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October 22, 2014

Makey all wet (2)

Monday morning, the rain had been very strong and I bicycled to Udavi and found many students were unable to make it. The new building had 6-7 kids in grades 4th, 5th and 6th. There were too few kids to take classes and I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce the Makey, Makey (MM) board.

The MM board is able to integrate with real life objects (leaves, fruits, vegetables, plants) because of its ability to (measure very large resistances) be very sensitive to any resistive path. But, the sensitivity makes it misbehaves in the rain. It took me many attempts to figure out a mechanism to avoid a 'false' trigger. The wooden table that I wanted to use as base had imbibed some moisture and was itself triggering. We finally needed to hold the leaves and other material under test in the air.

When anyone touched the plant or leaf it would trigger scratch in producing a sound. As there were younger children I changed the sounds often. I also choose the sounds of animals (cats, dogs, etc) so the dog would bark when you touched the leaf, etc. The children were quite excited and I tried to tap into it to further inquiry.

What is happening? What do you see? What do you understand? What kind of objects will trigger the sound? We went from leaves, flowers, metal, to a stick of 'dry' wood, wooden blocks, and finally plastic! Everything triggered in the wet and moist conditions.

The plastic cap triggering was really a surprise, both for the children and for me and it was time to find a drier place. The rain then stopped and I took the 6th grade to the computer lab and was happy to find that the polished tables were able to present a dry environment where false triggers didn't happen.

The MM is able to close the circuit with a person without having to hold the earth wire (as indicated in the instructions) by using the floor and this makes thing appear more magical.

The class then continued with the 7th grade and we made a piano with bananas. The 7th graders have been working with Scratch and understood what was happening at a certain level of abstraction that they called the 'MM keyboard' vs the electronics keyboard that their program responded to.

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