We did two more experiments a couple days ago: Liquid Wires (creating a simple circuit using graphite and liquid glass, a sodium silicate solution) and making our own Zinc-Carbon Battery, a chemical source of electric current that relies on an oxidation-reduction (redox) reaction between manganese dioxide (MnO2) and zinc (Zn).
A redox reaction involves the transfer of electrons from one element (the reducer) to another element (the oxidizer).
Our battery is divided into two sections, separated by wadding: one section holds the oxidizer MnO2 and the other contains the reductant Zn. When the crocodile clips are connected to a diode, the circuit is closed and the reaction can begin: electrons start migrating from the zinc section to the manganese section (manganese dioxide mixed with graphite o make it a better conductor). We used ammonium chloride NH4Cl as the electrolyte.
Last week Simon suddenly unpacked his old electronics sets and completed several projects with Arduino, his old single-board friend that got him into coding a little over a year ago. Back then it was the most difficult stuff he had ever tried, his first “setups”and “draws”, his first dive into serious circuits. Now Arduino (and iCircuit) is something he does while taking breaks from the real studying/ coding. Amazing how skillful he has become in assembling the circuits, too. All those little wires. Especially considering he still isn’t an expert at tying his shoelaces.
Yesterday Simon asked me to buy new electronics software he found on the internet. It’s a realtime circuit simulator and editor called iCircuit. Simon has already built several circuits in it last night and there is so much more to discover. He was following Derek Banas’ tutorials on electronics.
Simon wrote a sketch in Sublime Text (a text editor) and uploaded it on to his Arduino. It didn’t work at first but he found the bug.
After he tried it during a Digisnacks group session last month Simon really wanted to have his own Lego WeDo set. The waiting seemed endless, Sinterklaas lost the parcel once and worried if it would reach Simon on time, but in the end everything worked out magically well. And even though the drag and drop programming seems to be too easy for Simon, we enjoy watching him complete the laborious projects all by himself. He didn’t use to be this dexterous with the tiny Lego pieces just a few months ago, his fine motor skills are improving by the day. In fact his piano teacher just told me exactly the same thing about his piano fingers yesterday.
We made a talking poster with Bare Conductive paint and touch board today:
The poster on the wall next to Simon’s room:
This is how we made it. We taped a stencil to a large sheet of white paper and applied the conductive paint, then waited for the paint to dry.
While waiting, we loaded several mp3 files on to the MicroSD card that came with the touch board. Simon made sure the files were named in the right order, to correspond to the correct electrodes on the touch board. We found the sound files at FreeSound.org:
Simon placed the MiscroSD back into the touch board:
We carefully removed the stencil, this was the result:
We attached the touch board and the speaker to the poster, then cold soldered the holes in the electrodes with conductive paint.
Let it dry and turn the power on!
Simon loves the conductive paint. After we finished making the Bare Conductive Voltage Village kit (previous post), he made two circuits, parallel and series, on his own without and help on my behalf. He did use weak AAA batteries first, so it didn’t work. When I told him he should switch to the 9V batteries, his circuits started to shine!
This is Simon’s parallel circuit:
And this is a series circuit:
On Sunday Simon found a Bare Conductive electric paint set in his shoe. Sinterklaas knows exactly what Simon wants! Today we tried cold soldering for the first time! The project involved building a paper house that would gradually light up as it gets darker in the room.
Besides the light sensor (or a Light Dependent Resistor), the circle also incorporated a transistor, a resistor and two LEDs.
It was quite difficult to keep all the components in place while the electric paint was still wet.
The waiting was enduring.
Tried blowing on the paint to make it dry:
Finally, the fun part: drawing the circuit:
The roof of the house on the inside:
Simon loved the effect of the gradual lighting up – when first placed in a dark room we saw almost no light but when we came back a couple hours later the house looked magical. Simon cuddled with it, took the roof off and reviewed the circuit again and again, and put the house next to his bed when falling asleep. I think we’d want to crawl inside of it if he could.
Simon carried out a project on his new RaspberryPi today that allows to see his programming and problem solving level quite well. Luckily I was there on time with my iPhone camera to film and take pictures.
It involved a simple Blink-an-LED code for Python, but note that Simon wrote it completely from memory. Also interesting that since he was missing the M/F jumper wires required for the project he decided to use his broken M/M wires instead, which I thought was quite inventive.
He used Terminal to create a program called led.py, saved and closed the file and opened the File Manager. He looked for the led.py file, but it wasn’t there. So he hit Shift-Ctrl-F to search for it and found it. He opened the file by right-clicking on it and selected Python 2 (IDLE). He made sure the correct screen appeared and that the Python code was complete. He then ran the code by typing “sudo python led.py” . Unfortunately a syntax error message popped up.
After a moment of hesitation (when I though he maybe would give up) he said he knew what the error was: he missed a couple of comas. After inserting the comas in the Leafpad file he ran the code again. And it worked!! We were both so happy as if we witnessed sheer magic.
Later Simon also showed me how to make the LED light burn continuously or turn it off again.
The missing comas back in place: