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Hacking a ton

Within the hacker communities, a so-called hackathon (the contraction of hacking and marathon) is a well-known concept which consists of meeting up and getting some intensive programming done, typically during a day or so.

The hackaton or hackatonne (/hæk.ə.tʌn/) however is a less known concept (to be fair, actually a completely unknown concept at the time of writing). It consists of hacking an actual metric ton of devices.

While the hackathon is supposed to be a relatively short and intense event during which you are supposed to get something useful done, there are no such constraints on the hackaton. Reaching the full metric ton of hacks can take weeks, months or even years. Also, the definition of a hack is quite broad and diffuse, but can essentially be summarized to “any modification or use of an object that was not originally intended”, leaving a lot of freedom in the choice of activities.

So for our first hackaton session on May 22nd, we went to Guldminen to disassemble toys. Guldminen is physically a hangar situated in a recycling station, a sort of laboratory in which the Guldminers collect discarded materials in order to develop new ways to reuse, upcycle, repair, redesign and redistribute them.

 

Aha-experience as Supergirl sees through the appearances.

As a part of our STEM-for-girls experiment the location was perfect to train the children in disassembling devices, the objective being to strengthen the habit of investigating what lies behind the surface. Also, practicing simple motor skills such as screwing (clock-wise) and unscrewing (counter-clock-wise) is quite relevant for children of that age.

Guldminers Monica and Henrique took us for a walk around the recycling station and presented Guldminen’s facilities – a lot of machines including a lathe, a CNC milling machine / laser cutter a planer and more.

In preparation of the session, Guldminen had collected items for us during the week-end. These included a vinyl disk player, a large amount of plastic cars / cranes / tractors / bulldozers / trucks, an electrical trike, a cash register, kitchen toys, just to name some.

Frenetic unboxing of the week-end’s harvest of trashed toys.

The hacking took place around two tables that Monica had prepared for us, with groups forming dynamically depending on which objects the children found interesting. We had brought additional screwdrivers and pliers, batteries, a couple of microcontrollers and a glue gun. Eight volunteers, mainly parents, assisted the groups when necessary. The session turned out to be well suited for a multi-aged group, as the smaller children (3y) followed along and entertained themselves with all the “new” toys.

 

 

 

The purpose of the session was mainly disassembly, but on the reassembly side we did manage to activate a piezoelectric speaker from a walkie-talkie using the Arduino controller.

During the final evaluation, the children expressed that they had had a lot of fun and that we should definitely do similar sessions again.

Some of the learnings of the day are:

  • remember to bring a lot of screwdrivers, in particular with PH and PZ heads
  • in case you want to also do reassembly, have some projects ready beforehand
  • all disassemblable toys  have an interest, but electronic toys are easier to use in a STEM-teaching context

Some ideas for next steps:

  • organize a more repair- and reassembly-oriented workshop
  • set up a gaming arcade – would require monitors and game controllers, and preferably also some computers
  • give old computers new life by installing Linux on them
  • build a giant cinema-like screen by juxtaposing discarded monitors

 

Catch of the day: this fast little devil earned us 4.2 kg for the hackaton. Total session score: 8.1 kg.

 

 

On the subtle connection between girls and STEM

It was back in the late ’90s, we were attending DTU’s course on digital electronics. Given the “historical” context – the upcoming dot.com bubble and digital revolution – it would turn out to be an important course. It gave us insights into the inner workings of computers, the foundations of the Internet-based society. In the subsequent decades, this type of heavy-weight development skills would give access to the highest yielding jobs, be determining in whether tech start-ups would make or break it  and provide a ticket to the gold rush of IT entrepreneurship. We were around a hundred guys in the auditorium. And a girl. One. On the advanced course the following semester, it was guys-only.

Fast-forward to 2017. IT is everywhere. IT has changed almost everything. Everyone is exposed to it, almost everyone depends on it. In even the least developed corners of the planet people are connected by mobile devices. The largest and fastest growing corporations are very young, only a few decades old, and were built on the IT-revolution by entrepreneurs in their twenties.

More than nine out of ten of the new-age entrepreneurs are men. The digital divide is (also) an extreme gender gap.

In order to understand what was going on on the gender parameter, we in January started a STEM course at the Danish-French School targeted primarily at girls. The objective was to build an interest for electronics, programming, physics and science in general through a playful, constructivist curriculum centered around drones and robotics. The age range of the initial 12 participants was 5-13, split equally between genders (6-6). After a few sessions, three of the boys and one of the girls had left the course and five new girls had joined, giving a final gender split of 10-3. Having boys on the course would turn out to be essential in explaining the subtle relationship between girls and STEM.

Fun at the 3D printer

“You might spur scientific interest for subjects such as chemistry and biology. But the hard core subjects like physics and electronics… forget it.”, one female researcher warned. And so we began.

The course was comprised of 15 two-hour sessions, each consisting of an introduction (~15 min), free activities / free flight (~45 min), intermezzo (~15 min), free activities / free flight (~30 min), conclusion (~15 min). The sessions were framed by 2-5 volunteers depending on the days.

