For the last two weeks our Interactive Exhibit Design class has been playing around with Arduinos. For those of you reading the blog who are not in the class, please watch Sylvia’s “Super Awesome Maker Show” for an entertaining presentation on Arduinos.
In class, my partner Doug and I managed to manipulate an LED to blink S.O.S., to go ‘on’ or ‘off’ with the press of a button, and to dim and brighten at intervals. Each of these tasks involved creating a digital circuit (in different levels of complexity) and then turning the voltage on or off.
Last week, we looked at different ways of measuring our physical environment that are not as discrete as the digital “on” or “off.” It turns out Arduinos are also capable of calculating the analog data, or incremental changes in the environment such as light intensity, motion, pressure, and heat. This is done by directing the current through different transducers that will determine electrical quantities through change in conditions. For example, we hooked up our LED to a photocell, and through a “sketch” (another word for program), we were able to control the rate of blinking to the amount of light in the room.
Doug and I both have not had a working camera in class yet. This should change soon. Until then, here are some excellent examples of work being done in the class so far:
1. Sarah has been playing with a “LilyPad” Arduino, and actually threading her wires and LEDs into fabric.
2. Matt played around one weekend and hooked up multiple LEDs to his Arduino and programmed them to blink in a pattern.
3. Michael and Namir have been working on their Arduino in Toronto, and the Skonks blog offers insights into the educational benefits of using this technology in the classroom.
Lately, I have been considering what interactive exhibit I can create using the Arduino. I made a joke to a classmate that whatever exhibit I created, it might not exceed a blinking LED. But then the LED in my mind went off. What if I create a program where the “rate of blinks” represented something, lets say, the number of patents created by Thomas Edison. That is 1,093. For an exhibit, we could condense Edison’s life into a set frame of time (say 1 hour), and program the LED to blink 1,093 times/hour. We could place an action figure of Edison underneath to indicate the amount of ideas being generated by this mind in the course of his life.
To encourage interaction with the exhibit, I might create a faceless action figure with a light suspended above its head. In front of it the user could select any other historical figure of interest, say Charles Dickens. They could then pose a statistical question of interest, such as the number of fictional characters Dickens created in his lifetime. That is, over 900! By entering in the data, the second LED would begin to flash accordingly. In this way they could compare and contrast ideas as they burst into the minds of their makers.
A final element could be to enter in my personal statistics. For example, if I wanted to compare my genius to Edison’s I would enter the number of patents I created in my lifetime and wait for the light to flash. After an hour of darkness, I would then return to my blog to think of some more ideas….
(This week we are learning about Processing. This seems like an area where I really want to take my project, so stay tuned as I explain my idea of Weather Art)