Paper Circuits: a re-post of one of my most popular posts

You want a fun, hands-on and engaging lesson idea that includes learning about circuits? Try paper circuits! It’s relatively cheap (paper or cardboard, sticky-tape, conductive tape, LEDs and batteries) and it’s been a hit with all age levels in the classroom, at parties and at home. This is one of my old posts that I often refer to friends and educators (Primary & Secondary). I have helped friends design units of work that linked to the study of Urbanisation using this building with circuits idea.  Here is a copy of my old post:

It’s school holidays and my 8 year old wanted to build a Gingerbread-style house. She carried all of her arts & crafts supplies to the kitchen and asked me to help her make it. We made the house out of cardboard. I helped her measure & cut-out the walls and then she added colour.

The structure of the house was stabilised with support beams across the walls & roof

Structure of house was stabilised with support beams across the walls & roof

Since it was quite large the walls fell-in a bit and the roof line was not stable. We sat there talking about how we might stabilise the house and then with the help of Dad we added beams across the walls and the roof line. We also decided to not stick the roof on because we wanted easy access to the inside of the house. When you look through the door you can see my daughter’s drawing of Santa.

Santa is in the house; Xmas tree in the back right & girl sleeping on left

Santa is in the house; Xmas tree in the back right & girl sleeping on left

My daughter was very happy with her house but I encouraged her to add lights!  🙂  First we had to learn about simple circuits, parallel circuits and how to connect LEDs.

8 year old daughter created her first simple circuit using conductive tape, battery & LED

8 year old daughter created her first simple circuit using conductive tape, battery & LED

Once she understood how the circuits worked we added 2 parallel circuits to her house. The parallel circuit on the left-side seemed really weak after a few lights were added. But the parallel circuit we added on the right-side went up along the house and across the front of the house (on the inside). This allowed us to add some lights on the front of the house. My daughter loved testing the LEDs first and she found that the white & blue ones were the weakest, so we avoided using them.

Parallel circuit running over the wall & on the inside

Parallel circuit running over the wall & on the inside

Ta da! Looks great in the evening

Ta da! Looks great in the evening

Ah but that’s not all! My daughter also loves using LittleBits and so we decided to add a touch sensor on the side of the house. When you touch the touch sensor Santa vibrates and lights turn on around him. She LOVES her house! But after we were done she said it would be better if we made Santa’s legs vibrate out of the chimney on the roof; sounds like a job for her & Daddy!

Santa IMG_0600 IMG_0593 IMG_0592

Entrepreneurial Tech Innovators

(this post is based on an article I wrote to be published in an upcoming digital Somerset Times edition – some variations have been made here, including some personal reflections on this event)

Congratulations to the Somerset College students involved in the recent Startup Weekend Gold Coast event, hosted by Bond University.  The Overall Favourite and the Crowd Favourite winning team was Waterways, a team of seven members which included four Year 10 and Year 12 Somerset students.  The High School Favourite winning team was Yetti Wear, a team of six members which included one Year 11 Somerset student.

I was so thrilled for these young inspiring people. LOVE that four of my students participated! 🙂

This exciting event brought 70+ diverse participants together.  Teams were formed on the Friday night and then they spent the whole weekend working on their innovative ideas.  Each team had to consider the needs of their potential target audience, conduct comparative business analysis, research and forecast potential earnings, develop marketing strategies, and design digital app solutions.  All 9 teams’ innovative startup ideas focused on digital technologies, including app solutions within digital marketplace environments catering for business-to-business and business-to-customer models.

Startup weekends, Hack events, and Entrepreneurial Pitch competitions are now a common feature in our society and it is no surprise that our young people are excelling at these events.  Working on a startup idea and pushing through to a viable product solution is an invaluable experience for people interested in starting a business.  It is especially important for our youth to experience this to help prepare them for their future lives in a digital, competitive and global economy.

It was lovely to see my students pitching their ideas and the enthusiastic responses from the judges was great.  I especially enjoyed watching some of the parents proudly sitting in the audience.  As a parent myself, I can imagine their feelings of pride, excitement and hope for their child’s future.  It was really great to see the people that are involved in these types of events, including parents, academics, startup and tech enthusiasts, and supportive businesses and organisations.  It is a type of event where you can visibly see the positive impact these events have on people and society resulting from grass-roots movements, teacher and parent support, and business and institutional sponsorship.

