Thursday, June 3, 2010

What to do next...

At the end of our meeting yesterday, we talked about my interest in creating and obtaining a frostruder. Two concerns were brought up:

1) How would I utilize the frostruder for the betterment of learning about technology?
2) If I use the frostruder to create my masterpieces of frost (because let's face it, they will be masterpieces) I need to have someone with a food handler's permit make and sell them.

To answer the first concern, I will be frostruding using Frank (of course). In order for Frank to create the masterpieces I have to learn how to render it in a 3D program. This is what I'll be working on this summer. Learning and making drawings so that by the Fall I will be able to create cupcakes/brownies with magnificent frosting creations to sell.

Which in lies the second issue... How am I to sell these without a food handler's permit? Quick and dirty answer would be to get one myself. It's a 28 page read, a 30 min class, and $10 in cash. I figure easing the minds of those concerned over pulled association permits is way better than the tension. :) In the greater scheme of things, this then means that if this whole "college thing" doesn't work out for me I can get a job as a fry cook somewhere. Win.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trade Secrets

Today's meeting really had something for everyone: laughter, tears (mine, on the inside, from frustration), confusion, listlessness, leadership, inspiration, and dry erase markers.

Our goal this quarter was to make something using Arduino technology. Things seemed to be moving along--we have the Arduinos, and we have this idea for wearable technology that would interface with the touchscreen Chris built. But with two weeks left and no deliverable in sight, we were all feeling a little overwhelmed.

With Beth's help, we redefined our problem. There was all this talk about computer languages versus computer programs, serial ports vs. serial proxies, Flash and Python and pygame and action scripts. And it was becoming increasingly apparent that no one had any answers. Normally, someone at least pretends to have the answers.

I couldn't make sense of anything, so with everyone's help, I drew a map of the problem as it stands now (see photo). My drawing uses an orange squiggle to indicate "translation" of data from one form to another.

On the left hand side of the photo, you can see the Infrared (IR) LEDs paired with an Arduino. The Arduino tells the LED what pattern to flash at. The pattern is associated with a particular user ID, so it conveys the presence and identity of the wearer. The IR data signal goes to an Infrared sensor, which is also paired with an Arduino. The sensor reads the IR data signal, and the Arduino interprets the data and sends it to the computer via a USB cable. A serial proxy in the computer gets the input from the Arduino, and translates the data into code that Flash can read. It's important to keep in mind that at every intersection, code is translating the data from one form to another. It's the type of code and writing the code that present much of our challenge.

Well, that and everything else.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Learning About Learning

So I've been exploring the literature on informal education this week, and the most fascinating and relevant research I've found is taking place here at UW at the Learning in Informal and Formal Envrionments (LIFE) Center. LIFE is an NSF supported collaboration between UW, Stanford, and SRI International with the goal of understanding social factors in learning. That is, understanding how social interactions affect learning will help educators design more effective ways of learning (for example, curriculum, environments, leadership).

Check out this infographic that attempts to show the learning environments that LIFE Center researchers study. I think it does a better job showing how much glorious time people have for informal learning. However, I would argue with that figure, 5.1% of formal learning environment in grad school. Maybe "formal learning environment" refers only to the few hours a day I have an instructor in a room with me.

LIFE Center: Stevens, R. Bransford, J. & Stevens, A., 2005

My group members should check out LIFE Center's page on Theory Gates and Social Learning Drivers. The theories should feel pretty familiar after engaging in the Makerbot group.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dreaming of Frank

I had a dream about Frank today.

Let me preface this by saying that Frank threw up the other day. It looked like a big, green plastic tumbleweed. I'm not sure how it happened but it did. If we don't watch him he gets ornery.

My future plans with Frank are as follows:
1. Assemble a frostruder.
3. Make profit.

But I digress, so back to my dream.

A mustachioed man (an actual human) named Frank had a bowl full of Frank's tumbleweed throw up and was eating it. Frank was sitting to the side glowing with pleasure.

