My interest in Arduino started when I encountered Bubblino at BarCamp Manchester 2 at Contact Theatre in 2009. Having seen so many creative objects / projects since then, I have been trying to get my hands dirty. I attended the Howduino Liverpool 2 workshop on 20-21 November 2010 at the freezing venue “The Cooperative The Old Paint Shop 28-32 Renshaw Street L1 4EF Liverpool”. Although it was good to know how Arduino worked, I did not manage to apply what I learned then. This weekend, I signed up for the Howduino “Internet of Things” workshop again with a determination to get something done.
My initial idea was to query databases of cinemas, visualising the data (e.g., timetable, languages of films, their genres, countries etc.) and compared data from different cinemas (e.g., Cornerhouse vs. Odeon), in different cities (e.g., Coernerhouse vs. FACT), and turn the result of data analysis and data visualisation into light installations shown outside each cinema at different cities.
However, when I sat down to realise this idea, I soon faced a lot of challenges: I had less than 24 hours to come up with something that I could present at the show-and-tell; I have very limited skillsets for this (limited knowledge about programming and electronics – ideally it would be great to reuse existing code in the tutorials), and I only had access to an Arduino starter kit. What I often tell my students couldn’t be more true at this occasion: the aims and objectives of a project have to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. To make my aims and objectives SMARTer, I had to re-focus and come up a proof of concept that I could show in 2 days.
What I ended up with after 2 not-so-intensive days of working on this is a very simple proof-of-concept:
– three LED lights, each of them representing three films in three different languages respectively: English (EN), French (FR), Italian (IT);
– when selected, the light will be flash Morse Code telling people what language the selected film is in: EN, FR, IT;
– using a potentiometer to control / select / interact with the lights;
I also had the intention of connecting the set with a screen with the posters of these three different films; users choose a poster, and the light will be flashing Morse Code telling people what language the movie is in. And this idea is quite extensible as I can also codify genres and other categories into Morse Code.
Initially, I wanted this to be a one-button and one-light only design, but the reaction and interaction of this button design was proved to be too slow. The solution of a potentialmeter was recommended to me so as to calibrate to choose languages. Other techniques were also suggested to me, including interrupt, serial connection, or noduino – but I couldn’t take every suggestion on due to the limitations mentioned earlier. Many thanks to Adrian, Paul and Kevin who helped me to realise this project. Needless to say, I was very proud of myself.
Many creative projects were materialised during the past 48 hours, including Pat Link’s ‘Simon Says So‘, Kevin and Claire’s project built on the ‘persistence of vision’ theory, Arduino-powered veg growing kit (with temperature and humidity sensors etc), let your vegs or fruits in your allotment speak to you and the world, a fortune teller that will speak to you when someone approaches her (using a proximity metre).
During the show-and-tell, four women including myself presented our projects. Three of us started with “I’ve never done electronics before (or I can’t code), but I’m happy about what I came up with / the achievement I made.’. We were humble, positive, proud, and most importantly we showed that we had fun. That playfulness and confidence is what I consider really crucial and key to getting more women involved in interactive configurable technologies.