EV3 Robotic Prototypes

My school purchased 27 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits and 8 Extension kits this year.  I thought it was important that the school offered robotics in IT subjects and for use in a Robotics club.  Lots of schools already do this!  Plus, the use of robotics and automation are increasingly more common in both our work and home lives.

You want to see some simple EV3 examples + related code? Check out my previous post here: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/ev3-robotics/ 

Here are some videos and photos to digitally document the results of this Year 10 unit: Design & Develop a robot prototype that is based on a real-world robot solution

Cyborg Arm – robotic prosthetic limbs is an interesting field of study/work

Year 10 IT students learned about the importance of continuous testing, tinkering & redesigning of their robotic prototypes. I like how this team is not rushing to build the whole cyborg arm yet, instead they are taking time to test their build & their programming to ensure they are on the right track. I think these two students are doing a fantastic, methodical job here!

Bridge Layer – robotic vehicle that detects depth, lays a bridge, drives over bridge, picks up the bridge

Military Mobile Bridge: a real-world example

The teams initial build

The team’s final build; they worked hard to make it perfect so that the robot was more consistent in completing its function.

Search & Rescue Vehicle – large vehicle using 2 EV3 bricks, 4 large motors & sensors

Search & Rescue vehicle

Remote control forklift/lifter – example of using one EV3 brick to control another EV3 brick

Security robot – moves around, detects enemies & shoot 



This is one of my favourite robot fails video!  🙂

Some other robot prototypes – not complete due to teamwork issues & changing/choosing prototype builds

Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies

An EV3 robotics unit also easily links to a range of Year 9-10 Digital Technologies and Production skills associated with the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies.  This particular unit links specifically to the following (not including the purple-highlights):

  • Define and decompose real-world problems precisely, taking into account functional and non-functional requirements and including interviewing stakeholders to identify needs (ACTDIP038)
  • Design the user experience of a digital system by evaluating alternative designs against criteria including functionality, accessibility, usability, and aesthetics (ACTDIP039)
  • Design algorithms represented diagrammatically and in structured English and validate algorithms and programs through tracing and test cases (ACTDIP040)
  • Implement modular programs, applying selected algorithms and data structures including using an object-oriented programming language (ACTDIP041)
  • Evaluate critically how student solutions and existing information systems and policies, take account of future risks and sustainability and provide opportunities for innovation and enterprise (ACTDIP042)
  • Plan and manage projects using an iterative and collaborative approach, identifying risks and considering safety and sustainability (ACTDIP044)

***Note: this year for Year 9 and 10 we used Lego Mindstorms drag-drop programming. Next year, the EV3 robots will hopefully be implemented in earlier years, maybe Year 8 and 9. The Year 9 subject should include an appropriate OOP language instead of the drag-drop approach.

Some important notes if you’re thinking about introducing robotics at your school

Gaming & Gender

Why do we game?

Fiero! Gaming is fun, keeps us busy, allows us to feel accomplishment, brings people together, helps us learn how to problem solve, & much more.

A blog post I wrote last year about some of the benefits of gaming: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/good-gaming/

Jane McGonigal is one of my heroes!  Check out her popular SuperBetter app and website: https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/superbetter/  This is a great video where Jane describes some of the benefits of gaming.

10 Ways to be a Feminist Media Activist

Game Development & Education?  

Check out my Game Arcade idea; a School event that helps drive the implementation of digital technologies throughout the whole-school using Game Development as a focus.

https://elketeaches.wordpress.com/presentations/game-arcade-proposal-presentation/ 

#BeBoldForChange

(an article written for the Somerset Times)

beboldforchange

8 March, 2017 is International Women’s Day. This special day is an international call for action to “…help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world”. The lack of diversity in leadership and in the technical industries is recognised to be a major barrier for future potential economic growth. Women’s advancement is increasingly heralded as a way to grow our nation’s innovative capacity and to improve gender parity. The International Women’s Day campaign theme is asking everyone to #BeBoldForChange.

This year Somerset College has experienced a doubled increase in students electing IT in grade 9 with 39% girls’ participation. This has resulted in more diverse lessons that focus on inclusive and authentic learning experiences. Both boys and girls are excited to learn how to develop startup solutions with app and web development, and an introduction to robotics using Lego Mindstorms EV3. We have invited our IT students to #BeBoldForChange and to design and develop technical solutions that cater to our diverse society.

