So, this was the first of four, set to be pretty intense, sessions giving us the technical knowledge that will accompany our physical computing project. For me, this is one of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most – getting my hands on all the intriguing electrical components that are available these days and seeing what I can create.
With that in mind, we jumped right into the session looking at this area of interaction design between humans and computers – creating physical devices with non-standard interfaces. The tools that we are going to look at are the Arduino and Raspberry pi boards – both having GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) connections for sensor and actuators. The Raspberry Pi has a lot of capability as it has all the benefits of a tiny computer; operating system, internet connection, audio/visual output & multiple programming languages. For its speed, ease of use and single programming language, we are going to concentrate on the Arduino, initially familiarizing ourselves with the board architecture and Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment). One of the first key concepts that I needed to understand was its ‘Digital’ and ‘Analog’ input and output. Digital meaning either on or off, with Analog having a full spectrum of values that range from no to off.
To get to grips with these ideas, we broke out the Arduinos, breadboards and components to make our first circuit! For the Digital input/output we started off simply a blinking light controlled by a push button. This covered Variables (using a Boolean) and Conditionals (If and Else statements) in programming, as well as using pull up/down resistors in electronics – exciting stuff! To try out the Analog input/output we created a sleep light with a dial (potentiometer). This built on what we had already learnt and introduced ‘for’ loops in order to change the brightness of the LED.
This was a great first session, gaining some practical experience with electronics and putting some of the programming language into context with physical examples. We also had some fun with shout out quizzes on Boolean expressions and mathematical operations. Looking forward to the next session!