Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arduino Lilypad Protosnap Test Program

Today at work I got a bunch, well 6 (more are back-ordered) Protosnap Lilypad Development Boards and I wanted to test them out before I put them away to get to other stuff. They recommend that you do so before you break them apart. The Sparkfun website just points you to a bunch of

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stepper Motor Player

I took some stepper motors out of some old printers to play with. Newer printers seem to use DC motors, but I love finding steppers because they make such nice sounds. I spent a while on this project just figuring out how to get the steppers to work and some different options for

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Animate Stories With Neopixel Ring and LightLogo

I've been trying out the Neopixel Ring-24, a ring of 24 RGB LEDs easy to plug in to an Arduino. Instead of using the Adafruit neopixel Arduino library I'm beta-testing LightLogo, a new IDE for the Neopixel and Arduino to write programs in Logo. This can make a really beautiful device with its rich colors more accessible to younger

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wall Follower Robot

Version 1
Version 2
I decided to make a robot that follows a wall on its right side. I have an NXShield-Dx, a shield that sits on the Arduino Uno and connects it to the motors and sensors of the Mindstorms NXT. The NXT motors are great, and I used one NXT ultrasonic sensor. With the Arduino I could also use an Arduino compatible distance sensor so I got a range sensor at Radio Schack (on sale for $15!). In both designs I put the NXT sensor facing forward to detect obstacles directly in front that the side detector can't see, and the Radio Shack sensor directed to the right side to detect the wall. For power I

Monday, August 03, 2015

Teaching HTML Coding with Chromebooks and Drive

Making web pages with HTML and a little JavaScript is a great way to introduce middle schoolers to text coding. Over the years I've introduced 6th graders to web coding using syntax coloring programs like Notepad++ and Text Wrangler, plaintext editors like Text Edit, and visual editor Dreamweaver. But this past year our school moved to Chromebooks and I had to find a cloud-based solution for HTML editing.
After trying several Chrome apps I settled on HTML Editey. Chrome Dev Editor seemed like the

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How To Get From Blocks to Text With Robotics Coding

So many rich block-based programming environments have become available during the last several years. The release of Scratch into the world by MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Group catalyzed the invention of similar block-based environments for all sorts of purposes and a revolution in novice learners' ability to use the building blocks of computer science to imagine and make things. Block-based environments provide the important affordance of building programs without making

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Games and Controllers With Scratch, MaKey MaKey, and 3D Printing

I first wrote this post a year ago. This past year I revised a couple things as I did the project again, and the revisions will be noted.
We got a Makerbot Replicator 2 last December (now a year-and-a-half ago) and one of the projects I came up with turned out really well, and I think is worth sharing. My 7th graders designed key press controlled games in Scratch, then designed hand-held controllers with embedded switches, and we connected MaKey MaKeys to the leads on the switches for a great game experience. The highlights

Saturday, July 25, 2015

LED Handbell Gloves

This project was quite long in development, more than a year, in fact! I learned a lot about technology design so the process is worth recounting. Two then-juniors I taught in a robotics class, Susannah and Nicki, now graduated, asked me for help with an idea they had. They were members of a handbell group they had played with for 5 years and wanted to make handbell gloves that light up each time they play a bell, unveiling the gloves for one piece in their final concert. We batted around some ideas. They thought about using a Lilypad Arduino and an accelerometer but I thought we

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Animate Poems With Scratch

Some of the most successful tech integration collaborations happen at unexpected times. Our 5th grade English teacher, Jenny Kirsch, asked me to help brainstorm ideas for her students to somehow animate excerpts of poems they had written. It was meant to be a quick end-of-year activity, a fun way for the students to extend and present their work. What resulted was a very nice opportunity for

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

3D Print Pagoda Project

Our 5th grade history teacher was doing a study of Vietnam with her class and wondered if her students could make and print pagodas. After looking at some examples and doing a couple test prints I settled on a general design that featured hexagonal or octagonal base with openings on some or all sides, which was repeated