Learnings from participating in INNOVAR 2015

Last week I was invited to show the Force controlled oscillator at INNOVAR, and it was a great opportunity to test that littleBits is a great tool to explain in a deeper and playful way how an electronic project works.

Besides telling the story of the project I wanted that people who went to this event could go inside it, and understand in an interactive way the fundamental concepts of the science and technology behind this project.

The concepts were:

  • frequencies
  • the idea of using a sensor to control something else
  • what is programming?

And these are the Bits I took with me and how I used them

For explaining frequencies I used an oscillator. As pictured above, I would start with a bargraph and move the oscillator knob until the change of frequency was unperceptive to the eyes. Then I would snap the speaker after the bargraph to show that we could not only see the frequencies, but hear them. One of the most interesting reflections that we got from this circuit was that “sound starts to break” (as one guy observed) when our eyes start to differentiate the change of frequencies.

Last but not least, I had another surprise, and was that blue plastic thing with INNOVAR branding.

People thought that this was there because it was a prize or something like that, but the truth was that this object was essential to make “magic” with the bargraph. As I put this blue filter over the bargraph, red and orange lights would disappear, leaving the green ones intact. All this WOW performance was there to reflect that frequencies even play a role in the colors of light.

For the part of using a sensor to control something else, I suggested trying the pressure sensor alone with a bargraph and then see how this sensor affected the circuit with the oscillator + speaker. I preferred understanding the use of the pressure sensor with the bargraph because I think is more natural to perceive the change with it and because of the idea I wanted to present next: “what is programming?”

I would say something like: we can understand the change of pressure on the sensor as a change in the number of lights on, but we can also measure it as a number (and there I would snap the number module). And I remarked that this was important because this was the format in which programming works and can understand the things that happen in our physical world. Also, I would explain why I decided to use programming in this project, and how writing something in my computer could change the behavior of the instrument.

Of course, my speech was not always the same (neither the order of concepts), and if anyone had a question, I would encourage him/her to try it and see what happened.

Happily, my stand had many beautiful chaotic moments like this one

and also some kids had plenty of time to explore their own circuit combinations and sounds :smile:

I hope you enjoyed reading about this experience as I did sharing it with you :smile: Thanks!

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