Monday, September 5, 2016

TAP Lab Visit #3

This Wednesday I returned to the TAP Lab to continue my education in all things Maker. Most of this involves Arduino and other types of coding, but we'll see where things take me and how much time I'll actually have in the future to come back (it is pretty far away - but definitely worth it).

Today's session started with me figuring out another sensor - a temperature sensor which is surprisingly accurate. Then the very helpful people at the lab started telling me all about all the parts I had in my Arduino kit, including some displays. Well, I was intrigued. My big thought was to get the display to show the temperature. Well, it was a massive job just to 1) figure out how to hook up the display to the Arduino board and then 2) figuring out the coding, which had a very simple, but inexplicable error.

The code we found on the Internet for the lights was giving some really strange results. We poured through it, trying to figure out what went wrong. Then we started testing things to see what changed. It became apparent, at one point, that the lights were doing the opposite of what they were meant to do in the code. So, I changed all the 'trues' (which the code said meant the lights would go off) to 'falses' and amazingly, the display lit up as it should have. It was a good lesson in debugging, though it got pretty frustrating at one point, and I was definitely in the dip (growth mindset FTW!). But this only led to a static display. I managed to change the display to my birth year and then discussed ways in which I could program the numbers to change - though due to the tediousness of the code I'd have to write, I put that off for another day.

Since I remembered to bring my mBot to the lab, I decided to have some fun with its display as well. It is much easier to program the lights there (it's all visual, and you just need to click on the squares), so I was able to spell out all the number words to ten and get it to count up. I bet I can modify this program to make it do addition or subtraction (or many other things). Hmmmmm.... I do love how learning one skill can get you thinking about how it can be applied. Have a look at the video of the lights changing.

Today was a fantastic lesson in what actually goes on in a makerspace. It was often quiet when I was working, but when I had a problem, many people there were willing and even eager to help me. That's the kind of atmosphere I'd like to create for makerspaces. I spent two hours there, but it felt like 10 minutes. Again, that's what I want for MakerEdNZ. 

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