Robots that fetch you tea, you say?
That was the response of most people when we (myself and Ste Brennan) said we were going on a physical computing course at Manchester’s MadLab in association with the region’s Omniversity. Robots were a small spec on the horizon compared to the level we dabbled, but it was fun and inspirational all the same.
The course was run by the Omniversity of Manchester and held at Manchester’s Digital community space MadLab, and was an introduction to Arduino and physical computing.
Attending the course was a real mix of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Among the attendees were art students, programmers and inventors alike. The course ran at a pace that was comfortable for everyone. It didn’t leave anyone behind, nor did it leave people sat waiting for the next step.
Getting started really took me back to school and electronics classes, with a plethora of wires, LED lights and resistors, which I immediately started sticking into my circuit board. This obviously (as it had done in school) returned no results. Nothing lit up, made a sound or even gave me (or my fellow attendees) an electric shock. At this point I thought I’d sit back and listen for a while.
We started off with an interesting and knowledgeable introduction to Arduino and its creators, along with a glimpse of the weird and whacky things people had been creating. After that we were all ready to go.
As I say, robots were a far cry from what we were about to embark on, but that did not detract from the sense of excitement and achievement we attained after managing to light up an LED on a physical circuit (Arduino) board with a few lines of code. The lights progressed on to two lights, and then on to physical controls to dim them, make them flash, and pretty much anything you can do with an LED, to be honest.
Arduino is a great technology to get into and the limits are pretty much endless with what you can do. Not only can you program something on a computer to have a physical reaction, you can flip it around and interact with a program called Processing.
With Processing you can introduce a physical action which in turns tells the computer to do something. As part of the course we also had a quick play with the Processing side, using analogue dials to bend and pitch sound frequencies through our computer speakers.
The Beginner’s Guide to Arduino and Physical Computing was an excellent course, the tutor was really helpful and knowledgable and I would recommend anyone who is even mildly interested in this sort of thing to look out for the next course and get involved. The guys at MadLab have a great space in the Norther Quarter and are more than accommodating.
The next course is on this Saturday (March 12th 2011). Get yourselves down there and be inspired.
Andrew Brandwood (Branny)