Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Origins of Project Buggy

Someone asked me how I came up with the LED bug project we did for the reunion. There is quite a bit of "Buggy" that is original, as in idea wise, but there were a number of projects that inspired me to do it.

If you remember the soda bottle water rocket project from an earlier reunion, the plans came from Make Magazine. That magazine also had an article in about “LED Throwies”. They involve using a single LED, a coin cell battery, and a magnet to make something glowing that you can stick to something metal. I did up a couple for my girls without the magnets, and they seemed fascinated by it. They are beautiful in their simplicity, but don't last long or interact with the kids at all

What really got me thinking was Alex Weber who added a small programmable microcontroller chip and a photocell so that it interacted with light. I was already working with an Arduino microcontroller development system (Make Magazine again), so it sounded like something I could do. The shaped copper wire has a wonderful techno-sculpture quality, but doesn’t seem too practical for kids to play with.

The final piece of the puzzle came when I saw Blinky Bugs. Using a simple wire loop as a switch, the bug’s antenna act as a touch sensor. An insect with LED eyes! I was interested in the sensor part, but the loop system sounded a bit delicate to work reliably with kids playing with it.

So, I started out with the goal of creating a platform for a “craft-type” bug project for the children that would interact with them in as many ways as possible. My hope was to come up with something original enough that other people might want to build it and improve upon it! It was marvelous to see the original ideas the kids came up with.

Now I just need to take the final step in the project and publish the design to the web. This is a start!

1 comment:

Eldon and Janeil Olsen said...

It looked to me like you were having fun directing this activity and the kids all liked it too. It's great to have something creative like this at camp. I don't know what you'll do for an encore.

Thanks for all you did at the reunion, especially for that great family prayer at the end.

Love you,