5.3.2011 THE FINISHED PRODUCT OF THE LASER TAG SHIELD
OMNICORPDETROIT has completed its Lasertag shield for Arduino as part of the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge. We’ve taken this challenge and taken into consideration our specific location in the heart of the city of Detroit and how learning to create with a microprocessor and a portable power source could impact education, the way people learn and what they learn about. We feel the project is simple, yet complicated enough to the point where kids or students of any age could simply assemble their circuit board and play, but along the way learn how to code and program and what they can implement in efficient and creative ways. Our kit is relatively cheap, under $15 and can be sourced from an array of different suppliers; essentially they contain nothing fancy — just snazzy.
1. OCD feels the Lasertag shield is very reproducible. The kit contains less than twenty parts and we’ve included all of our sources for each part. There is really nothing ‘exotic’ on these boards – LEDs, IR sensor, IR emmitor, vibrating motor, resistors, a piezo speaker and DC battery adapter and an Arduino. While the price of the Arduino more than doubles the net price of the kit, we chose to use Arduino because a lot of educational institutions already have or utilize the technology and have them available, as the Mt. Elliott Makerspace. And, this is a prototype – we plan on embedding an ATMEGA328 on newer versions of the board as to eliminate the Arduino. Minimal tools are required to produce Lasertag as well: Some wire strippers, a soldering iron and some solder. As with our Mt. Elliott Makerspace workshop, we had a group of about ten students complete their circuit build and playing lasertag within 2.5 hours. The kit fits inside of an Altoid tin.
As stated previously, we’ve built the kit so one could build it out once they’re familiar with code and circuit building. We’ve allowed for the capability of adding more teams and a mother unit that would keep track of all games played. The infrared communication could very easily be adapted to other projects.
2. The OCD Lasertag Shield really has no out-of-the-ordinary parts and we think one should have no problem sourcing one or 100 of them. The only thing we see perhaps posing the problem in sourcing is the circuit board itself, but it was also made using a bread board and a protoboard with no problem. We’ve also contemplated constructing our circuit board out of cardboard (see: Paperduino at http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/05/paperduino.html?CMP=OTC-0D6B48984890). We’ve also included links to the original circuit board file (see previous post) and a link to the source code: http://omnicorpdetroit.com/blog/2011/05/04/hehe-well-explain-tomorrow/
3. We feel the low cost and reproducibility of the kit, at less that $15 (less than $750 for 50) are our projects real strong points. We feel teaching a man to fish is more important than giving a man a fish, therefore we’ve really put emphasis on simplicity with regards to curriculum and teachability and have given the workshop an aggressive hands-on approach. We didn’t include packaging because we saw that as the real sourcing issue for different places around the world. While we have a Makerbot, we’ve recommend that, if anything, the kit be enclosed in the Altoids tin in which it comes.
4. The plans are very well documented with a good breakdown of all things needed to complete the kit. While actually still incomplete, we are going to fully develop and test its uses with more test workshops in the future. Seeing some other Web sites lead us to kick ourselves for not starting a wiki in the beginning (we think Metalab did quite an exceptional job documenting their builds!) But, we have a web site in the making that will consider all the resources we’ve used and then some.
During our workshop with the Mt. Elliott Makerspace, we took a lot of notes and have already been refining our teaching methods. Here is a video of our workshop: http://omnicorpdetroit.com/blog/2011/05/04/recap-of-the-laser-tag-workshop-held-at-mem/
5. Lasertag addresses plenty of gaps in modern education, but first and foremost we think it helps demystify technology for younger generations or people who may not have traditionally had access to things like Arduino. I’ve seen wonderful examples of Arduino used in very innovative ways from Smart Gardens (http://www.instructables.com/id/Garduino-Gardening-Arduino/) to coffee bean roasters (http://www.instructables.com/id/A-fully-automatic-coffee-bean-roaster-Arduino/) to OCD’s Mind-Controlled Balloon popping machine, which reads one’s brain waves and cues a pointed rod attached to a servo to pop a balloon. The infrared communication has very many uses as well including remote controlling devices and motion detection. They both would make great spin-off workshops as well as help to make a generation of students and young kids into creative entrepreneurs.
It’s pretty inexpensive technology and can all be obtained for the price of one text book. There is a plethora of information and resources regarding the uses and progamming of Arduino. Some good Web sites include www.ladyada.net, www.adafruit.com and arduino.cc, among many others.
6. We feel that while Lasertag already exists, it’s a great medium for children to be able to learn about infrared communication and Arduino technology. It’s exciting, easy to execute and provides portals into other realms of digital and physical making. Our three-person team essentially split all tasks, each helping with developent, administration and documentation.
Lasertag is still in development. Our workshop went really well, but with anything, there is room for improvement! This challenge got our brain thinkers flowing and now we’re more excited than ever to get this workshop series off the ground. We have an educational Web site in the works, the manual’s gonna be hot off the press and hopefully within a couple of weeks we’ll be teaching lots of people how to have fun while also creating something useful!