wearables

Microview necklace

In my last couple of microview blogs I posed the idea of making a removable circuit – meaning something to put a microview into which you can then take it out without requiring desoldering, and more importantly, without cutting off the microview pins.

I posed this question to twitter, and here were some suggestions:

The current winner is the final one by Grahame, mostly because I already had a dip socket with 14 inputs I wasn’t using.

I snapped this in half and cut off the unnecessary pins, and bent back the ones I did need:

I then got my soldering iron and stripper (whitwoo), cut off the ends of my heart rate sensor: I measured these so that it makes a circuit necklace similar to the necklace I made for york Raspberry Jam by placing the Microview in the center of my chest and pulling the wires to where they needed to be.

I then soldered these on, Data and ground to one header, power to the other and tried my necklace on again:

I look so impressed…

After some fiddling and getting it off my neck again I put some sugru I had from EMF camp on the headers to make it smoother and more finished, and some on the sensor itself to make the connection stronger:

Next steps after this are to put in a battery: I currently have one LiPo with me from my metawear kit I could repurpose: not sure where the best place to put this in is, possibly round the back of my neck again.

I also want to make the positioning of the microview more stable.

Ooh and for those who didn’t check my twitter: I’ve also released the code for this project on github.

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@CASInclude #DefineSouth : the big writeup

I’ve been talking about #DefineSouth for quite a while, and today the day finally came.

Myself and Craig had an “unGodley” start (Arthur’s puns are aweful) to the day at 7am, and we drove over to Bath at 8am. I wanted to be there early as I was both talking and setting up my workshop for the day, and Windows likes to be a nastypasty about Gemma drivers so the more time to fix things, the better.

Got to Bath and met up with Graham, one of the members of the pi-pub Bristol unofficial meetup who’d agreed to take the trip from Cornwall to help out for the day, and managed to find The Royal High School Bath which turned out to look rather a lot like Hogwarts:

We were greeted by Laura (or Miss Dixon) who’s the head of ICT there and the head of CAS Include, who showed us to my very nice computer room for the workshop and introduced us to the ICT technicians who helped get the computers up and running with Arduino. This turned out to go without a hitch and I’d got time to run back to the hall and set my lovely talk up and meet Meri Williams who was the other speaker and a very lovely lady.

After I’d checked my slides were all good I went back to make sure everything was ready back in the computer room, had time to grab a cuppa and then get on with my talk.

I felt overall my talk – 5 reasons to be in tech, with focus given to the creation of new stuff rather than the “hard” programming bit – went well, I made sure to ask the kids if they knew what everything I had on screen was and most seemed to have an answer – the only issue being uhm. Mixing up my left, and my right, with the audience’s left and right…whoops. I thought it was going to be harder talking to kids or that I’d get nervy because I knew 3 or 4 people in the audience, but in actual fact it was easier – the hardest thing I find with public speaking is the fact when you’re up there, you get about 50 adults all looking at you like they’re bored out of their brains and grumpy about it. Kids? Nope they’re all grinning, particularly when you get them to participate. So there you go.

At this point helper number 2 Arthur appeared having decided to not get up at an UnGodley hour and we got our juice and cookies, then headed back to the computer suite to prepare for the hoardes of screaming children. (Not many of them were screaming.)

In the first batch we had a mix of kids ranging from the really bright and helpful to the ones who wanted to dordle on their swivel chairs, as is always the case with these kinds of things. Wisely we made the kids turn their screens off – I remember this being a thing in y7/y8 so I could tell from the attitudes of some of the kids who’d already pulled up google and changed the background to pink on it for jokes that it’d be a good plan.

Went through the explanation of what we were doing, slowly guided them through the signalling wire hookup and explained what it was, and then let them loose on the worksheets for the rest of the slot. About halfway through the brilliant David McAll turned up to provide some more help – he’d previously helped me in workshops and offered to pitch in again, which was lovely.

