Tag Archives: makerspace

Build Your Own Computer!

For some time, the AWS Library Team has been smitten with physical computing, a mode of computer science that looks to leverage computers to change our tangible world. We love computer aided gardens that only water when the weather forecast doesn’t show rain. Or embedded devices that send text messages of images when wildlife appears. We also love these ideas have never been easier (and less expensive) to create. In the past, the world of computer science can seem oblique, unwelcoming, or inaccessible, but our ability to access and express our voices in this world is rapidly increasing.

This summer, the AWS Library Team is sharing our love for physical computing by offering a specialty course through Annie Wright’s Camp Wright during the second week of August in our Build Your Own Computer Camp. Any student entering grades 4 through 8 are welcome to enroll.

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During the course, we’ll provide our day by day curriculum. In the meantime, check out the supply list that forms the foundation for what’ll be a great foray into physical computing for the 11 campers we have enrolled.

Pi-Top CEED (with Raspberry Pi & Pi-Top Proto)

A Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad

Companion Parts Pack for Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Camera

PIR (motion) Sensor

Pi Cobbler

 

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Picademy & Raspberry Jam! A Journey into Connected Learning

Over the past few months, you might have stopped by the library and seen me fiddling with the following:

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A sound sensitive bulletin board. When finished, each letter should light up at 3 second intervals, so long as there’s little to no noise in the vicinity. If there’s noise? The lights will cut out, and the timer will begin again.

And for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not *yet* finished with my sound sensitive library sign. For someone who has no experience with electrical engineering, programming or, frankly, making bulletin boards, this stuff is tough!

But it’s also a blast, and throughout the process of researching and developing this sign, I’ve discovered entire communities who create, make, hack, develop, and share knowledge around microprocessors, tiny computers that can control electronics.

While I’ve written about Connected Learning here before, the impact of diving into such communities has never felt more visceral, especially given my relative ignorance at the start of this process.

Again and again, I’m reminded: learning has never been easier. There are communities and collaborators both locally and globally willing to help us learn in one way or another.

So, my sign is controlled by an Arduino, but my learning journey with these internet communities led to me to a device that I feel has even more potential: Raspberry Pi.

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Plug in a power source, keyboard, mouse, television, and SD card, and you have yourself a fully capable home computer.

A UK Charitable Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to accelerate learning in computer science in the UK and throughout the world. They fund their educational efforts by selling a $35 computer called, well, a Raspberry Pi. The Foundation then turns around and creates learning resources and educational experiences for students.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation also puts on Picademy, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. While there have been numerous Picademys based in the UK, last March featured the first ever Picademy USA, hosted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

I applied, and I was grateful to be awarded a coveted spot. I was also lucky enough to receive travel support from AWS to be able to attend the event.

And what an event it was.

My journey with Arduino taught me the power and possibility of ‘physical computing,’ where we use the tools of the digital world to impact the physical world. An example of this might be my READ sign, but there are many, more sophisticated uses of physical computing. These range from equipping clothes with lights, speakers and sensors that respond to a wearer’s movements, to, well, self-driving cars.

But Picademy? It showed me even greater potential for such work. Not only will Raspberry Pi operate as a computer, but its price and features has accelerated my ability to think about turning anything into a computer. My garden? Let’s get a moisture sensor and automate its watering cycle. My bicycle? Let’s have it send me text messages if anyone nudges it (or, at worst, steals it!). My library? Let’s take something I gleaned from our visit to MKThink and use motion sensors and digital trip wires to see how displays, furniture rearrangements, and other changes might cause patrons to increase or behave differently (This is also why WeWork’s presence is skyrocketing!).

Most importantly, Picademy taught me just how amazing forays into physical computing can be for kids. After all, the software in a $35 computer can be easily changed, hacked, and even broken, but since the operating system lives in a micro-SD card (just like you put into your digital camera), the Raspberry Pi can easily be fixed. Plus, there are so many cool projects for young learners to undertake, like this Parent Detector!

While attending Picademy, I learned how to program my Pi so that an accelerator to change an image on an LED screen:

And how to connect the Pi to switches and lights:

And, I learned a variety of different teaching and instructional strategies to get others interested and engaged in physical computing. I left the weekend officially titled a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator:

And I also met so many incredible, experienced, and thoughtful educators dedicated to helping kids learn computer science, so much so that I left the weekend emboldened to learn more. Thank you, Matt, Phillip, Carrie Anne, Ben, Marc, David, and Courtney, and James for the experience.

Next up?

Raspberry Pi is best controlled through the programming language, Python, so I’m taking on the modules served up by Treehouse, which I highly recommend.

I’m diving into the Pibrary Project, an incredible resource around how libraries are using Raspberry Pi with their patrons and in their own operations.

