Today was officially Back To The Future Day – 21st October 2015 – the day that Marty McFly travelled to the future and witnessed a plethora of exciting inventions from hover boards to flying cars, automatic dog walkers and giant holographic 3d cinema screens.
Today that day has arrived and while some inventions have made it into our lives for real, many of them have yet to be realised.
This week the pupils have been advancing their understanding of Inputs and Outputs, terminology we used in programming, and applying this to physical interactive electronic objects in the real world.
Each of the pupils investigated common interactive technology driven objects from around the home, school and on their person to dissect the Inputs that control them, and the Outputs that they produce. We looked at table lamps and heaters, television sets and radio hi-fi. Once we discovered that many outputs could indeed become sensors as inputs as well as outputs we could understand how devices that we use today might have been dreamt up; from audible reverse parking sensor alerts on cars to automated central heating systems in our homes and schools.
Taking our imagination into the future another 25 years, we all came up with an invention that used some form of Input and Output to show our understanding.
Coming back to some of first lessons, we learnt the term iterative development and the way in which we can quickly produce ideas on paper and in our minds, and then write bits of code or design using computers and then once it works we can further refine and amend our ideas until we are happy with the result.
In digital technology terms this is called prototyping. Creating ideas on paper and then using electronics or computer code to sketch out a rough idea or to quickly demonstrate the interaction between Inputs and Outputs.
Prototyping objects is often quick and means that the focus is on creating and realising ideas rather than spending lots of time building and manufacturing something that may not be the desired result. It is a further form of iterative development and is a process widely used in the technology industry (and many other sectors too)
Little Bits ?
LittleBits are a system of digital building blocks that can be combined to create interactive objects. Much like a series of lego blocks these bits are magnetic and stick together. Through experimentation and understanding we can use them to combine multiple inputs and outputs and with a little crafting and imagination we can transform our ideas into working inventions. Each bit has a different function, some are input devices and sensors and others are output devices.
LittleBits snap together in the following order: ( Power -> Input ->Output ) By changing an Input or Output device we can create varying differences in our objects within seconds of experimentation.
LittleBits is quick, fun and easy to use so it is a perfect tool to enable us to prototype with.
Choosing Light as our Output we worked with a button (toggle switch) as our Input to create a simple on/off light switch device. Changing the Input for a dimmer (variable potentiometer switch) we were able to alter that device into something that could produce a different amount of light. Altering the Output to a servo motor (rotary motor that moves between 0 and 180 degrees) and attaching a post it note we could create a moving flag with a message on it.
Understanding the building blocks of sensors and devices that make up many of our technology driven objects in the world today, we can now begin to design and develop our own inventions and make them a reality using LittleBits and a bit of creative and artistic imagination.