Category Archives: learning

🎵🔴🔶🔵 lego sound sequencer 🔵🔶🔴🎵

the winter show

Here’s the project setup, an hour before the show (and me, nervous and excited.)



things I learned:

it’s fun, it’s funny

Once people got it, they really loved it! People described it as “fun,” “addicting,” that they could “just keep going.” People smiled, laughed, got silly with the sounds: “ba-ba-ba-ba…. aaaaah….. hellooooooo?”


I would feel a little nervous if I saw them put on headphones without reacting… then immediately relax if they started smiling. “That’s so funny,” they’d say about the sounds. “Like a bunch of animals,” or “a load of babies.”




I feel good that I built up enough of a system that people started imagining other applications for it…

What if you could use it as a gameboard base, and create other blocks, puzzles, and drawings to play on top?

What if you could build upwards? Or save your song?


fewer bricks is better

It was often more effective to play with a few bricks at a time. More than roughly 2 of each color made everything a very noisy wash. From an interaction standpoint, it felt important to be able to see the causality of what you were building.


kids just wanna play

Kids just want to play with legos. They’re the best testers in that way, regardless of your project’s audience, because they’re not going to listen to you… they’re not going to read… they’re just going to explore hands first.

Here are some nice things that thoughtful little people made.

IMG_20171217_174200Like some of the adults, too, the kids were driven by what looked cool, not what sounded best. In fact, the temptation to make something with Legos was so strong that even people who were just loitering would just drop some bricks on the canvas for fun.


go with the grain

In some ways, I made a project which is against the grain of legos. You can’t push things together very hard, and you can’t stack things to any novel result.

In some ways, it was much better for adults, because it required deliberate care and attention. One parent said of their kid, “She doesn’t really know what to listen for.”
Adults might love the concept behind it, or start dreaming about the business prospects…
Legos shouldn’t required deliberate care and attention. In this sense, my project opposed Lego-ness.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 1.36.28 PM.png

My project also opposed the grain of public interactive showcases: it was very sensitive to changes in noise and light. The tech wasn’t too forgiving– errors in image-processing sometimes felt jarring and obvious.

Finally, as more visitors came and played with it, it would often behave more and more “broken” until I restarted it. Though, I think that’s probably common for many projects. Still, my dream for it was for recorded voices to accumulate, erase, and become more interesting over time, capturing the vibe of the last musician.



LLK week 2: scratch!

For this week, we were tasked to make a sketch in Scratch.
(Scratch is a programming UI for kids & beginners that uses lego-like, modular blocks.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 7.12.13 PM.png

Then respond to one of three questions. I’m focusing on this one:

Creative Learning Spiral – The Creative Learning Spiral is a way to think about the creative process. How would you describe or draw your own creative learning process?

kevin’s birthday

I’ve used Scratch before and I’m no stranger to programming either. It was my friend’s birthday last week, so I made him this:


His favorite color is orange.

A couple quick thoughts about Scratch:

  • sprite library is fun and comprehensive
  • color coding of blocks was helpful
  • it was clear to me which blocks to use when, because I have experience thinking like a programmer.
  • I wonder how it would be for others?
  • ways to manipulate sprites (delete, rearrange) were hidden/difficult
  • not very forgiving of error. If I rotated something too many times, I couldn’t undo/reset. I had to manually un-rotate it.
  • manipulation conventions— copy, paste, UNDO! — were difficult or nonexistent.

Continue reading

LLK week 1: childhood object

I’m starting an online class! It’s a big community chat started out of MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten group. Trying to copy posts here. Let’s see how this goes.

Assignment #1
This week we invite you to share a childhood object with the community.

Read Seymour Papert’s essay on Gears of My Childhood and think about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you.

Reply to this post to share a photo and short description of your childhood object.
What was special about it? How did it affect the way you think and learn?

Mirror, Mirror


MC Escher

As a kid, I was endlessly fascinated with mirrors. Like Papert’s gears, I think they offered a way of understanding mathematical mysteries to me with my body.

I was promised certain consistencies through them—light, matter, simultaneity. I learned that just because I perceived something, didn’t mean it was “real.” For many of us, this is probably our first foray into the virtual world. Continue reading

1st week at girl’s club

It’s been two weeks ago already since I started my first day as a T.A at the LES Girl’s Club.


LES Girl’s Club is a non-profit that offers a range of incredible classes and facilities for area girls. Science, art, tech… all very hands on. I’m helping out in the maker space this semester, with a small class of high school girls.

I’m volunteering because I’m hoping that spaces where young people can make things together will eventually distribute skills, knowledge, and confidence more evenly to underserved folks, esp women. Continue reading

LCD works!

After endless struggles in week 6, I took some time after class and finally got the LCD screen to work. It turns out, soldering all the pin connections did the trick!

(message when plant is well-watered)

(aerial view of wirings)


I mounted the whole thing on an acrylic storage tray from Muji. It now plugs into the wall directly too. I would like to program the piezo speaker to chime when the sensor threshold goes from “wet” —> “dry.”

I felt really proud after debugging the system. This one was the most finnicky hardware project I’ve done yet, and I managed to get all the sensors working after many many failed tries. 💪🌱

on computation, nyan cat

Computers! Why should we all learn to talk to them?

Sure, it could get you a cushy job. But what more is there on a cultural level if we imagine every single person thinking computationally?

The most compelling argument I’ve encountered so far comes from Seymour Papert, the co-inventor of the LOGO programming language and Turtle. He wrote Mindstorms which is a powerful and short book about computational education.

Kids draw geometric shapes by telling an onscreen “turtle” what to do.

Programmatic thinking directly aligns with my excitement towards making education more creative and active. And by active, I mean that a young person has direct dialogue with a very powerful tool. She can access knowledge and create knowledge herself. She can fix problems herself. In very few other parts of life are we encouraged to debug failure.

Another very powerful example of computers as a creative haven is Minecraft. That, in fact, is its own universe unbound by conventional physics. What’s most impressive to me is how Minecraft is not only its own virtual world, but how incredibly generative it is as a group of people. Not only have young people built their own functioning computer, but they have also created communities that are hierarchically flat, and self-regulated. That is pretty amazing.

The TLDR? –> Computers can make some cool, unexpected stuff. It’s even more exciting when computers make entire communities more confident as creative people. 💖

Before I have the skills to push that vision along, let’s just appreciate this Nyan cat for now.

This was my 2nd drawing. My first drawing was this Mona Lisa, which initially created without variables. That slowed everything down, because I would reposition everything ad nauseum.

Variables helped so much with Nyan Cat because I could position parts relative to some base element (the poptart body) rather than (0,0).

The most difficult part of this was the rotation of the tail. It drove me up the wall because I could not intuitively “get” what axis it was turning around.


I tried using the “translate();” function to control the rectangle’s x, y position while it was rotating. This worked, but then it subsequently translated every other part of the cat. (If anyone knows how to make multiple rotations without tearing hair out, pls help.)

In this term I hope to make something driven by fun and creativity; ideally, it would be a tool that people could use for drawing, or building something silly. Maybe it interacts with hardware, or becomes a game which relies on creativity. It would be the first step towards my Turtle dream, at least.