Scratch Jr. App for iPad

I love Scratch, it’s an awesome fun way to get young-ish kids (or not-too-technical adults) into programming by using visual building blocks to contruct applications or visual stories on any computer.

I was delighted when the MIT Media Group release Scratch Jr. for iPad. It has many of the same feature of the desktop application and allows you to make interactive, tappable stories and activities.

It’s definitely not as fully featured as the desktop application but it removes some of the more complex aspects and the smaller feature set forces you to be more creative in how you use events.

I totally recommend getting Scratch Jr. if you are wanting to get your kids started programming interactive fun.

Scratch Jr. for iPad

Scratch Jr. for iPad

Grab it here, it’s free:

Blink LEDs with Gemma µ-controller

I recently got a Gemma board for some halloween projects like blinking eyes.

It’s probably overkill but for the price of the controller and 2 tiny LED sequins it wasn’t much more than 2 decent-quality blinky LEDs. Plus I needed synchronized blinking and can also do fade-in for a little snazzier “blink” effect. I had a hard time finding a snippet to just blink LEDs but eventually pieced it together.

void setup()  { 
  // declare pins to be an outputs:
  pinMode(2, OUTPUT);
} 

// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop()  { 
  digitalWrite(2, HIGH);
  delay(1500); 
  digitalWrite(2, LOW);
  delay(1250);
}

By the way, here is a simple wiring diagram hooking up multiple LEDs.

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If you use that code you will get one or more (limit abo 3 per pin I think for current limits) leds that are one and slowly fade to black and then back to full on. It doesn’t exactly look like blinking eyes (I think the delay needs to be tweaked) but overall it works and requires minimal code.

It’s true that I’m leaving 2 IO pins unused but I can save those for another project.

Going to Orion

I just sent my name to fly on Orion’s flight test, scheduled to launch Dec. 4 – 6, 2014!

Orion is NASA’s new spacecraft that will carry humans into deep space.

Get Your Own Boarding Pass On NASA’s #JourneyToMars!
Send your name here: go.usa.gov/vcpz.

Fun Board Game – Robot Turtles

While you spend plenty of time in front of a bright screen learning the software part of robotics, why not take a break and teach your children the algorithms used in robotics movement and actions.

Robotic Turtles is a game that teaches your kids a lot about programming in a fun, easy to discover way that’s not as dry as running them through the usual computer-based coding exercises.

Here’s a short video on the idea behind the game.

You can grab a copy of it when it is finally released in June.  Go to http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles/

OWL TechFair 2014

OWLTechFair

I’m excited to participate in this year’s Open World Learning (OWL) Tech Fair. A one day event in Denver to celebrate tech.  I’ll be working with students on the Lego Robot Challenge.

This year is the 5th annual event which promises to be the biggest OWL TechFair ever. The event will feature dozens of projects created by middle school and elementary students in OWL.

The OWL TechFair will feature four main events:

  1. ePortfolio – students submit their projects in advance and winners are announced on site. Categories include art and animation, game design, Interactive learning projects, writing/research, robotics, graphic design, and stop motion animation
  2. Tech Challenge – Teams from each OWL elementary site will showcase their MicroWorlds skills in a live competition!
  3. Robo Challenge (My particular favorite) is making its TechFair debut, the Robo Challenge is a live LEGO Robotics competition
  4. Resource Fair – Community organizations will be present to inform guests about a wide variety of resources in the Denver area

When:

Saturday, April 26, 2014
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Where:

Bruce Randolph Middle School
located at 3955 Steele Street Denver, CO 80205.

Learn more about the Open World Learning program.