To kick off week 9, we began experimenting with Makey Makey, an easy-to-use circuit board which plugs into a PC or Mac via USB. It allows users to emulate keyboard key presses by using virtually any conductive object. Here at Help Desk, we used bananas to create a piano, but the possibilities are endless, for example, attaching aluminum foil to stairs and then to the makey makey to create a musical instrument controlled by the steps of travelers.
Since week 8, we have also been working on a 2009 Mac Pro. Thus far, we have upgraded the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to a new Radeon RX580, but the dated Xeon CPUs (Central Processing Units) create a bottleneck which we will attempt to remove by upgrading them to some slightly newer, 6-core units. No matter what industry you choose to work in, knowledge of computer assembly, disassembly, and repair is a valuable trait, and if you haven’t already, you should invest some time in learning about it.
This week, we experimented with multiple Virtual Reality technologies. With virtual reality, users can immerse themselves in a complex virtual world, whose detail is limited only by the imagination of the developer. A common type of Virtual Reality headset connects to a PC. Multiple cables for video, audio, and power are connected between the headset and the PC.
The headset uses a camera to see light invisible to humans, which is emitted from the lighthouses. Using the controllers, you are able to manipulate objects in the game with your hands. I enjoyed using tactile manipulation in Fruit Ninja, a game which otherwise becomes boring on a normal touch screen.
PlayStation VR works in a similar manner, but connects to a PlayStation 4 console instead of a PC, and is a more economical choice for those who do not have a powerful computer. I noticed the console’s lesser performance while playing Beat Saber, but in the end had just as much fun.
Playing games with VR is fun, but there are also educational purposes for the technology. Students can learn about various topics in a more immersive manner, and have hands-on experiences without the hassle of field trips or the inability to obtain something in the real world (Ex. taking a field trip to the moon to learn about possible life forms).
To kick off week 5, we began expanding our curriculum using Empow Studios’ Talent Box. Talent Box is an online suite designed to provide teachers with an easy way to integrate STEM/STEAM into their classroom. Through Talent Box, students can learn about various topics such as 3D design, game design, or programming using high-quality video-based tutorials. Then, they submit their work through the web-based interface, making their teacher’s job much easier. I hope to expand my knowledge of Minecraft Redstone engineering and architecture using this curriculum.
One might dismiss Minecraft as a mere game for children, but its nature actually allows for contraptions of amazing complexity to be built. Using various Minecraft Redstone techniques and blocks, I created this 3×3 Piston Door. The way redstone works in Minecraft is not unlike the way electricity does in real life, leading to a fun and educational way for students to learn about electrical engineering, as well as engineering in general.
Earlier this week, we experimented with Sonic Pi. Sonic Pi is a programming language built from the ground up solely for the purpose of creating music. I enjoyed experimenting with miscellaneous sounds, tweaking effects such as reverb, and attempting to adapt knowledge of music theory to this very unique piece of software.
3D printer pens such as the 3Doodler Create are an affordable introduction to 3D printing technology, and I enjoyed creating different three dimensional figures.
Unity is a popular game engine used by various popular games, which can be compiled to run on a variety of platforms. I enjoyed experimenting with this 3D kart racing game by looking at the game’s code, and adjusting different parameters while observing the impact it had.