On the whole it went well: all the kids got a circuit going, but at the programming portion…uhm…well…it was a bit slow, due to the fact everyone was running arduino from the network school drive, which therefore meant compile time was something like 3 minutes. No matter, a lot of the kids got through it and these 3 lovely ladies proudly said they’d finished and were helping out all the other children:

[picture nicked from RHSBCareers twitter – hope you don’t mind!]

Thing to remember about workshops is that size also determines speed: in this instance I didn’t bother suggesting sewing because well, programming took ages and there simply wasn’t enough time to have some children on circuits, some on programming and some on sewing as that would be difficult to manage.

One of my favourite moments of this section was both these girls pride at how well they’d done (“LOOK IT’S PINK! LOOK IT’S MULTICOLOURED!”) but also a girl sat in the back corner asking about studying Computer Science. It’s not something I’d ever expect because all the volunteering I do is a pipeline and it’s a while till they choose what direction to head in, but once again she’d been influenced by a family member who studied it and was wondering whether it was hard to get into it and required a lot of programming. I gave her my standard advice that no, it’s not hard once you get your brain into problem solving mode, and suggested she head towards codecademy for help learning to code, but also mentioned there’s plenty of roles in CS that don’t need code if that’s a blocker.

After an hour and a quarter they moved on, and David, Graham, Arthur and myself ran round the 11 pcs plus tester machine copying down the Arduino IDE from the network so that programming would be quicker. This meant we had no time for lunch but Graham managed to go grab us some sarnies during the next session, so none of us minded too much.

In the second session we had fewer numbers and older students, and in general it was more controlled: I properly explained the programming portion since I hadn’t bothered the first time round and this lead to it being a bit less erratic. By the third session which was another big group, I felt I’d got the pattern and got it all under control: iterations of workshops are so important because it means you know what works, what doesn’t, what needs improving and where people are likely to get stuck. That last part was why I explained the signal wire to the kids step by step, because during the Guiding workshop, this was the hardest bit to explain on the worksheet.

Another anecdote of interest was the moment I helped a boy with programming in the final workshop, who at the beginning had been dordling and not paying attention to my explanation of wiring, and was showing and explaining the colour changing bits at the top, and he went “OH this is hexadecimal isn’t it?!” without any prompting…I err. Yeah I wasn’t expecting that.

Finally the day wrapped up, and Emma-Ashley showed us the results of our efforts:

me and my helper crew set about getting the kits into bags and into my car, we headed downstairs for refreshments and got given cake and chocolates for helping out. Spoke to Emma-Ashley about her experiences at Hull and various catchup-y things having never actually met each other but again having several internet conversations (this is why I love twitter), and then we headed off to nando’s to carry on talking before Craig and myself went back up to Bristol.

Overall, a fab day, really well organised, great venue and a huge thankyou to Laura and the CAS #Include crew for organising everything and generally being that awesome. I loved every minute.

Future improvements on my workshop

1. A better storage method for the kits: I use 2 pimoroni tote bags at the mo because you know, I’m basically a walking talking advertisement for pimoroni at times, but I want to move to a reasonably big compartmentalised box with space for a couple of netbooks. This is because the packup process is a pain, so it’d be nice if not to pack all the kits back up, to separate them out into each component section for easy kit-recreation.

2. Work on making the sewing bit easier to integrate: I’m possibly thinking of getting a design done, similar to what kitronik do with the cat kits or what Lisa did for Jamboree bags, and printed to fabric, like a bird or a cat or something with markings for each bit. The thing is the main thing I want the children to take away from the workshops is programming and that electronics aren’t that complicated or expensive, so sewing’s always a bit of an extra if I have longer workshops.

3. Delete all my code from my laptop and start again from github – also check for the bugs we had during workshop: I think I must have several copies of the sketch on my drive somewhere and we’d got the wrong one which had a couple of buggy bits in there. Code worked for the day, but still a little annoying having one particular algorithm not do what I thought it would do.

4. Add a 5th takeaway sheet to all my resources which has all the links to where parents and teachers can get resources, tutorials and kits: I meant to do this but forgot (as I did with wearing my GEMMA necklace so I had to make do with showing kids the vines I have of my necklace), in order to make sure anyone who’s interested has access to all the stuff they’d been using.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology Present Around The World: The Writeup

Last night I took part in Present Around the World, an awesome competition in which 18-26 year olds get the chance to present a technical idea in order to gain experience presenting, as well as potentially win some monies.

