Half term Tech at The Polka

The Polka has some really interesting activities over the half term holidays. Merton Park children went to see Error 404 a few years ago and we thought it was an excellent and thought-provoking play. Digiplay & Random Selfies also look very exciting. Let me know if you go?

Mechanical Pedometers

This week we began work on designing our own Micro:bit pedometers.

We first looked at a similar, existing product – a mechanical pedometer, and we played the roles of customer & engineer to decompose the pedometer and to work out what could go wrong and how the engineer could address this.

We took apart 2 pedometers and researched how they worked:

“Mechanical pedometers

Early pedometers were entirely mechanical and they worked a bit like pendulum clocks (the ones with a swinging bar powered by a slowly falling weight). As the pendulum rocks back and forth, a kind of see-saw lever called an escapement flicks up and down and a gear wheel inside the clock (which counts seconds) advances by one position. So a pendulum clock is really a mechanism that counts seconds. The original pedometers used a swinging pendulum to count steps and displayed the count with a pointer moving round a dial (a bit like an analog watch). You fixed them on your waist and, every time you took a step, the pendulum swung to one side then back again, causing a gear to advance one position and moving the hand around the dial.”

(From http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-pedometers-work.html)

This helped us to explore the concept of a pedometer, how we could make one that counts steps as accurately as possible and the best design. We talked about 2 other types of pedometers – Fitbits & Smartphones.

We discussed the sensors that a Micro:bit includes and how they work, and compared these to the sensors in a phone. This will help us to design our Micro:bit pedometer.

A few children kept their pedometers on until next week and have been amazed at:

  • How easy it is to clock up lots of steps
  • How accurately this old-fashioned pedometer measures steps (been comparing to their fitbits)

Did anything surprise you today?

Code Club Summer Term

Thanks to all of you who applied below, or on the Robo Blog – hopefully you have received an invitation to join Code Club! I’m looking forward to our first meet up this week. I think that Tim, Jon & Linda will be helping us out this term and hopefully Mr Hovell will make a few appearances too!

Since we are going to be creating with the Micro:bit, we will need to understand sensors:

  • What are they?
  • What can they do?
  • Which sensors are available on the Micro:bit?
  • Which sensors do most smartphones now have included?
  • How could you use these sensors, together with coding and WiFi, to develop an app or a gadget?

Any ideas?

Extra: If you want to learn more about sensors, click on the Summer Sensology tab on the blog home page.

Summer Term

**Update – Code Club will start on Tuesday 1st May – I will let you know next week if you have a place **

I have had some ideas for the summer term and I think we will work independently on designing Micro:Bit challenges set by myself, Tim, Linda & Jon. They will involve crafty design as well as programming but you will need:

  • an interest in programming and computational thinking
  • a love of DT/ craft/ design
  • to be self-motivated and be able to work on your own or with a partner (equally though)
  • to be prepared to put effort in outside of school (evidence please)
  • to be a contributor to the Blog and to demonstrate that you have posted interesting comments on a school blog in the past

Please comment below if you’d like to join as we will have limited numbers due to messy work! Priority will go to interested year 6 children. I am not yet sure when Code Club will start this term, probably in May but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out. It will be on Tuesday after school.


Code Club Competition

email from Code Club:

The challenge is to code a digital collage about favourite things, and the deadline is on Friday 23 March.

How can my club participate?

1) Meet the challenge
Ask your club members to create a digital collage about their hobbies, interests, and favourite things. They must use one of the following projects as a starting point:

Scratch: Tech Toys

HTML/CSS: Stickers

We don’t expect participants to spend weeks on their entry — we’re looking for creative, fun remixes, not for super complex programs which took half a term to complete.

Your club members can create as many entries as they like, and they are welcome to work individually or in small teams. However, you can only submit one entry per club.

2) Send us your project using the entry form
Fill the entry form jumpto.cc/entryform with details of the project you are submitting.

3) Make sure the entry arrives before the deadline! 
The deadline is at 12 noon on Friday 23 March, and late entries will not be accepted.

What does the winner get?

The winning coder will win Code Club goodies for their whole club, including lanyards and T-shirts. We will also commission a unique Code Club illustration inspired by the winning entry, and send stickers featuring the illustration to the winning club!

We will announce the winning projects on our blog in the week commencing 9 April, and will email the winning club the same day.

Coding session Tate Modern Half term

Look what Jean-Marc found! What a fantastic opportunity. Do let me know if any of you go along – it’s during half term. *Update* here is the application form – only 7 places! 

Drop in and join South London Raspberry Jam for an afternoon of varied and fascinating workshops led by young coders and digital makers. Explore the Micro Bit and coding linked to robots and physical computing; wearables and neopixels; gaming and networking and the Internet of Things.

The workshops will be developed by young coders who will spend a day learning about new developements in coding and digital making with industry experts from the Microbit FoundationRaspberry Pi Foundation, Github and Computers at School (CAS). They will then pass on their knowledge and skills to you through hands-on workshops and activities:

  • Build a WordPress page. Display your favourite artwork from the Tate’s collection; upload a one minute video clip and develop an ‘About me’ page
  • Discover how to create an Internet of Things device using a Micro Bit to broadcast tweets and Node RED to explore positive and negative images
  • Play with an Arduino processor, buttons, LEDs, resistors and more with our physical computing fanatics from South London Makerspace
  • Immerse yourself in a virtual world of your own creation with a few lines of code, courtesy of Coderdojo
  • Collaborate in creating a mural using an augmented reality powered app called Visualizar
  • Explore and create wearable technology with the fabulous Lorraine Underwood and Tania Fish.




Do all toys need to be interactive?

Today, Lego has announced a big partnership with a Chinese company to try and increase its worldwide sales. They want to  create a safe online environment covering content, platforms, and experiences tailored for Chinese children.

“What we are looking for now … is just to find more creative ways… (of) reaching children, and creating bespoke content ….eg video games,” said the China Lego manager. The partnership includes developing a Lego video zone for children, as well as developing and operating Lego branded licensed games.

It also includes LEGO BOOST — a building and coding set that lets children turn their brick creations into moving objects — and will explore developing a joint social network for children in China.

So, here’s my question for you, because you are the stereotypical customer of Lego.

Is it not enough anymore for a company to sell a brilliant construction toy like Lego – do all toys need an online presence – videos, online games etc, in order to keep you interested? Is it necessary that they can programmed like our own robot?

Please discuss in the comments below.