I decided that I would continue with the art/craft programming I’m already doing, but add a once-a-month Teen Tech Lab. The first four technologies I want to explore are animation, Makey-Makey kits, Scratch programming and AppInventor.
Last Friday, I started the learning phase by downloading the free Stop Motion Animation Studio app onto my iPhone. I did a very simple stop motion animation using post-it notes that each had a letter on them, and spelled out “how to animate” one letter at a time. I finally figured out that the easiest way to do it was to put all the post-its on a board the way I wanted the phrase to end up, snap a picture, then “unspell” the word backwards by removing one post-it at a time. Then I reversed the frames in the program to have a completed animation. I plan to do some more tests and demos with clay and legos. The biggest problem was that I had no way to mount my iPhone on a tripod. I ended up using my gps mount from my car, sticking the mount to the slick plastic protective cover on my laptop, then propping the laptop on two Kleenex boxes to get it the right height, and leaning the foam core board (on which I put my post its) against the cubicle wall. Not a perfect solution, and too easy to jar the camera.
Next, I decided I had to dive in and learn about Makey Makey boards. (Intro to Makey Makey). I watched a bunch of videos in order to understand how they work and what can be done with them, and decided to focus first on musical applications. (Music was my undergraduate major.) Last Sunday, I visited another library’s makerspace, and the teen volunteer showed me around. He suggested that I make something on their color printer. While browsing plans, I stumbled across an iPhone holder designed to fit on a standard camera tripod which I could use for the animation projects. Sixty-five minutes and 25¢ later, I had the perfect iPhone tripod holder.
Then the teen brought out the Makey Makey kit. I told him about a video in which someone drew designs with pencil on paper, and used the board to “play” these graphite shapes like a piano. He had never done anything like this, but together, we found a diatonic piano keyboard on the Scratch site that was Makey Makey compatible, hooked up the wires as specified on the Scratch page, and played the paper like a piano. The teen and I were equally engaged and invested in the results. I found and shared a couple of the videos with him that I had watched (Intro to Makey Makey and Edible Star-Spangled Banner), and he seemed to get excited about the new possibilities for the kit.
I went home that night and used my Amazon gift cards that I got as Christmas gifts to order a Makey Makey kit. When it arrived on mid-week, I immediately set up a strawberry piano to test it out, and it worked great! I videotaped the process, using my new holder on a tripod, and uploaded it to YouTube. (See strawberry piano.) Simple, but still cool. I have decide to do a series of brief video lessons on getting started with “Makey Makey Music.” I’ll start with the what/how/why of Makey Makey, then do a progressive series of different ways you can build on the concept–different instruments, sound effects instead of music notes, “found sound” scales, foil balloon pianos, a floor piano, edible songs, a piano where you play a metalophone while the Makey Makey connects it to additional chords or other sounds, layered loops of music and beat tracks, and options with an input that serves as a toggle to add another octave or accidental keys or a different instrument setting (like changing the stop on an organ.)
Many of the more complex ideas will require programming in Scratch to get what I want, so that was my next project…learning to program in Scratch. I found an existing Scratch one-octave chromatic keyboard with a drop down list where you choose which sampled instrument you want (Not set up for Scratch). You can remix an existing Scratch project (the equivalent of “save as”), so I used this project as the basis for mine. I was able to see all the steps the creator had used in making this keyboard, and selectively add and delete elements to get what I wanted. In the last two days, I have figured out how to assign different instruments to the keyboard, how to replace notes with sound effects, how to mix and match pitched sound effects with instrument sounds, how to add downloaded sound effects, and how to assign keys to these notes that will make them compatible with the Makey Makey interface. I also have learned how to add longer sound samples like loops and riffs. At this point, there are limits on the amount of assignable notes, but I have ideas on how to expand that.
I haven’t started learning AppInventor yet, but hopefully sometime within the next month. I also want to work with animation options in Scratch.