iDesign: a new Dublin School course

Dr. Kennedy created a new course this fall to introduce our students to design, engineering and coding. I asked him to describe the projects you can see in the photo. Here is what he had to say:

"The iDesign class was a great success. The students couldn't have been more connected. Wonderful outcomes. Thanks for giving me that opportunity!

Each student had to come up with their own iDesign product in order to exercise their acquired knowledge of intelligent devices and software programming, as well as to learn some product development strategies, including conception planning and reporting, peer review, invention, fabrication, refinement and presentation. The product had to be built around an Arduino or Arduino-like microcontroller and software and to include at least one sensor (input) and one effector (output).

Both Harrison and Tatum integrated Neopixel LEDs as the effectors into their projects. They're software addressable to adjust individual LED red-green-blue colors and intensities. Harrison used prefabricated Neopixel strips (5 LEDs per; 8 total) which he wired for signal, power and ground and hot-glued into the sides of a top hat. He embedded a sound impact sensor, glued a Squareware microcontroller into the top of the hat and programmed it to flash the LED strips in a wave-like colored "hop" (max intensity, of course) whenever the sensor detected a somewhat loud sound like a hand clap or the beat of the music. It's a totally hip top hat for entertainment. I told him we could probably go into business with them.

Tatum built an artificial firefly jar to remind her of her childhood at her grandparent's house. She soldered two to three individual Neopixels onto thin, barely visible signal, power and ground wires at random intervals, and suspended them from the lid of a large glass jar to create the illusion of individual fireflies in flight. Powered by an Arduino microcontroller hidden in the jar lid and programmed with custom software, the jar randomly selects a single LED and rhythmically pulses its color and intensity to imitate a real firefly. She also chose a photoresistor sensor which regulates, based on the intensity of the room lighting, the rate of firefly activity. It's really quite compelling, especially in a darkened room where you don't see the suspension wires and the fireflies have heightened activity.

What's neat is that both projects could be improved or redesigned without additional fabrication--it's all in the software to change colors, patterns, and so on. For instance, Tatum could color her own alien fireflies and imbue them with otherworldly frenzy. Harrison could design a myriad of pixel patterns that might flow or spin around the hat for some awesome visual effects. The possibilities are truly endless." -Dr. Kennedy