Gifts for the Gifted – Bare Conductive Touch Board

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Last year, we were able to get a grant in our Maker Space for some Bare Conductive Touch Boards and paint (there are smaller tubes of paint if you prefer). One of the choices for students’ final engineering projects in my class was to create a work of art that integrated the touch board and paint. I just scoured my Google Photos archive and, for some reason, have no video of the final projects in action 🙁 Here are pics of the artwork and the back of their canvases, though.

The black paint that you see in the mariachi and country pictures is conductive. The concept was to attach the sound board to the back and connect the black paint with copper tape to the sound board. But, as you can see in the bottom picture, the copper tape was not being cooperatively sticky enough so one of the students ended up soldering wires to it instead. (Soldering is not mandatory; we just wanted to make it more durable.) We made hinged frames for the canvases to enclose the speakers and touch board but allow us to turn them on/off and change batteries if needed. The mariachi instruments played music based on which instrument you touched, and the countries played their anthems. (That group was fascinated with countries of the Cold War.)

Don’t let the over-complexity of the project scare you off. I tend to imagine projects that leave out a few minor details in in my initial drafts. What’s cool about the Bare Conductive Touch Board is that it is actually easy to use. There is a little Micro SD card for you to add your sounds, and you probably want to attach a cheap speaker (I got these at Target for $3) that has a microphone jack so you can hear it. As you can see, we also gave it a battery, but you can alternatively just attach it to your laptop, depending on your project. Here is a step-by-step intro to the board that shows you how easy it is to get it working. There are also instructions for making a midi piano.

I was first inspired to look into doing a project like this when I saw this video. For those of you who have used or seen the Makey Makey (a past Gifts for the Gifted recommendation), you can see that this takes the potential just a bit further.

If you have a child/student who loves to create art and would be interested in attaching sound to it, this is a unique gift that they would definitely enjoy.

Make Your Own Time Capsule

If you have not discovered the Smithsonian Learning Lab yet, you are in for a great surprised. Here are some of the previous posts that I’ve written about the quality educational programming SLL provides. One of their latest projects is to offer a monthly challenge. For this month, it is to “Make Your Own Time Capsule.” I think that most of us would agree that this is definitely a year for the history books, and that describing it to future generations would be a lot more helpful with artifacts. Whether you endeavor to do this at home or at school, the Learning Lab gives you the resources to do it.

You can begin by using the Learning Lab Collection that explains what a time capsule is, and the history of them. Then you can look at a carefully curated sample collection from the National Postal Museum for the year of 1918 – when airmail began (the same year the Armistice was signed, ending World War I, which was the impetus behind our celebration of Veterans Day in the United States). Finally, you can watch a video that shows a unique way to make your very own time capsule. (You may need to be logged in to view these resources. Registration is free.)

With historical and scientific connections, you could easily bring in math and language arts to make this an interdisciplinary unit that would be engaging and relevant for your students – perhaps during those challenging weeks between the end of November and the winter holidays?

If you do something that you would like to share with the world during the challenge period (November 10 – December 8, 2020) , be sure to tag it #SmithsonianEdu.

© Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Chronicles of COVID-19, Part 5

Here is one of the latest entries from Our COVID-19 Diary by Kids Around the World.

ECE LFH 2020 Diary (1)

I’ve seen a large contingent from New Jersey, which is actually where I was born and lived until I was 10 years old.  Some other trends I’ve seen – almost everyone has a pet, most students seem to miss going to school (although there are a few who are loving this educational model!), and many students are enjoying the extra family time.

I hope that we will get more entries this week!  See the above link for how to access the diary and troubleshooting tips.

Hack Your Window with Scratch

Scratch programming is one of the most versatile tools for creativity that my students have ever used.  I am constantly in awe of the ideas people come up with using this free coding platform that is available to anyone online.  One of the most recent suggestions that is perfect for those of us going a bit stir crazy during the quarantine is to “hack your window.”  Basically, you take a picture of any of the windows in your residence, use the Scratch drawing tools to delete the panes, and add what you would like to imagine seeing outside your window.  This post from Eduard Perich gives specific instructions for creating an animated scene.

Capture
image from “Futbol Per La Finestra” by UrielMR8 on Scratch

If you are not familiar with Scratch, or would like to start by just seeing what others have done along this theme, here is a link to the Scratch studio where creators are sharing their programs.  You will notice that there are submissions in many different languages, which could be fun for translation lessons!

Knowing many of my former students, they would probably enjoy the entry, “Don’t Let the Corona Get In,” which I’ve embedded below.  It’s a game where you have to try to click the images of the coronavirus before they get too large and overcome you.

One way to help students learn quickly in Scratch is to allow them to copy a program and remix it.  You can do this by clicking on any shared program, choosing, “See Inside,” and then making a copy.  You will need to be logged in to Scratch in order to do this.

There are many, many resources out there for getting started with Scratch.  This is one of the basic ones, but keep in mind that the platform has been updated since then so some of the screen shots may look different than the current version.  You can also do a search of this blog for ideas to use with Scratch and/or Scratch Jr.

Chronicles of COVID-19, Part 4

For those of you who are keeping up to date with our COVID-19 Diary by Kids Around the World, today’s update is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices being made by many to help stave off the spread of this horrible pandemic.  As you can read in the entry below, some first responders cannot live with their families during this time because their work opens them up to being infected every day.  Let’s thank Mary, her family, and all of the other people who are doing so much to help us during these scary times!

P.S.  If you want to have your student add to the diary, please read the post linked above.  It gives important information about how to share it, and why some may be having technological issues.

ECE LFH 2020 Diary

Chronicles of COVID-19, Part 3

If you haven’t seen the updates that I’ve made to this post, please check it out.  There have been some difficulties out there in accessing the COVID-19 Diary that I shared.  I think I inadvertently turned off editing when I tried to fix them, but I’ve turned it back on.  Unfortunately, you may still have issues if your district blocks access.

Here are two more entries from Our COVID-19 Diary by Kids Around the World.  It looks like a lot of contributors own cats, and all of them, so far, have pets!  Hmm… I’m already seeing lots of math possibilities with this project as more people add to it – graphing pet numbers, mapping locations, etc…

If you haven’t shared the Diary with your students and asked them to add to it, please do!  I would like to make this as globally inclusive as possibly.  (Did I just make up a new phrase?  I’ll have to Google that…)

Our COVID-19 Diary from Kids Around the World (9)

 

Our COVID-19 Diary from Kids Around the World (10)