This page documents a small slice of my role in a three year community science partnership, including: the design and build of ‘SwarmBots’ which play musical chairs; a the build and launch of a high-altitude weather balloon; and programmable building blocks to explore craft and computation. All projects were realized in a partnership between the Pomona College Physics Department and the Fremont Academy for Engineering and Design, a public high school in Pomona, California.
Programmable Building Blocks
In continued partnership with Fremont Academy for Engineering and Design, we designed and fabricated ‘programmable building blocks'. By combining 3D printing and electronics, we made Arduino controllable lego blocks. The design of the blocks split into two main categories: (1) custom fabrication, in which new lego-compatible blocks were 3D-printed in order to house Arduinos, sensors, etc, and (2) augmentation, in which copper tape was used to transform normal lego-compatible blocks into current-carrying wire.
As a TA for this project, I aided Pomona students with technical aspects of their projects, helped facilitate meetings at the high school, and planned and executed several workshops for Pomona and Fremont students over the course of the semester. In one workshop, we augmented lego-compatible blocks with copper tape and motors to create a build-you-own vehicle kit in which students coudl build a circuit to drive a car using only lego blocks.
The final projects were highly individual, with each group creating something different. This news segment provides a student perspective on the partnership and features some of the projects.
I built the lego-compatible housing below to hold an Arduino Uno or Hummingbird Arduino, which the students used to drive their projects:
The images below show prototypes of a car building kit in which the circuit is built by placing lego blocks. This is done by simply augmenting the blocks with copper tape, allowing students to build functional vehicles and have fun customizing their car with mechanical structures.
Students from a Pomona College physics class (Experimental Atmospheric Physics) designed and launched a weather ballon with a high school Computer Science class. As a student co-lead on the project, I designed and facilitated weekly lesson plans to teach electronics and how to use Arduino, leading to the final data collection payload consisting of an Arduino Uno + Data logger with temperature and pressure sensors designed by the students. It also carried a GPS tracker and camera recording the balloon's flight. The balloon was launched from Fremont Academy and landed in Joshua Tree National Park (see flight path below). While there have been several efforts to recover the payload, it is yet to be found.
This reporter was able to capture a video of the launch! The school gathered to watch the launch of our weather balloon:
A GPS track of our balloon’s flight path:
College students worked with the Femineers, a group of high school women interested in STEM. In four small groups, teams designed and built an autonomous vehicle that could play an adapted version of musical chairs: while music is playing, the cars follow a circular track. When the music stops, the cars turn into the circle to look for a 'chair', or in our case, a black mat. Once it finds a chair, the car stops. There are n cars and n-1 chairs, so the remaining car is eliminated. This continues until one car wins.