Creative Computing (aka Physical Computing) is, in my opinion, critical to keep student engagement in the longer term.
What is it? It is simply creating computer systems that can be physically touched. For example I provide my students with a BBoard and Arduino microcomputer (because they are cheap, robust and incredibly versatile) and ask them to develop simple computing products like a door bell, light sensitive night light, pedestrian crossing etc. The challenges are hands-on and real and students love it.
Next project: AutoWorld
I am putting together a scheme of work whereby students create an automated town. Students will some roads and rail track and they must then create things that enhance the lives or safety of the citizens.
The Arduino (£2.50) powers the servo operated barrier without need of motor controller. I picked up the servo’s for £1 each from MeArm.com, the ultra sonic sensor (£2) detects the train and the BBoard (£5) provides the traffic lights, buttons and sounds as well as the light sensor that also detects if an abulance is at the crossing needing to get by!
It may be a far step but using skills sheets I have successfully taught students to create the individual components. I’m hoping the real-world context will encourage students to develop other solutions for the inhabitants of AutoWorld.
Extra curricula: Aquaphonics
To provide an ongoing after school club that can go at a pace that students can get to grips with, I am developing an automated aquaponics greenhouse to grow food. I particularly aspire to this setup. I am hoping that it will help on many levels:
- Looking after fish is therapeutic, especially for those students who find life a little confusing
- Automating an entire green house will provide lots of hands-on challenges to engage all types of student
- The food grown can be sold at local fairs – or eaten by the students!