It was that quick, yet very disturbing.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering

(text by Alexis, photos by Kate)
On Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th of April, the University of Washington hosted the first ever Engineering Discovery Days (formerly the College of Engineering Open House). Engineering Discover Days is a chance for all of the engineering departments on campus to share their work with students, teachers and families. The campus was crawling with K - 12 students on Friday! It was actually a little bit terrifying.

In an attempt to lure the children away from the Department of Chemical Engineering's silly putty exhibit (a tough act to follow!) we brought Frank out to the main lawn where he quickly attracted large groups of kids, parents, and teachers. We had some trouble convincing Frank to print outside but (thanks to Kevin's troubleshooting efforts) we soon had him producing stacks of shiny green PLA legos.

People had lots of questions about Frank and 3d printing in general. Here are a few:

- "Are they going to have these in the FUTURE?!" - excited fifth grader
- "So…what is the practical application of this thing?" - confused parent
- "How does Frank learn what to do?" - intrigued third grader
- "Why does this thing break all the time?" - bored middle schooler
- "Awesome! How come you guys get to play with one of these?!?" - jealous computer science student

In addition to showing off Frank at Discovery Days, we decided to reveal some of our other project ideas to the public. Chris (the newest addition to our group) spent some time showcasing his homemade touch-screen which we will be incorporating into this quarter's big LearnMakeCupcake project.

Here are a few images from Discovery Days.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Who is Katy Perry and Why is She Wearing my Dress?

Not the "Lizard in a Garden" dress in the first photo--the second photo, the dress that looks like she's hiding fluorescent lightbulbs under a bedspread. Yeah, it should have been me!

So I noticed a few weeks ago that some singer named Katy Perry wore LED shoes to some big event. So what? I mean, kids had red LEDs in the heels of sneakers in like, 1992. It's too bad the celebrity spokesperson for technologically exciting clothing is this flash in the pan. I don't mean that, I just wanted to use the phrase "flash in the pan."

Anyway a bit later, Miss LED America turns up on the red carpet in an LED dress, a New York minute after Alexis, Darivanh, and I invented the idea of putting LEDs in our 1980s Goodwill dresses that we are going to wear to the Engineering Ball on May 21st.


Meanwhile, Kevin's been reminding me that whatever you think you want to do, it's already been done. I can't keep pace with technology these days.

On a slightly unrelated note (but only SLIGHTLY), here's a link to a colorscheme designer, if like me, you can't tell what colors go well together. This tool could help you get dressed in the morning or make a pretty website or even build a better looking LED dress.

I heard that a girl in DX Arts made a dress that lights up in different parts of Seattle. It uses GPS and Arduino. It would be hard to get lost in that ensemble.

Current Happenin's

Life's... a crazy crazy thing. Forgive me for my silence, but between the things of life (in addition to a budding romance) time management tends to fall someplace along the wayside for me to some extent.

Anywho, at our current state of things, we're certainly not at a loss for ideas for what to begin to do (now that we're halfway though our school's Spring quarter). We've considered everything ranging from Electronic Mood-ring-bracelets, to 3-D scanners, to electronic shirts, to touch-screen interactivity. It's wild, and there's some great stuff out there to do, I'd just like to really buckle down and just do it. 

At our last meeting, I think we spent most of the time (plus an extra ~20 minutes) discussing more about what we'd like to do and how we'd like to integrate Chris' touchscreen into it, while at the same time wanting to utilize our Arduinos (especially since we basically just got a few). It was decided that we at the very least should be learning the rudimentary bits of programming in flash, which is the language behind most of Chris' applications making use of his multi-touch-ness. Good idea, but I don't think we solidly decided if we're interacting with the presence of the screen, or is the screen interacting with the presence of individuals...or both? And how? We're workin' on that. And when I say we're workin' on that, I mean to say we're eating homemade Pho at Darivahn's place. ;)

PS: Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age is basically the future, with regards to Maker Bot Industries. Just sayin. 

Life's good.