The free activities largely consisted of piloting the drones, but also disassembling/reassembling them, painting them with an air-brush, building obstacle courses, building a radio-controlled Arduino-based rover, programming the rover…

Training Mission: Save the baby-bear on the top of the mountain.

During the intermezzi we showed short videos (for instance FPV recordings), explained scientific principles (for instance how the GPS works, distances in the solar system, time dilation), tasted “astronaut” food…

From the start, all the children reacted very positively to the course. The training missions we had planned for the first day turned out to be too difficult, so from the second session we adjusted the missions to be “one-dimensional”, that is fly up/down, slide forward/back on the ground, left/right. One of the girls started building her own obstacle course and most of the others joined the trend.

 

The training area, the school’s gym, was split into four sections – three flight zones and a workshop table. The workshop table consisted of four stations: soldering, airbrush, Arduino programming, glue pistol.

 

The workshop table with four stations: Arduino programming, airbrush, soldering station and glue gun.

 

First FPV flight.

Each of the three flight zones had a drone that had to be shared between a number of children (~3) and an instructor. The roles of the instructor  (typically an older child) was to demonstrate the exercises, coach the children and, perhaps most importantly, to ensure that the children respected the turns. On several occasions we observed (and prevented) that the boys physically pulled the remote control out of the girls’ hands, with an enthusiastic “Let me show you!”. On one occasion an older brother almost tore off his sister’s FPV goggles.

Generally speaking, the enthusiasm of the boys had a tendency to shadow the participation of the girls. But more importantly, when the instructor explicitly shielded the girls, for instance by requiring the children to raise their hand before speaking, they seemed to bloom and started participating very actively.

Airbrush workshop.

One workshop that the girls found particularly interesting was the airbrush painting of the drones. When asked, the girls unanimously found it important that things look beautiful and the boys unanimously did not.

The participating children were slightly too young to do actual Arduino programming (the older ones were acting as flight instructors). However, one of the adult volunteers had built a radio-controlled rover, which could be programmed from the computer. A sequence of letters (w,s,a or d) were sent wirelessly to the robot which would then execute the corresponding commands (move forward, backwards, left, right). That type of programming spurred a lot of interest, for both boys and girls.

End-of-session evaluation. Fun: 5/5

Time will tell if these girls will eventually break the STEM gender stereotypes. What can be concluded as of now is that:

  • the interest in robotics is gender neutral in the sense that both boys and girls demonstrated a genuine fascination for the field
  • if not channeled, the boys tend to impede the girls from engaging and learning
  • during the 3½ months of exposure to the subject, the interest and engagement has increased for both genders

Our a priori expectation is that the continued exposure to the STEM subjects will nurture the interest as suggested in this experiment and will make the girls more receptive once we start addressing deeper technical aspects.

Bricolage & robotique, projets et liens

Voici quelques idées de projets et liens utiles suite à la session d’aujourd’hui. Tranche d’âge visée: 6-99 ans.

Les drones que nous utilisons sont les X5C-1 (Syma ou Bayang) et des Syma X11. Il sont légers (=inoffensifs), robustes, assez grands pour être stables et précis, utilisables en intérieur et surtout, nous pourrons nous reservir de leurs composantes pour en faire d’autres jouets, par exemple pour les reprogrammer et faire d’autres robots téléguidés.

Ils sont disponibles par exemple sur amazon.co.uk, banggood.com, alibaba.com, dx.com, ebay.com et coûtent généralement 250-500 dkk.

Suite à l’évaluation de notre session précédente, nous avons décidé de simplifier les missions et avons aujourd’hui travaillé sur des vols en une dimension à la fois (haut-bas, vol au ras du sol avant-arrière, gauche-droite).

Une nouveauté introduite à la journée francophone hier (dimanche 26/02/17) était la table de bricolage. Elle est constituée de quatre ateliers (aérographe, soudure, pistolets à colle, électronique).

Le rover sur lequel nous avons travaillé est le Mini Tank Robot de Keyestudio et le code se trouve sur https://github.com/raisoman/arduino-efd. Le code de véhicule autonome souffre aujourd’hui de l’inexactitude du senseur ultrasonique et il faudra donc rendre le processus de mesure plus robuste. Aussi, les enfants aimeraient pouvoir téléguider le rover, soit par ordinateur, soit par la télécommande (nRF24).

 

Le rover de chez http://www.olimex.com est basé sur le chassis ROBOT-2WD-KIT2, un driver de moteur BB-L298 et un nRF24L01+. Le rover est téléguidable avec une télécommande Syma, mais les moteurs des roues (ou le driver) a un problème d’assymétrie dans la puissance.

Le matériel FPV utilisé aujourd’hui est le Eachine VR007 avec une caméra tout-en-un, également Eachine (le tout à ~70 $), très bon rapport qualité-prix.

Nous attendons actuellement un module pour enregistrer le signal envoyé au casque de VR – petit projet de soudage/bricolage à l’horizon.

