Scratching with Sensors: the Coventry Branch way

Date:     Wednesday 16 May 2012
Time:     18:30 – refreshments from 6:00pm
Speaker:     Margaret Low and John Rendall – Coventry Branch Committee
Location:     IMC, Warwick University


Students at Warwick University have been going into local schools for over 3 years, introducing primary school children to Scratch through the Technology Volunteers scheme. In 2011 the Encouraging Young Engineering scheme (funded by the UK National Higher Education STEM, Engineering in Society programme) enabled the purchase of a classroom set of Scratch Sensor Boards and the development of classroom resources, extending the range of workshops the Technology Volunteers could offer to local schools.

The Scratch sensor boards have the capability for four additional sensors to be connected, so for the last year, we’ve been exploring the opportunities for building homemade sensors using inexpensive materials readily available in the home. The joy and challenge of building cheap and cheerful sensors has a wide appeal to adults as well as children. It also opens a wide number of links to aspects of the maths, science, computing, design and technology, and engineering curriculum, supporting scientific investigation and discovery.

The sensor boards also provide a means of challenging the notion that computer interfaces are only keyboards and monitors. Young people are already familiar with other interfaces for example to mobile phones and game consoles, being able to explore alternative inputs to a computer via the scratch sensor board opens new creative avenues. It also poses other questions, for example, how reliable are the sensors over time? How and why do they fail? How can we build better ones? Exploring why things fail or don’t work is often a key to deeper learning.

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