The Art 30 students will soon be coding Arduinos and creating interactive canvases - which means I am doing some homework and learning about Arduinos myself. Saskcode has a great website with tutorials for teachers who want to include programming in their K-12 courses. Today I tried a mixture of their 1H "Create Any Colour with RGB LEDs" and had success experimenting with taking the RGB light off the breadboard and still having it hooked up and their "Blinking an RGB light with a Lilypad." I am still not sure which one - an Arduino Uno or Lilypad - will work best with the canvas for this project. I am still struggling to understand resistors, and how electricity travels around the breadboard and connects to various pins. I tried Saskcode's 2c "Sound" activity, as I also want students to be able to create sound with their canvases, but I had no luck. The Arduino did not play any music. I ordered my own personal kit to experiment with, so I'm hoping that my kit is to blame more than my wiring capabilities. Thank goodness Warman High's resident expert, Ms. Bitner, is going to teach me a few things this week. Saskcode is shipping us an Arduino Uno and Lilypad kit to experiment with our students. Mrs. Fishley and Ms. Moe are also going to help out in period 4, and together with students we will learn a bit more about coding than we knew starting out. We may have to adjust our expectations to meet reality - my vision was a touch sensitive canvas that reacts to viewers - only time will tell (you can see the possibilities for someone who knows what they are doing below).
The first time I ever heard of Arduinos was at the National Art Education Association's 2018 conference in Seattle. It was there that I attended a session on paper circuits and realized the potential of interactive art. One of the session leaders sensed my interest and told me, "if you want to take this further, you should look into Arduinos."
A chance e-mail earlier this month from our school division informed us that Saskcode was offering PD surrounding Arduinos at zero cost to school divisions. I could not have been more lucky as I had thought I'd have to teach myself using online tutorials. Off Ms. Fishley and I went today to attend an introductory session on how to program Arduinos. It is mind boggling what a little bit of software, coding, and components are capable of creating. In the Arduino level 1 workshop we barely scratched the surface, but managed to program speakers, blinking LEDs, and a motor. I stayed for the Arduino level 2 workshop in the afternoon and learned about Lilypads (wearable Arduino Unos) and programmed a remote control car. This year Saskcode is funded by a grant they received from the federal government; they provide programming for K-12 teachers and loan classroom kits out to teachers once they've been trained for one month at a time. The presenters even had a slide about STEAM in their introduction, and noted that one of the key initiatives is to get girls and non-Euro Canadians interested in technology - they noted that current research illustrates that by grade 3, girls do not see themselves in tech fields and noted this needs to change as the tech field is dominated by white, middle-aged, men. Diversity is needed in the tech field to spark creativity and innovation.
All in all it was a fascinating, brain-growing neurons, kind of a day. I learned that e-bay has Arduinos for a fraction of Amazon's cost, and that creating my own classroom kit is within my budget.
These are some of the key STEAM projects we will be focusing on this year:
Sarah Gerrard teaches Visual Arts 9-12 at Warman High School. She recently received a grant from the Prairie Spirit Schools Foundation to infuse her courses with STEAM.