Just a Minute, My Brain is on Fire!

A few weeks ago we finished our first Inventor Camp of the year.  The first Inventor Camp of the year is always a little intense.
 
I’m guilty of raising the level of the challenge yet again.  Last year, we asked the students to do more complex wiring than we had in the past (see below for a description of the past few challenges).
 
This year I stretched the students yet a little further.
 
During camp, a couple of students and I were having a conversation about binary and how bits can represent a byte and how that can be transmitted over a wire or through the air.  The young lady then proceeded to show me how her program lit up 8 LEDs to represent a byte of ASCII data and what character she was currently displaying.
 Brain On Fire 01_750px
I asked if they understood what they needed to do next, and the young gentleman next to her said,
 
“Yup.  I’ll get to that in a minute…
 
RIGHT NOW, MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!”
 
I can appreciate how he felt.  I had that same experience while I was talking to Peter Skillen during our podcast interview.  Peter has been a forward thinking educator for years, and he’s still pushing people’s buttons and limits.  If you need a little fire this week, subscribe and listen to his episode:
 
Let’s light more imaginations on fire,
Steve
 
PS – Here’s that little overview I promised of what we’ve done at Inventor Camp the past few years.
  • In Year 1, the students used two sensors together with a good mechanical design to stop an intruder from taking a Top Secret device.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 2, the students had to make one of the two sensors into a proximity alert and the other into a red alert.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 3 (last year),the students connected an H-bridge amplifier between the Arduino microprocessor and a motor because the microprocessor has current-limited output.  They also integrated one sensor as in past years to decide when to stop the motor.  The challenge was to automatically lower a probe onto a comet without destroying the probe by crashing it into the surface.
  • This Year, the students have 3 challenges that dovetail and require lots of teamwork (just as in the past).  Because we don’t want to ruin the surprise, I can’t tell you exactly why they are doing the following tasks, but you can sign your kids up to find out!
    • The first challenge involves creating a wireless communication system using binary (the kids really DID understand the concepts–I was impressed).
    • The second challenge involves a tight specification on a 3D design which is considerably harder than what we’ve asked in the past.  The final 3D printed parts have to fit snugly into a complex figure, and I challenge a bachelor’s level mechanical engineering student to create a good design on the first try!
    • The third challenge involves programming a small robot and designing a mechanical setup on the robot to retrieve an important payload.
The kids totally stepped up to challenge this year.  I am amazed at what they did.  I’m amazed every year.