Kitware Volunteers at the SAGE Science and Health Discovery Night

April 30, 2014

Kitwareans attended the Shenendehowa Advocates for Gifted Education's (S.A.G.E.) Science and Health Discovery Night last Friday to demonstrate how the digital world and the physical world can be connected. To provide the students with a hands-on experience that connected the digital world of computing with unique inputs in the physical world, we used MaKey MaKeys, invention kits that encourage out-of-the-box thinking. The kit includes a MaKey MaKey board, alligator clips, and a USB cable. It provides quick plug-and-play capability with any computer. You can turn almost anything into your new keyboard, as long as you create a circuit with something that conducts enough current! With this in mind and armed with the MaKey MaKeys, Kitwareans created several unique demos for the students to explore and challenge their understanding of typical computing. We turned bananas, oranges, Play-Doh, and potatos into unique keyboards for our computers, turning computing upside down!

For one demo, we used Scratch (another great idea to come out of MIT) to build a really simple program that controlled a fish-like sprite. He changed colors, made sound effects, and popped up text bubbles to say hello. Students controlled the sprite with Play-Doh, spoons, graphite pencil drawings, and fruit, and they were  encouraged to mix it up and see what else they could do. We also pulled up Scratch to let them adjust the parameters of the program, from changing what each input controlled to making the sound effects repeat. The magic wand drawing that played a "fairydust" sound was popular!

Our most popular demo was the "biano" (or banana paino). To make the piano, Lai-Yee connected bananas to the MaKey MaKey to trigger the keys being played. With this banana keyboard, students were able to simulataneously experience both science and music, and we even had a few pianists play some beautiful music!

We also showcased a "human sound synthesizer," where several students held the positive ends of the circut (made easier with Play-Doh grips) while another student held the hot potato (the ground) and completed the circuits through high-fives. Wes mapped each positive to a different instrument or sound, including a car horn, a viola, a triangle, and a person shouting, resulting in quite the cacophony! We also showcased a homemade game controler for PacMan and a banana-orange setup for Minecraft.

Over 3,000 people attended the Science and Health Discovery Night, which was was hosted by the Shenendehow Advocates for Gifted Education (S.A.G.E.). As in previous years, this was another great event, and both students and Kitwareans had a great time! This is one of the local events that's always exciting for us to participate in, and we hope that in some way, we inspire the next generation of scientists, inventors, and creators.

Kitware would like to thank S.A.G.E. for the opportunity to pariticapate in and sponsor such a wonderful event! We would also like to send a big "thank you!!" to all the Kitwareans who volunteered their time brainstorming, preparing, and helping out at the Science Night: Lisa Avila, Lai-Yee Burnham, Roni Choudhury, Brian Helba, Naomi Hoffman, Luis Ibanez, Steve Jordan, Matt McCormick, Sandy McKenzie, Wes Turner,  and Yumin Yuan. Thank you!


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