To further encourage girls’ participation in IT we have invited them to come together outside of school hours to innovatively develop apps to help the community. I am pleased to announce that Somerset College will be registering four teams in the 2017 Search for the Next Tech Girls Superhero competition. Registration opens on 8 March, 2017 to coincide with International Women’s Day. This competition is part of the Tech Girls Movement founded by Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen. Our four Tech Girls teams comprise of 19 girls from grades 7 to 11 and they ask you to #BeBoldForChange!

capture

EV3 Robotics

I have been interested in robotics for a while now. My son has owned a Lego Mindstorms EV3 Home edition model for a few years. I have taught robotics units in the past with Mindstorms NXT2 and Mindstorms EV3. This year I am teaching a robotics unit to both grades 9 and 10 using Lego Mindstorms EV3 Educational kits.

I spent time this weekend developing robot activities and testing basic EV3 programs. Here are some of my resources which should give you ideas about how to use EV3 at home or in the classroom.

Square travel with smooth corners using a loop

 squaresmoothcornerloop_code

Bumper bot – using the touch sensor

bumperbot_code

Lift arm – using the medium motor – makes me think of park ride mechanics

liftarm_code

Colour Sensor – using the colour sensor, loop, switch, variables, wiring, display, sound, concatenation, increment

coloursensor_code

Remember, building and programming robots is more fun when you’re working with a friend, colleague or a team. I attended a Lego Mindstorms EV3 workshop recently run by mta. It was a good review of Mindstorms for me and a fun way to spend some time with my colleague.

EV3 workshop

Tactiles IQube REVIEW: crowdfunding & startup product testing

Crowdfunding is a great way for startups to raise awareness of their new products/ideas and to get funding from many people around the world. Crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter help startups to create a product campaign, to attract funding and to engage with customers/funders easily.

I have funded a few startups via crowdfunding sites this year. Almost a year ago I supported Tactiles IQube on Indiegogo. It has been interesting reading about this startup’s challenges and successes throughout the year via their sporadic email updates.  Their product is an electronics learning toy, similar to the popular LittleBits.

My IQube junior kit finally arrived this week, in a senior kit box. We tested it today and I’m certain my daughter will not be “playing” with it again!

BIGGEST ISSUE: the software crashes OFTEN!  Also, the majority of the projects that worked were very simple.

We got FRUSTRATED very soon after we opened this toy.

The software crashed a lot. The blocks were super dodgy; working sometimes, not working other times, and sometimes it worked better if we squeezed the blocks together hard.  There are serious connection issues with this product; both with the blocks themselves and with the software.

The wording used in the software is not at an appropriate level for young children.

The sequence of information given is quite strange and needs work. One of the first things that LittleBits describes in their booklet that comes with their kits is the purpose of the colours used; however, IQube takes a long time to get around to informing the user of this.

Project 20 has MAJOR issues!  We must have spent a good 10 minutes trying to debug this Project and make it work. The software doesn’t recognise the cubes.  We followed the instructions for the order of these cubes but still had problems. We couldn’t even just SKIP this part; why is there no SKIP or NEXT button?  Surprisingly the last project available, #21, was so easy compared to project 20. I am not impressed with how unreliable this toy’s connections are and I think there should be more complex projects included.

Overall, I would NOT recommend this product to anyone at the moment. I am hoping that this product is being improved.  Supposedly the owners are developing 100 projects in total and I expect there to be more complexity in these new projects.

When I first decided to purchase this product I had liked the fact that it could be linked to a handheld device, like an iPad or phone. Unfortunately an app has not been developed yet for this toy.  I can’t help but wonder what they have been doing in the last year?!  Including simple NEXT or SKIP buttons on every screen should exist, it shouldn’t be something that the user wishes existed!  It’s not like this was a free toy, I paid US $115 for it.  But I guess that’s the risk you take when you support new startups.  They should make the code OpenSource so that we could play around with it and try to make our own apps that connect to these blocks; this would also open up the market for this product to older students who are learning to computer program.

My daughter (9) has no interest in ever playing with this toy again. She found the experience of completing the projects & quiz questions to be either lacklustre boring or frustrating due to the many connectivity issues. However, I will definitely use this product at school as an example of a startup and it makes for a good example in how to test a product. Maybe in the future there will be an app and the software will work nicely; however, I don’t know if this will help the obvious connection issues that we experienced with some of the blocks.