Bringing Sense into the classroom

 When we (a team of us at the OU who worked on the module My Digital Life) developed the SenseBoard and adapted MIT's Scratch language as Sense to teach entry level programming, we had to develop activities that students could complete while studying at a distance and therefore not overly complicated (at least at first). In fact the approach we gave was to give students partially completed Sense programs and get them to add the missing elements. The overarching goal was to have students build interesting and above all fun projects right from the beginning. However, the programming guide that was written to introduce all of the basics (iteration, selection, variables, etc) was designed to be studied over a 1 week period and there didn't easily lend itself to delivery in a 1-day face to face workshop. It also didn't make much use of the SenseBoard as an I/O device.
Therefore when were approached with the idea of running a workshop together with UCL's Schools Outreach programme to give students some hands on experience of programming and ubiquitous computing, I was given the task of developing a new activity that we could use as an introductory demonstration that the students could be guided through replicating. The idea was to use the SenseBoard as a novel input device to determine the timing for playing notes of a piece of music. Using and infrared LED and sensor to detect a beam break, it was possible to control the timing of each note by moving one's hand in time to the music. The result was pretty neat, and the students had a lot of fun building it for themselves. See the video above for a demonstration. Having completed the activity to build this 'Music Maker' project, students then came up with their own ideas which they then implemented with our help. Watch this space for details of their projects.