Some of the participants mentioned things like the collaborative aspect of the activities, the amount of variables to explore and the chance to be playful with these ideas. For west, we shared WORRIES that we have about Scratch and Makey Makey, including the cost and accessibility of the tools, providing enough professional development for colleagues and getting buy in from schools and institutions. North stands for the things we NEED TO KNOW before trying the activity. Some of the questions people had were around where to get the materials, what they cost, and well as questions about assessment and how to scaffold deeper investigations. At the southern point of the compass was a STANCE or a SUGGESTION to others after trying these prototypes. I loved the group's ideas, to keep the activity focused on immediate feedback, the power of hands-on experiences, that you can do plenty of 'programming' without computers, and that we can balance open-ended and guided provocations to create diverse entry points to these computational tinkering experiments.