E-textiles: Custom Design Cushions with LED Lights

etextiles_pillowcase-320_smallA group of young fashion engineers gathers on Saturday afternoons to design and create e-textiles; bracelets, soft toys or other accessories using conductive materials and LED lights. The design process starts with thinking about the functionality of the creation; Which materials will be needed and how to assemble everything together.

Items needed vary depending on a project. For these custom design cushions we used the following: felt fabric in different colors (from amazon.fr),  sewable LED lights (from Kitronik), conductive thread (from Kitronik), 3V Coin cell battery holder with the latch (from Kitronik or Lilypad), 1 x CR2032 Coin Cell Battery and filling (organic wool from amazon.fr).

We first designed the cushion’s artwork, then cut the patterns from a sheet of felt and sewed them on another sheet of felt (in this case size of a sheet was 30x30cm). Secondly, we decided where the LED lights should go and designed the circuit. It’s good to test if all the components function by connecting them with the crocodile clips. Thirdly, we sewed the components on the cushion with the conductive thread. Make sure to do it right – check the Sparkfun Tutorial on Conductive Thread and Conductive Thread – 10 Tips Youtube video by Adafruit Industries. Lastly, we stitched together the patterned felt sheet and a blank one leaving a small opening for the filling on one side and closed the opening when the cushion was nice and puffy.

 

Board Games for Young Coders: Bits&Bites and Robot Turtles

Bits and Bytes and Robot Turtles GamesI recently purchased two board and card games, Bits and Bytes and Robot Turtles, to teach programming to children. I have now tested them in the classroom and at home with my 10 and 13-year-old kids. The family test group was a bit overaged and overqualified;  The teenager, an avid coder and a former Lego man, found these games far too easy. The 10-year-old beginner of programming seemed to enjoy playing and quickly understood the instructions of the games.

Out of all the groups I’ve played these games with, the primary school-aged kids from Grades 1 to 3 have most appreciated them.  They’ve grasped the rules of the game quickly and learned some basic concepts of coding such as algorithm, program and sequence along the play.

Robot Turtles is suitable for young players starting from age four. The aim is to guide your turtle home avoiding obstacles on the way. The basic gameplay is simple and it’s easy to add levels, introduce obstacles and functions, into the game. This game is very logical and instructions are clear. The format is pleasant with a nicely illustrated board and colorful play cards.

In Bits&Bytes your goal is to get your player, Bit, Byte, Data or Perl,  to the safe haven without being caught by the bugs or the CPU. Your player might also be hindered by the walls and therefore obliged to find an alternative route home. You have two options for the gameplay; in the basic game, you guide your player through the grid by issuing commands with the instruction cards. Advanced rules introduce functions and teach children conditional statements and loops. I had difficulties to understand what to do in Bits&Bytes first but eventually got it after being reminded of overthinking. This game does not have a board, but the cards should be distributed on the table or floor in a grid format.

Both games are definitely a great addition to a coding class in the pre and primary school when practicing sequences and basic algorithms.

To the Winter Hoods with the Migrating Birds

kivetSummer faded into autumn as August came to an end. We, summer residents in Finland, returned to our winter hoods with the migrating birds. Darkening nights, chilly northern wind and coloring leaves of birch trees were the first signs of nature hinting it’s time to go. I’m sad to leave the family behind but thrilled of the new beginnings in September; a new academic year starting for the children and exciting professional challenges for us parents.

paris-640_mediumIn France, it’s the time of the rentrée; the schools begin the first week of September, and Parisian streets fill with cars and people. It’s inspiring to exchange summer experiences with the friends who have returned from their corners of the world; to discover what they have seen, heard, read and learned.

A friend who spent her summer in the Silicon Valley told me about “fashioneering” – a discipline where fashion meets engineering. Maybe wearable computers and electronics built into clothing could inspire girls to code. Imagine jewelry that you could program to fit your outfit or a handbag with touch sensors and a siren to keep intruders away.

It’s time to share our dazzling adventures with the friends because those great summer ventures might encourage us all to try something new this fall.