I found out about this through my good friend Mr. David Whale and entered a talk on my recent Wearable Electronics workshop.

Other people spoke about e-taxi, an alternative to taxiing an airplane from the gate to the runway by using electric motors; utility belts for actual people, not just super heroes; the Internet of Things (yes, smart fridges were mentioned…); and producing energy from waste.

I spoke about my own interest in Computer Science, the statistics and problems with the school curriculum as it focuses on consuming, not creating technology, the statistics and problems with minorities not electing to take an interest in technology, which lead on to becoming a STEM ambassador, my own DIY projects in wearable tech and finally, the workshop and how it was funded and ran itself, as well as the future I have planned as far as this project goes.

At the end of my 8 minutes (intended to run on for 10 minutes: I don’t know what I missed out, as previous recordings I’d got up to about 10:10) I had 5 minutes of grueling questions about what I did, about wearable technology and why people should buy these devices, as well as what device I would make if I could make anything with it.

After everyone else gave their talk, the other competitors and I, of which 2 were Airbus interns and 1 of those was from Hull University’s business school, had a chat whilst the judges left the room to make a decision. One of the other competitors was particularly interested in how you become a STEM ambassador which is heartening, and amongst what we discussed we learned about what we were each doing for a job.

After what felt like hours but was actually around 45 minutes, the judges returned, and told us they’d decided on the two top people, myself and Campbell who spoke about e-Taxi, but were not sure which won. This led to tie-break, for which the question was “why did you choose this subject and what’s your passion in it?”. I honestly don’t remember my exact answer: something like “I like computers and electronics and I got bored of the lack of girls and the lack of creativity in the curriculum so I want to change it” but put more eloquently – which led on to “What message would you want people to take away from this talk?”: again, not sure what I said, it basically came down to “the school aren’t teaching the right things about technology but through my workshops and other embedded technology we can teach it creatively as well as combine other subjects like electronics and physics”.

They left for another 10 minutes, in which the other competitors congratulated myself and Campbell and we discussed who’d win.

The judges returned and told me I’d won, and that they’d like for me to wait another 10 minutes in order to give some verbal feedback, which I found extremely helpful. During the feedback session where I took a whole bunch of notes, the head of the Young Professional network, George who organised the day, said as we both work in Airbus, he and the judge working at Rolls-Royce would be happy to help coach at a later date before the next round, which will be in Southampton in June, and for which the IET pays for all travel and accomodation.

Overall, I’m over the moon, and again a huge thank you to Craig, who helped with slide design and gave me some incentive to keep practicing and recording myself what felt like 100 times in order to get my presentation right, and to improve my body language and overall style: I’m thinking of taking the recordings I still have (seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “Hi I’m Charlotte Godley, I’m a computer science student from the University of Hull and I’m currently doing an industrial placement at Airbus”) and doing a cassette boy style remix…

Another thank you goes to David Whale who nudged me into this and who’s been a huge inspiration towards me becoming active in STEM and in Raspberry Pi, and is just generally a really great person to bounce ideas off of.

I’m completely over the moon and look forward to my trip to Southampton and to meeting the other folks from Local Network heats, and thanks so much to the IET for this awesome event – I will be nudging my fellow studentsĀ into doing this when I get back to uni.

Wearable workshop resource release

Someone mentioned to me at Lovelace I’d still not released my resources. Mostly it’s because I’ve been meaning to make some edits and in the evenings after work I tend to just want to chill and cook, but anyway. I’ve made some edits, and my plan is thus:

– Release them to those who sponsored 20+ on hubbub – take feedback and improve

– put them on github for people to view, download and improve

– carry on making more resources in this way – this will probably come some time during my third year when I’m able to test them out more regularly with uni outreach.

So those of you who fit into the first category can expect an email sometime this eve. I’ve also added a page for those wanting to contact me about anything to do with wearables…not that I’m the expert or anything šŸ˜›