And, I’m planning to teach kids physical computing and how to use Raspberry Pi during my Build Your Own Computer Club this summer at Camp Wright.

Even more immediately, I’m unearthing a great local community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. On April 10, Tacoma’s FabLab has graciously agreed to host an informal gathering of Pi users called a Raspberry Jam:

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In the process of reaching out to potential sponsors for the event, the folks at the Pi Foundation pointed me towards C4Labs, a Tacoma based (!) group at the forefront of manufacturing cases for the Raspberry Pi:

 

Dustin, their owner, has agreed to sponsor, and he seems as equally passionate about sharing his work with younger learners, as well.

All this so exciting, not just for unlocking the potential for physical computing and Raspberry Pi in my life or for kids at AWS, but even more so for the energy and zeal involved in discovering new communities and learning the ropes.

Coding and computer science is hot, for sure, but I’m even more so struck by the impact of connected learning. Several months ago, I had met with Cynthia Tee, Executive Director of Seattle’s Ada Developer’s Academy,  and she echoed this sentiment, telling me that the most promising employees aren’t the ones who know x, y, or z, but the most exciting employees are the ones who are willing to learn how to navigate any system, or, the ones who are willing to open to learn how to learn new tools or use new knowledge

And the Raspberry Pi, among many other options, provides such and wonderful computing playground and a vast, supportive community to do just that.

On that note, check out one more of the Pi’s incredibly capabilities, in this TEDxNewcastle presentation by Sam Aaron:

So cool.

 

 

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The Summer in Library

With August upon us, the Library & Learning Commons is preparing for another great year for the Annie Wright community. Throughout the summer, we have been continuing to evolve our space to best suit our patrons and the role our space plays within school life.

For all the library fans out there, here are few updates regarding the projects we’re rushing to complete for the start of the year.

Named for Albert Sutton, who was the architect of the Annie Wright Seminary and whose son John Sutton was the architect for the Library

Named for Albert Sutton, who was the architect of the Annie Wright Seminary and whose son John Sutton was the architect for the Library

The Sutton Room

As a space for both our library archives and community connections, the Sutton Room already holds the most historic books in our school collection. As we have transitioned this space into an archival center, we have decided to integrate our Reference collection into the main library, and we have been re-cataloging, re-labeling, and moving these items throughout the summer months. This should create enough shelf space to hold one or two of our historic periodicals. We hold over 100 years of National Geographic and many decades of Life Magazine elsewhere in the building.

Additionally, we will complete our installation of the teleconference equipment that helps make the Sutton Room a center for community engagement. Last year alone, we connected with alumni, task force members, and other schools on 15 occasions, and we hope to demonstrate how we might open school walls from this space in our learning commons.

Wayfinding

This summer, our 3D printer has been bustling with letters that we’ll use for signage throughout the library space. As a library that teaches information literacy, we really struggle with nailing down wayfinding philosophy: how easy should we make book finding experience for students? Ultimately, we have decided to take a few steps to label sections, and we think the 3D printed letters will look rather spiffy on the library walls.
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The Sound-Sensitive Bulletin Board!

Ok! That video above may not look as awesome as it will in a few weeks, but it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. Over the last few months, the Library Team have been teaching ourselves Arduino (click here for a quick introduction). When our bulletin board is up and running, we’ll have a sign that spells “READ” outside our library doors. If the hallway is relatively quiet for 3 seconds, the ‘R’ will light up. 3 more seconds? The ‘E.’ 3 more the ‘A,’ and 3 more the ‘D.’ If any noise occurs during that sequence, the sign will go dark and start counting again!

We aren’t necessarily fans of quiet libraries, but we thought this would be a cool way to showcase what one can do with a little coding, electrical engineering, and creativity.

And more! 

Besides those items, we’ve spent the summer developing curricula, planning acquisitions, sifting through archives, and making plans for minor Maker activities throughout the year. This school year’s going to be something else, and we’re excited to see the halls filled with learners so soon!

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Libraries as Spaces to Meet & Make

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Beyond being storehouses for books, periodicals, and databases, libraries have long served as social centers where groups can gather to develop ideas, share common experiences, and play.

This year, the AWS Upper School is focusing on how play might complement the strong academic performance that has always been within their school culture. As apart of the orientation, Dean of Students Annie Green and I hosted an exercise in collaboration and play, where teams of upper school students built towers and talismans out of balloons and other office supplies and materials.

ImageIn the coming months, we will be looking for other avenues for inquiry and play in the library, especially given the long lunches the upper school students have this year. Already, girls are dreaming up possibilities for the 3D printer, and we have plans to set up an old sewing machine in a corner so patrons can sew smart phone pockets for their skirts.

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