Where is Your Safe Haven? Let us Talk About Earth Overshoot Day

Where do you go when the summers in the city get boiling hot or when you feel exhausted? Do you have a hiding place where you can escape when the sun burns and our natural world disappears before your eyes? A cozy, happy corner where you are at your most comfortable. You are free, serene and burden free.

lakesidewalk-640_medium

Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian European Space Agency astronaut, Italian Air Force pilot and engineer, also a first person who brewed espresso in space, spent 199 days at the International Space Station from November 2014 to June 2015. During the stay, she and other members of the crew performed numerous scientific experiments and maintained their spaceship, the one and only that kept them alive.

Up in space at the ISS with a small well-prepared crew or on planet earth with 7.6 billion fellow humans, our responsibilities stay the same. We have to care for each other; live in peace. Also, take care of our vessel, planet earth, because that’s all we have.

beach-640_medium

Did you know that August 1st, 2018 was the Earth Overshoot Day? It was the date when we (all of humanity) had used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year? If the whole world consumed like the French, for example, we would need 2.9 piles of earth to produce enough for our needs. This is way more than the planetary mean during past few years, 1.7 Earths.

The healthy and pollution free edges of the world are getting scarce, and the humanity is consuming more than nature can give. The current trend shouldn’t be our destiny! Even if our planet is finite, human possibilities are not, states Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that advances the science of sustainability and hosts and determines the date of Earth Overshoot Day.

Global Footprint Network has identified four main areas that characterize our long-term future most forcefully: cities, energy, food and population. All of them are shaped by our individual and collective choices. For instance, I can replace car miles by public transportation, by biking or walking. If everyone around the world reduced driving by 50%, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 12 days.

Educating children is the best investment for the wellbeing of our planet.  If you are a parent or an educator, have a look at the classroom recourses provided on the World Overshoot Day website: propose your students measure their own Ecological Footprint and ask them to think about ways of reducing it. Or why not to create a sandwich with tasty leftovers.

How Wonderful, It Rains! – It’s Time to Focus on Work

Start of the academic year is like an annual new beginning; children transition to a new grade and we adults have a chance to start something fresh and exciting: a hobby, a degree or a different manner of working. The rainy days of August are just perfect for plunging into the planning of the new season; I’m exhilarated to tackle the latest coding tasks and teaching assignments starting in September. I hope you are too!

This fall is about teaching and learning about computational thinking without screens; demonstrating unplugged coding activities to transfer the skills and concepts of the computer science to the pre and primary school students. Luckily, plenty of printed and online resources offer suitable, age-appropriate activities for young children as well as tools for parents and educators alike.

helloruby-640_medium1-e1534255570236.jpgMy personal favorite for the unplugged classroom activities is Hello Ruby, the world’s most whimsical way to learn about technology, computing, and coding, as described on Hello Ruby’s website. Originally a book, created by Linda Liukas, now a series of them translated in more than 20 languages, aims to create, promote and evaluate exceptional educational content on computational thinking for 4 -to 10-year-olds. Playful activities can be downloaded from the website and complement Ruby’s adventures in coding, her journey inside the computer and expedition to the Internet. Hello Ruby also provides classroom resources for educators.

Code.org – Hour of Code supplies language independent unplugged activities for all grade levels from pre-readers onwards. Any educator is encouraged to teach the fundamentals of computer science, whether they have computers in the classroom or not. These lessons may be used as a stand-alone course or as complementary lessons for any computer science course.

Pre and primary school teachers are well-equipped to use the above mentioned age-appropriate exercises and innovate more because they regularly use hands-on manipulatives, games, songs and stories in teaching content to their students. These very activities can be useful in engaging young children in developing computational thinking skills such as algorithmic thinking, decomposition, abstraction or pattern recognition. Asking children to work with partners or in groups develops behaviors for working with others and dealing with frustration. Nurturing communication, cooperation, and empathy are maybe even more important skills than learning to code at an early age.

multicolored abacus photography
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

From Festival Hopping to Street Basketball – Ten Urban Activities for August

suomisata-640_medium

Finland is in a festive mood all through August providing music and the most fascinating theatre and visual art events for all tastes. Helsingin juhlaviikot (Helsinki Festival), Tampereen teatterikesä (Tampere Theater Festival) and the Nordic countries’ coolest and one of the most unique music experience, Flow Festival entertain the culturally attuned.

