CoderDojo: building arduino video game controllers for Scratch, from scratch
This Thursday will be the first session of our brand-spanking new Arduino CoderDojo class, and I couldn’t be more excited! And, something tells me I’m not the only one in the class who’s going to have a blast.
In December (when I was first trying to figure out what I was going to do with 15 kids and 15 Arduinos) I came to Mason’s CoderDojo Scratch class, with a few “toys” in hand, and chatted with the kids about what they might like to make out of electronics. The first question that came from most of them was “Well, what can you make?” So I started rattling off ideas in (typical Anne-style) rapid fire:
- A ball that sings when you throw it?
- A circuit that tells you the temperature by the color of it’s light?
- A “Shh” meter, that tells everyone to be quieter when they get too loud?
- A “Coffee-Thief Zapper” that shocks the lazy guy in your office who keeps taking the last cup of coffee without making a new pot? (Ok, maybe not a good suggestion for kids, but it’s at the top of my to-do list.)
- A game controller that you could make from scratch, to control your made-from-scratch Scratch game?
And the choir sang “Gaaaame Controllllller!” in perfect harmony. Ok, that was easy.
So, I spent the next few days trying to figure out what I was going to need to help 15 kids make game controllers. I had a few ideas, all of which required an Arduino Leonardo (with easy, built-in Keyboard/Mouse library functions). With that in mind, I dropped my Arduino friends a note, asking if the relatively new Leonardo was ready for the gauntlet a 10 year old user would run it through. “Sure,” they said, “But, you might want to look at the Esplora. We think it would be a perfect fit for your class.”
I won’t lie. The Esplora was not at all what I had in mind… what about the breadboard? The wires? The hookup diagrams? Isn’t that the fun part? Is it
possible likely certain that my perceptions/opinions are being colored by my extremely specialized professional experience as an Analog/RF-centric Electrical Engineer?
It turns out, everyone who I show the Esplora to thinks it is AWESOME! And, for sure, it is awesome… I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many sensors (and an Arduino) on one board before. OK, OK, not only am I now convinced, I am also super excited. Excited that we can hit the ground running on Day 1, make cool sensor circuits, interact with our environment, and control whatever PC program we want. (And, when we’re ready, we’ll pull out the breadboards and dig into how some of these sensors actually work. )
So let me wrap this up with a few thank you’s. Thank you so much to my new Iron Yard/CoWork friends who have helped get this class off the ground – I can’t wait to see where this goes! And, a big, big hug to my friends at Arduino, who have offered guidance and sponsorship, and who worked hard to ensure we’d have the hardware we needed in time for our first class – many thanks!
Anne Mahaffey is a super-friend of The Iron Yard, is passionate about electronics hardware, and can’t wait to share that passion with the kids at CoderDojo. Anne, we’re incredibly grateful for everything you do.