Sunday, September 13, 2015

LEGO WeDo SpinArt 'Bot

During my six week gig at the Westport Library, a crowd favorite was the LEGO WeDo SpinArt 'Bot that I created with my son. For the big crowds, however, I adapted a model from @Zackboston to make bigger, messier art.

First, the turntable was geared to spin even faster.

A lasagne pan with a duct tape collar helped contain the mess.

The young and old alike enjoyed using it!

One thing that is exciting about taking something you make into the public is how people use it in unexpected ways. This young man used markers on the paper. It produced distinct spirals.

The senior citizens also had fun with it in their LEGO WeDo/Scratch engineering and programming class.

SpinArt has a low barrier to entry, allows you to experiment with different media, such as ink or paint, and produces random, exceptionally beautiful art. Build a turntable today with your LEGO WeDo kit, program it to spin in Scratch, and start spinning some art!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Programming Narrative in LightLogo

One way I am exploring LightLogo is by programming designs that form a narrative. Erik Nauman programmed an excellent example of storytelling with LightLogo that you should share with every Language Arts or English Literature teacher for its inventiveness and potential to integrate STEAM concepts in your learning environment.

My LightLogo project tells the story of light on Lopez Island over a day, from sunrise to a partly cloudy day to sunset and the stars coming out at night. 

This LightLogo project is composed of small procedures that are combined to create the master startup procedure. This type of programming, described in Dr. Seymour Papert's Mindstorms as "systematic procedures" (175), encourages the creation of "very simple modules [that] can be put together to produce complex results" (169).

Here is the startup procedure.
to startup
loop [
setpos 0
repeat 24 [sun
wait 50]
all blue wait random 1000 1750
repeat random 2 10 [cloud
all blue wait random 200 500]
repeat 18 [star]]
The newsunrise procedure cycles through a series of colors. This was the first procedure where I used let and make, after Michael Tempel clarified their use.

to newsunrise
setbrightness 0
let [num 0]
let [morn 4]
all :num
repeat 20 [ 
all :num
setbrightness :morn
wait 500
make "num :num + 3
make "morn :morn + 1]

Next, the sun procedure is repeated 24 times (one for each neopixel) with a brief pause between repetitions.
to sun
setc yellow
fd 1

Once the sun rises, the day progresses. Overhead, clouds pass. There is randomness built into the cloud procedure, so some days are less cloudy than others.
to cloud
setpos random 0 24
setc white
setbrightness 20
repeat random 5 15 [fd 1 wait random 100 250]

The newnewsunset procedure reverses the sunrise procedure and fades out.
to newnewsunset
setbrightness 20
all 72
let [num 72]
repeat 24 [ 
all :num
wait 500
make "num :num - 3]
let [light 20]
repeat 20 [
setbrightness :light
make "light :light - 1
all 0
wait 100]

The stars rise in random places and in random colors and brightness.
to star
setpos random 0 24
setc random 40 90
setbrightness random 5 30
repeat 4 [setc color + 5]
wait random 1000 5000

The startup procedure repeats. Each day is slightly different in regards to the number of clouds and the number of stars.

LightLogo is an inventive way to explore narrative through patterns of light. Pattern can be simple or complex, random or explicitly programmed. Share your LightLogo procedures and narratives!

Works cited:

Paper, Seymour (1993). Mindstorms Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic Books.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

MaKey MaKey Scratch Interactive Storybook

I led a workshop for adults at the Westport Library. I hoped to get ten people to help produce a MaKey MaKey Scratch Interactive Storybook. Two fantastic individuals showed up and helped me realize this project.

Inspired by fellow contest winner Praxis' great MaKey MaKey Interactive 'Zine guide, I wanted to create a storybook that contained circuitry. The circuits would connect to a MaKey MaKey. The computer, running Scratch, would add to the narrative of the story. I kicked this idea around in my mind for a while while I waited for the right workshop to try it. 

First, I needed a story. I found the perfect story in a park in Seattle.

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

Washington Summer 2015

"The entrance to the labyrinth faces east to catch the first sunlight of the day. There Ariadne awaits, holding a spool of silver thread. After his journey through the labyrinth to face the Minotaur, Theseus, holding the end of the thread, retraces his path back to her. In the early light of both sun and moon, Theseus and Ariadne embrace."
 I provided the supplies.

  • Manila envelopes with tabs in three different locations on the folders.
  • Three magazines, heavy with photos.
  • Scissors
  • Stationary paper cutter
  • Glue sticks
  • The story, printed on nice silver paper with carriage returns between the sentences.
  • Conductive copper tape with conductive adhesive.
  • MaKey MaKey and alligator clip wires.
  • Scratch 2 running in the browser of my laptop.
  • Jie Qi's examples of paper circuit switches.

Whenever I run a workshop that involves drawing, people always complain that they cannot draw. I headed off that self-perceived flaw by deciding we would collage the images, covering all the manila folder. We started by collecting images for each double page spread that would contain one sentence, a circuit, and a simple switch. 

I built two of the double page spreads, Laura built one, and Steven built the last pages, which I did not manage to photograph until after he built his circuit.

Next, following Jie Qi's advice about building copper tape circuits, we each constructed a circuit that included a gap. We bridged the gap with a small piece of half inch copper tape that was pressed down into onto the smaller copper tape to close the circuit.

I appreciate how the copper tape circuit suggests the silver thread in the story.

Each circuit started and ended on the manila folder tab. One alligator clip wire was connected to one of the copper tape leads. The Earth on the MaKey MaKey was connected to the other copper tape lead with an alligator clip when the reader reached that page to make the circuit active.

Closing the switch on the physical page made the MaKey MaKey send a key press to our Scratch project. We worked way longer than the hour and a half that we were supposed to work, but we were all engaged. The Scratch project could be more deeply developed, but it managed to capture the story through imagery.

The key sequence is Start flag, up arrow, down arrow (hold it down for as long as you need Theseus to wander), left arrow, right arrow.

I am very proud of the final result. I am also happy to have found a new use for the MaKey MaKey that delights the English major in me.

I urge you to remix this project and expand on what an interactive book can do. Admittedly, this Scratch project is not too crazy complex, but frankly we were running out of time. I dig the Logo spiral routine and the wandering thread was Laura's great idea.

A few ideas when you make your own:
  • You need a short story. A really short story. Each sentence and the images should take up at least half of the manila folder. Time to dig up Richard Brautigan's poems for some awesome very short stories.
  • Experiment with Praxis' more awesome booklet design.
  • Go deeper than recordings of children reading the story to you in Scratch. You do not need a computer to accomplish that: let the kid read the book to her- or himself or a to a crowd of people and you have met that goal. Instead, how about using the video feature in Scratch to put the reader in the story, interacting with Sprites who are characters. The decisions the reader makes in the interactions could affect the storytelling. Choose Your Own Adventure, anyone?
This was another hard fun learning adventure made possible through the magic of MaKey MaKey combined with Scratch. I think you need to show this to your English Literature, Language Arts, World Language, and anybody else who values narrative and storytelling and is looking to engage people through interactivity with the written word. Please share your remixes!