Également à l’horizon (les chiffres difficulté/durée indiquent la difficulté et la durée estimée de chaque projet) :

  • configurer Devo/Taranis pour pouvoir lancer l’enregistrement de films (Syma et Bayang) 2/3
  • mesurer degré d’humidité du sol des plantes de l’école (Arduino) 4/2
    • envoyer email à Stefan quand le sol est trop sec 4/2
  • finir rover Octanis 4/4
    • concevoir et imprimer roues avec axe intégré 4/2
    • concevoir/imprimer boitier principal 4/2
  • bras robotique (à imprimer + servos + arduino) 5/5
  • réparer voiture téléguidée cassée (imprimer nouvel axe hexagonal pour roues arrières)
  • configurer drone APM pour vol GPS 4/4
  • configurer encore un Devo 7E avec deviationtx (soudage, firmware flashing) 2/3
  • souder un fantôme OSHW 1/1
  • trouver pourquoi le fantôme OSHW de Stefan ne marche pas (besoin de reprogrammer?) 3/1
  • peindre les hélices (aérographe) 1/1
  • peindre les fuselages (aérographe) 1/3
  • construire un 250 en kit 3/3
  • construire un 250 à partir de pièces détachées 4/3
  • transformer un X5C en moteurs brushless (+ESC et flight controller) 4/4

Drôles de drones

Chers tous

Le programme de STEM de cette saison est à présent prêt: nous allons construire, piloter, démonter, reprogrammer, imprimer (en 3D), customizer, recombiner… des robots.

       

Le programme a été conçu pour faire particulièrement appel au filles, entre autre en concevant les sessions autour d’histoires pertinentes.

Les sessions auront lieu les lundis de 16-18h, commençant le 20/02, voir programme préliminaire ci-dessous:

Date

2017-02-20    Intro + Vol

2017-02-27    Peinture & décoration

2017-03-06    Vol

2017-03-13    Impression 3D et construction

2017-03-20    Vol

2017-03-27    Vol

2017-04-03    Rover

2017-04-10    Vacances de Pâques

2017-04-17    Vacances de Pâques

2017-04-24    APM Planner & Librepilot

2017-05-01    Vol

2017-05-08    Racing / FPV

2017-05-15    Station de recyclage

2017-05-22    Vol

2017-05-29    Air show

Âge: environ 6+.

Prix: gratuit pour les enfants de l’école. Participants externes: 750,-. Prix spécial membres des Journées Francophones: 350,-

Prévoir l’achat de matériel (drones, rover, moteurs, circuits électroniques…), achetable à l’école dans la mesure où nous avons des stocks (a priori entre 200 et 800,- en fonction du choix de projet).

Inscription avant le 05/02.

 

STEM training

Så kørte vores første STEM training session af stablen med matematik, programmering, vektor grafik, biologi og robotbygning.

d3js-demo
D3.js demo
cell-lab-demo
Cell lab demo
rover
Autonomous Arduino Rover
inkscape-demo
Inkscape demo

Places disponibles jusqu’au 31 août

15080073

Nous avons encore quelques places de disponibles à L’école franco-danoise de la maternelle jusqu’en 4ème. Fermeture des inscriptions le 31/08.

Si vous cherchez une école combinant le meilleur des pédagogies nordiques et française, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter. (ecolefrancodanoise@gmail.com, +45 4141 8228)

Lederskifte

14050040-anna

Kære forældre

Da Emmanuelle og jeg i august 2010 åbnede Den dansk-franske Skole, var det ingenlunde med intentionen om at skulle undervise, endsige lede foretagendet.

Det viste sig dog hurtigt at blive en nødvendighed – allerede fra december ’10 var vi nødt til at træde til. Den pædagogik vi ønskede, var simpelthen for svær at implementere for det personale, vi dengang kunne finde.

Fra det danske skulle underviseren forstå den fundamentale vigtighed af at opbygge barnets selvværd, skabe trygge, tillidsfulde rammer og værdsætte den alsidige personlige udvikling.

Fra det franske ønskede vi den generelle systematiske tilgang, evalueringskulturen og stræbenen efter det excellente.

Derudover skulle underviseren være solidt forankret i en fungerende praksis, kunne lede en aldersintegreret klasse og endeligt have en faglig ballast, der rakte en del ud over det, man sædvanligvis forventer af en skolelærer.

Vi havde brug for en ildsjæl, og vi søgte længe.

Og i foråret 2013 fandt vi Anna.

Anna kunne dengang ikke fransk, men hendes entusiasme, autentiske væsen og hendes faglige profil i øvrigt gjorde, at hun fra august 2013 blev vores primære lærer. Allerede dengang lå det i kortene, at hun på et tidspunkt skulle lede skolen og vi har siden da forberedt hende til opgaven.

Og her er vi så nu. På vores bestyrelsesmøde i torsdags overdrog jeg rorpinden til Anna. Det har været en glidende overgang, da hun reelt har fungeret som daglig leder siden foråret. I praksis vil hverken børn, personale eller forældre nok mærke den store forskel.

Min egen rolle bliver fremover mere tilbagetrukket – og mindre tidskrævende – i form af skolens økonomiansvarlige.

De bedste sensommmerhilsener

Nicolas