Go see national monuments or museums to explore the history of Finland throughout the centuries. Medieval castle of Turku (building started in 1280), Olavinlinna castle (1475) in Savonlinna or the ruins of Kajaanin linna (1604), the smallest stone-castle in Europe and the northernmost castle in the world, provide a glimpse of Finland’s history under the Swedish rule. The Senate Square in Helsinki, most of which was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in the neoclassical style, with the Helsinki Cathedral and the statue of Emperor Alexander II, take us back to the days when Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.

Visit the Sibelius monument or Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki to discover the importance of art in constructing the Finnish national identity before and right after the independence. Ateneum has the country’s oldest and largest art collection telling a story of Finnish art – have a look at masterpieces here, online.

sprinter-640_mediumThe soul has been nourished – it is time to long jump, triple jump, high jump or just run around the track! Every municipality, big or small, has a well-equipped sports facility, open and free for everyone. Anyone may borrow javelins, discuses or shots, but should bring the equipment back as it’s for all of us to enjoy.

Street basketball is a great way to meet locals. Almost every town has a street basketball court as well as a disc golf course (frisbee golf in Finnish). In a rainy day, a sporty traveler might prefer diving into a local swimming pool – the pool etiquette is published online and in multiple languages!

pilvet-320_smallFor a lazy day, or to gather ideas for a travel or photo journal, I’d recommend you to pop in a local library to read magazines, newspapers or listen to the music. On a sunny day, enjoy a picnic in the park and watch clouds!

And don’t forget to inspect the local market, usually located in the center of the town, and have “pullakahvit” – coffee with a Finnish style (blueberry) bun.

  1. Visit a national monument.
  2. Visit an exhibition.
  3. Play street basketball.
  4. Try all track and field disciplines.
  5. Play disc golf.
  6. Visit a local library.
  7. Write/draw/photograph a journal.
  8. Enjoy a picnic in a park.
  9. Watch clouds.
  10. Visit a local market.

Ten Low-cost Nature-themed Holiday Activities for August

chalet-640_mediumAugust is the best holiday month in Northern Europe. Locals are about to start a new academic year, yet the weather is still warm, and the mosquitoes are already gone. Blueberries and raspberries are ready to be gathered in the vast forests, water in the thousands of lakes is smooth like silk and as warm as the summer evening breeze. Nightless, and therefore sometimes also sleepless, nights are over; in August we Finns admire sunsets and stargaze.

deer-640_mediumAnyone, Finns and foreigners alike, may explore Finland’s forests or countryside freely thanks to a legal concept, Everyman’s Right,  unique to the Nordic countries. Picking wild berries and tasty mushrooms and fishing with a simple rod and line are allowed to everyone, but making a campfire or driving a motor vehicle off the road will require landowners permission. Fish and hunt are only allowed with appropriate permits. With rights come responsibilities – respecting others and nature!

scenic-640_medium

National parks are Finland’s national treasures and ideal sites for hikers, climbers and animal spotters. All forty of them have marked hiking routes, nature trails, information boards and picnic sites. Only a few national parks and popular recreational areas have particular trails designated for mountain biking though, and off-road cycling is generally not permitted to prevent harmful erosion. The photo was taken at Hiidenportti National Park in Sotkamo.

cycling-640_mediumRegardless, Finland offers excellent opportunities for biking in diverse and changing sceneries. A unique nationwide network of well-maintained and uncrowded roads is highly suitable for bicycle touring. Visit Finland’s Pyöräillen Suomessa, a website dedicated to cycling in Finland offers a vast amount of information including guides, maps, and biking routes. Pedaling is an economical way of moving around and sightseeing!

Another fun activity in nature for all ages is a modern treasure hunt – Geocaching. All you need for this fun sport are a device or a smartphone suitable for GPS positioning and a web connection. Anyone can register free of charge at the website of the worldwide geocaching community at www.geocaching.com. In case you’d like a tech-free holiday, search for geocaches with the help of a simple map is a viable option.

A well-liked activity of us northerners including a map and a compass is orienteering. Orienteering clubs arrange recreational orienteering events mainly from April to October. More precise information on these events can be found in Rastilippu service at www.rastilippu.fi. You need to create a user profile in order to use the service.

  1. Pick berries or mushrooms.
  2. Go fishing.
  3. Hike in a forest.
  4. Visit a national park.
  5. Bike.
  6. Go Geocaching.
  7. Try orienteering.
  8. Swim in a lake.
  9. Admire a sunset by a lake.
  10. Stargaze.