ComX

Delighted to meet up with Isaac, a former primary school pupil today at The University of Gloucester ComX event, showcasing original game design projects.

Isaac is poised to enter his final year of studies. It was equally shocking to both of us that so many years have gone by! Isaac attributes an early introduction to Physical Computing as an inspiration for his choice of degree course. It was a privilege to be shown how far his talents have now taken him.

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Robot Claw Clash

The inter-school Robot Racing challenge is hotting up! With both Bishopstone and St Mary’s Primary schools fielding teams of robots that increasingly move in the right direction – the moment is fast approaching for Race Day! For updates on team progress, please see www.flickernet.net/rrc

To liven up the arena, we have been developing claw-bots that will chomp at unsuspecting robots as they pass!

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Debate Outcome: faith in humanity restored!

Thank you to all of those who attended the first ever Bloviators debate. It was a great chance to test out the format and to explore what debating looks like when it has to be spontaneous! Of the three motions that were on offer, the motion that was voted for by those in attendance was that human beings present too much of a danger for alien life to risk making contact with us. Jamie and Miles successfully opposed the motion, pointing out how much we have to offer the wider universe!

Going forwards we will tweak the format further and take it to some local educational establishments. It is hoped that Bloviators can return to the Cirencester Baptist Church in June.

Randomizing the teams through a spinner / Fisher Price button kept us all on our toes!

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Bash Bash Machine

Another name for Minecraft is BashBash – or at least in our house anyway! We first played it on a Raspberry Pi 3b – a rather simplified version, but nonetheless fun. Given the need that I find to demonstrate to pupils what a huge range of inputs are possible (cue tin foil, pressure pads, capacitive touch experiments etc) – there developed a good excuse to build a box with many connections.

Rather than have a light toggle or a buzzer sound when a connection is made – what if those input triggers meant that a Minecraft world was moved through, built and bashed? More to follow!

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Chatbot

If, like me, you were a fan of the Tomy robot collection from the 1980s, then you may also recall the tantalising sensation born out of an awareness of what those robots were unable to do, which was almost as invigorating as what they could do.

Take Chatbot: it was equipped with a mechanical voice recorder that was primed by pulling a large level down whilst speaking a message, then triggered by remote control. Hours of fun ensued driving it around with occasional spoken messages being relayed.

Chatbot was not without limitation, however. It could not engage in further conversation – or be instructed to move – or check on the road conditions outside.

Now that it is 2024, Chatbot could – and over the coming weeks I hope to reveal one way of achieving an upgrade to this venerable robot!

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Kodu on Micro:Bit

Was reminded today that the Micro:Bit / Kodu link remains a simple but effective means of providing readily coded inputs and outputs: engaging interfaces that bring virtual worlds to life. Next week we will add the pressure pads via Makey Makey – leading to pupils building their own controllers.

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Pi Upgrades

Led by Zjeremy, (who retains what Steve (HoD GWA) affectionately refers to as a “prototyping look”!) – a number of Raspberry Pi upgrades are now taking shape. Zjeremy needs to run Scratch 3 with a bit of vim if he is to juggle multiple HATS for interfacing with. His secondary 3b board was not up to speed, but the 4b seems happier. To celebrate, he was coded into taking images of the woodland views from the second floor of Great Western Academy.

Meanwhile low cost LCD screens set into basic plastic boxes are a quick and simple addition for classroom kit. Raspberry Pi units deliver physical computing with core electronics and more advanced sensing: it is helpful to enclose them for protection during transport. A ribbon cable allows the GPIO to be extended for easy connections.

The CarFume Detector unit is almost ready for deploying on a busy Swindon street. It will mirror the functionality of Zjeremy and the Tree Pi – providing new urban data for comparison.

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Thermal woodland trail

As the cold evenings draw in, there is a type of thermal enhancement that doesn’t warm the toes much, but that does identify hidden cctv cameras in the trees! Thank you Eden for testing out your thermal imaging mobile phone functionality in our wood!

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Tech To Help.charity

It is with great excitement that we are launching a new project which brings together the common threads of Physical Computing, Project Based Learning and a desire to see technology put to use helping those who most need it.

