After struggling through for many weeks, I finally experienced success today.
First, I realized that the Flora board program was a must because the LilyPad I was going to use didn’t have a slot for the battery. I was scared to death to plug in the Flora board to the Mac, so I started with a PC. However, afer downloading the Flora program on my PC, I realized that whether you were using a PC or a Mac, you needed to have two completely separate Arudino programs to upload the codes.
Since I had to bring a prototype to my class Tuesday, I decided to go for it. Fortunately, when I plugged the Flora board in, the on-board LED began blinking as I wanted it to! Oh, the sweet sight of success!!!
Then off to the programming and wiring the lights onto the board! After several hours of talking to Skylar on Google Hangout, I was able to program the Flora board to light up with the code below. Of course, I am even going to pretend that I knew what I was doing. Skylar had to walk me through each step! Thank you, Skylar!
Then onto wiring and sewing. Since I have never really sewed before, it was a struggle. Trying to keep the conductive thread separate AND attach the board to the shoe was not easy. I had to tape a lot of stuff to make sure I was doing things correctly. And when I stepped, the lights turned on as I wanted them to. Such happiness!
Since I learned about Kodu and Studio K, I thought that Kodu would be a great tool to use with my students. Kodu is a great tool as is. But I consider its biggest potential to be a tool for peer-to-peer learning. I have been fortunate to shave two amazing students who were willing to learn the program ahead of everyone, and demonstrate all the features to the class.
I think that’s where the power of digital tools lies. It’s as though having a digital tool gives them the permission to take charge and be a leader. I have seen it during our coding club meetings. Students become free from rigid expectations of a traditional classroom.
During our second Saturday meeting, I took a different approach. Because I only had a few students, I decided to read the Arduino Projects for Dummies book with them to learn with my students. We decided to work on wiring the LED Pet project in the book. Since I was still shaky with everything, I told them that I was learning with them.
What surprised me was that I was able to answer some of the questions posed by my students. When I didn’t know the answer, we looked in the book to figure it out. That was when I realized the power of this kind of activities.
One of my students who never spoke in my “normal” class was really good at working with his hands. When we were stuck because we didn’t have the wire stripper, he was able to use a pair of scissors to move the project along. He was also able to figure out the diagram faster than any other students who were reading the book with me.
We didn’t get very far with the project because the breadboard we were using was too big, and we didn’t have the right USB. But I now believe in this project stronger than ever before!
Despite all the failures that I was experiencing, I decided to call another meeting to see whether anyone would show up after school. Since my school is located pretty far away from a residential area, many of my students take buses. Therefore, calling an after school meeting can be rather risky. I expected to see maybe 5 kids at the most. To my utter surprise, fifteen kids came!
Of course, since I haven’t figured out how to lead these kids, I put them on Code Academy. What I realized was that how little these students knew about the computers. I had to explain the difference among hard drive, network drive, and cloud computing to more than one students. We still had fun for at least 1 1/2 hours after school. But how can I help them?
Since I had no idea what I needed but simply knew that I needed “stuff,” I decided to go visit the “Shack” per my professor’s suggestion.
At Radio Shack, I found three boxes of things that were on sale. They were resistors, LEDs, and switches. I knew that I really didn’t need the switches, but they were on sale for only $5.99 – $7.99 per box. Because I plan to continue with the coding club, I thought it was a good investment. The salesman also suggested that I should get a multimeter that was on sale for $11.99. Since I didn’t know what I could do with it, so I didn’t buy it. Instead, I bought an Arduino Uno for the club.
When I got home, I called Skylar to see whether I could simply plug the LED light strip to the Ardunio Uno. But of course, I struggled to find the regular USB cord to connect the Ardunio Uno to my computer. Another failure….
While struggling through this process, I learned that as complex as the coding might be, controlling the circuit was much more important in becoming successful in many of these projects. I realized this while reading Arduino Projects for Dummies. So I went back to Radio Shack and purchased the multimeter still on sale.
The sad part about this was that I was no where near completing my project!
Even though I experienced no success on Saturday, I still held a club meeting, hoping to inspire kids to come up with a project. During this meeting, I saw more girls, which made me feel excited.
I show them my Flora board that I fried on Saturday. Although I brought the supplies for them to “play” with, we still didn’t decide on any specific project. They were more interested in deciding the shirt design for the club than learning about the Arduino board. I realized it was because I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I was doing. Even though it is meant to be an after school activity, the students are still looking to me to provide information for them. I came to a conclusion that I needed a different game plan.
But having to complete my own project AND getting this club off the ground has become a personal challenge for me.
Having achieve no progress on Saturday, I decided to call on my tutor Skylar, who was a student of mine. Now studying computer science at UC Irvine, he volunteered to be my “technical advisor.”
First, we began working on getting the Flora hooked up because I wanted to get to the part of the LED strip that bought lighting up.
However, I didn’t realize that I needed an extra part. For example, to make the strip work, I needed a resistor and special hook up. Futhermore, the Flora board needed a specific program language environment that I didn’t have.
After spending 2 hours trying to figure out how to download the Flora specific Ardino program, I plugged in one of the Flora boards. After about 1/2 second, I saw a red light blinking rapidly. Then I smelt something burning. When I touched the board, it was hot! And the program kept sending me error messages.
So I stopped working on the board. Even my tutor couldn’t help me. This experience made me think about how much tacit knowledge one must possess to be able to take on a project of this kind. I just wanted the LED strip to light up based on Adafruit’s diagram. I had no idea how much I needed to know things about electricity, voltage, and data input and output of data to make this project work.
After that defeat, I decided to switch to a LiliPad to see whether I could at least make the Velostate respond to the input.
This time, I was able to make the serial monitor to respond! I was so EXCITED!!!! However, I was still apprehensive about what I had to do to make this project a success.
Even though we didn’t get anything “done” per se, I think it was a great meeting. Here are some pictures.
Trying to put the shoes together.
Using Kodu to create a game.
Working on Code Academy and Kodu.
Students learning how to code using Code Academy.
Trying to fly the electric airplane.
All the supplies out.
What’s inside a computer?
When I brought the supplies to the Monday meeting, the noise level was deafening. They were beyond excited. But with 38 minutes for lunch, we hardly had the time to open the computer to look at the code. That’s when my students asked me whether we could meet on a Saturday or even after school! Now I am committed to meeting them on Saturdays and one day after school during the week. I hope I can find the time to make this happen.
Since I need to create a project for my own class, I decided to re-create a pair of Firewalker LED light up shoes.
Becky Stern with Firewalker Sneakers (http://learn.adafruit.com/assets/10669)
Originally I wanted to create a pair of shoes with a built-in pedometer that kept track of how many steps one took. But working with my coder tutor, I realized that I do not have enough technical abilities to make this possible at this time. Furthermore, I was much more interested in engaging my students in maker activities than making an amazing machine. In the end, I simply ran out of time. With taking three classes and performing additional functions at school, I have limited time to do a complicated project by the due date.
I personally think it’s a great thing that my students want to spend more time working with the materials. The fact that they want to meet twice a week says how interested they are.
I probably won’t meet the deadline set my maker class, but I haven’t given up! I still might be able to make a prototype with usable codes at some point. I am definitely continuing with my students. Wish me luck!