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.


  1. I did an OU maths degree in the late 80's/early 90's and well remember programming the kit that was current then to go through the cycles of a washing machine.

    I then went on a year later to write C software for NASA that pointed big radar dishes to track the Shuttle.

  2. Nigel, thank you for sharing your experience - it is very rewarding to hear about the success of former students. It would be interesting to learn more about your experience of transitioning the knowledge and experience of learning programming at the OU to programming a NASA radar dish using C! Hopefully in a few years we will have similar stories about students who first learned to program using Sense.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Cloud Wedge - geek of the week

Priming Code Club

Are we losing the Internet Security battle?