Along with my colleague Keith Phillips, founder of Digital Writes, I am beginning the process of creating a new charity, which will be called Tech To Help. This will seek to find new ways of directing the limitless creativity and enthusiasm of Primary school children to design and build real-world solutions that help people who are facing disadvantage. The site page is here – it is a work in progress!

www.techtohelp.charity

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Flickernet Archive – First Event

Sharing a particular historical archive using technology and the outdoors is an ongoing mission. As those familiar with this undertaking are aware, over the last year I have converted an 1830s schoolhouse building into an archive storage and digitisation facility. This then enabled me to begin work on the Historical Narrative – a book that seeks to weave together the many stories that belong in Mourne Park. In addition I am recalling what it was like to grow up in this beautiful place. On 23rd September a group of hardy folk joined me in the woods to hear the fist five chapters read, and media shared. Thank you to those friendly faces for their encouragement and patient listening. Video and audio snippets to follow.

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Animation to Unity

This 30 second video clip shows the three step process that we undertook with both St Mary’s and SoS pupils this week.

Having drawn their game-book characters and shaded with crayon: 1. Stop motion animation; 2. Photoshop cutout; then 3. Adobe Character Animator – at which point they are sprites that can be included into any Unity game creation – in this case fitting the gothic theme!

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Pre ICE deodorant experiment

Not an attempt to avoid sweating tomorrow, but rather attempting to meet a challenge set by Paddy Bradley of SWLEP ahead of my presentation at the ICE event tomorrow..

Could Zjeremy show in his live data feed a distinct difference between the current pristine tree particulate reading and the polluted air around him. No better way to pollute that air than Lynx Inca, methought – and so the data proved: careful breathing in when spraying – those particles really do fill the air!

www.flickernet.net/swlep
www.flickernet.net/data
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BETT

The vast, sprawling assembly of tech-enthusiasts that is BETT was every bit as overwhelming this year as in previous years. Rather than attempt to see everything, I was more than content catching a few great seminars and panel discussions, then finding my way to the Physical Computing corner.

Ricky and the team: your equipment has taken remote sensing opportunities to a new level! I am delighted to have connected with you and I look forward to sharing the immense range and functionality of what DFRobot produce in China. It will take me a few months to explore the equipment – but there is no doubt in my mind that what you have created could benefit learners up and down the UK.

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Bridlewood

Delighted that Bridlewood Primary have joined our TPAT Trust. We will soon be exploring crumble kits together – to add physical computing fun to their upcoming school Design Technology project.

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St Mary’s join the fun!

Literature Alive – from Digital Writes – is now well underway. Keith and I enjoyed our first visit to St Mary’s on Thursday – coinciding with World Book day. From next week we will begin working with a selection of pupils from St. Mary’s to develop the interactive game book. When asked, during our assembly, what would be different about our book to other books, the answer came back: “everything”!

https://www.digitalwrites.org.uk/literature-alive
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PA Consulting Competition update

All three of the ARC entries are gathering momentum. There is just one month left before the closing date of this year’s competition – which equates to four hours for us! Although only one entry (The Thermal Imaging project) could actually be described as a “robot”, it has been wonderful to see each team applying their coding, construction, and debugging skills in earnest.

https://www.flickernet.net/arc2
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Interactive Book

The Digital Writes pupil-powered creation is well underway: bringing new meaning to the phrase “immersive”, our Literature Alive project is demonstrating what Unity software can enable children to accomplish, even when they may have decided previously that reading or writing was not for them.

Key Stage Three pupils at the School Of Solutions – a vitally important alternative provision unit which is part of The Park Academies Trust – are experiencing cutting edge ‘world-building’ software whilst contributing their creative ideas towards a digital book like no other.

It is a virtual game book – a successor to the ‘play-your-own-adventure’ stories that allow multiple routes through the text. Turn to certain pages and the book becomes an active 3D world, based on the content of the story that is unfolding and which they can then explore.

A total of four Swindon schools, two Primary and two Secondary – as well as the Museum of Computing – are taking part in this Arts Council funded project. Full details are here, with a great demonstration video (2 mins) to be found on YouTube here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UebRsEgG30Q
https://www.digitalwrites.org.uk/literature-alive
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SWLEP visit

Thank you to Laura and the team for a great welcome to the BCC building in Chippenham. This is the UK’s first Business Cyber Centre. We were there to talk about physical computing, but it was also fascinating to be shown around this super high-tech space with ‘living walls’ and soundproof booths!

I am very much looking forward to supporting our wonderful LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) over the months and years ahead. Please see this link for more information about how physical computing can be supported in your school.

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