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.

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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.

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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 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.

 

What Does Emolevy Mean to Me?

vrcoaster-640_mediumI quit my permanent job at a respected international organization one and a half years ago. I had been thinking about changing the course of my life for quite some time, but it was not until I was well advanced with the web development studies at Udacity when I felt empowered enough to pull myself out of the golden gage finally.

Leaving the job I never really enjoyed that much, was the best decision I’ve ever made. I took the liberty to follow my dreams, yet I was still uncertain about my next moves. My dear husband gave me a year to figure things out, but as it turned out, it took a bit longer. I should have planned the future steps while I was still working;  Living from the spouse’s pocket has not been cool, neither fun for a prolonged period.

attitude-640_mediumIt will take two years; I have now understood until I’ll be able to provide my financial input to our household. The first year passed by so fast while I was gathering myself: Fixing the physical problems an office work had caused and the disappointment caused by the years of fulfilling the unfulfilling tasks in an unsuitable job. Being in a position of taking orders and implementing them from nine to six, every day and every week.

codecoffee-640_mediumChanging to a more active role of a decision maker does not come naturally but the joy to perform daily actions does when you love what you do. You have to work for and grow to your new operative functions. It is wonderfully exciting, yet frightening, to figure out how things work: how you start a business in a foreign country, how you run it and make it grow. Every day is different and challenging and I, myself, am responsible for my happiness at work.

Put that Learning into Practice

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Learning something is somewhat comfortable, but putting it into practice is the tricky part. We have an extraordinary ability to grasp new knowledge, but it’s not until we implement the learning that it becomes a real skill. We need to activate the potential by creating something useful, practical and/or beautiful that showcases the accumulated information in practice.

A new language, for example, is of no use, if you don’t read in it or communicate in speaking or writing. The same applies to computer skills: your knowledge of JavaScript or Python will only be tested when you create a new web application.

Project-based learning provides a solution. You gain content knowledge and accumulate critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills by carrying out a meaningful real-life project. For example, when I learned front-end web development, it was only the first big project, Neighbourhood map, that tested if I had actually understood all the online lectures I had listened over the past few months.

There are dozens of online courses teaching web development, but I personally favor the Nanodegree programs of Udacity because they are project-based and community oriented. Udacity provides excellent forums for asking questions from peers and mentors alike. Students work on different projects over an extended period of time – from a week up to a few months. They are engaged in creating apps with varying complexity and therefore get to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a product for the web or app store. Over the course of project development, and especially when you feel like giving up, the community is there to support you.

Screen capture of a Cafe and co-work appThe Udacity Nanodegree programs don’t only require us, students, to implement the skills we have acquired but at the same time provide us with the portfolio projects demanded when applying to jobs. These projects also serve as references for future work. The code has been reviewed and is, therefore, according to industry standards.

Putting knowledge into practice should be a requirement for all educational bodies. I might have become a mechanical engineer had the formulas of rotational motion been demonstrated in the real-life projects at the high school physics class!