in evolution
writings about the process…

archive for February, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Devices at NuVu


Zoz and I recently finished teaching a Do-It-Yourself Hacking seminar for high school students at the NuVu Studio, showing them (hopefully) that they can create anything they imagine, with a combination of the right sensors, computer intelligence (using the Arduino environment), and actuators. After some brainstorming and teambuilding sessions, the projects that got developed were:

1. Joystick-adjustable backpack
2. Keep-awake-while-driving hat
3. Temperature regulation for Xbox controller
4. Accelerometer-based Wah Pedal for guitar
5. The Human-Avoiding Chair!

At first we were trying to lay the proper theoretical foundation for people to learn to code as efficiently and cleanly as possible — to develop the best habits. But we realized within the first day how much more important it was to just get them working on their individual projects. It’s ironic because as a teacher, we end up teaching the same thing separately to all the mini-groups, and we want to teach it at once; we naturally desire the simplicity of that. However, when a team gets stuck on something and can’t proceed because they are lacking a piece of knowledge, that is when the iron is hot to strike. It seems that that is really the most effective way to teach (even if as a teacher it takes five times as much work!), because, as usual, emotional motivation trumps rationality. If a student isn’t motivated internally to learn, you have to repeat the same thing five or ten times anyway. If they want to know something because it’s keeping them from moving forward on their own work, then the whole game is changed. I knew this implicitly but somehow had still not remembered to implement it from the beginning.

I had an amazing and thought-provoking time teaching (and really, learning from) all these students. They did an amazing job in a ridiculously short time. Check the film for project details or the NuVu blog post. Thanks to Saeed, Saba, and David for having Zoz and I and for all the help along the way!