Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Stuff To Play Around With

So, I'm getting off my soapbox about proposal etiquette and the Maryland Science Center and offering instead two more exhibit-minded suggestions for stuff to play around with:

1) The Strobotop is a cool top-based toy and a variable speed strobe gun developed by artist Rufus Butler Seder.  Basically you add an illustrated disk to the Strobotop, give it a spin, and then point the strobe at the spinning pictures.  You'll see different animation effects depending on the relationship of the speeds of the spinning Strobotop and the flashing strobe gun. (As you can see in the YouTube video below.)

I originally bought the basic Strobotop for my seven-year-old daughter, but everyone in the family has really enjoyed experimenting with the different animation disks that come with the set.  As an exhibits guy,  I also appreciated the little design features built into the Strobotop: the cut-out notches along the edges of the top that make it easier to insert and remove the animation disks, as well as the simple gravity switch that only allows the strobe gun to work when it is pointed downward (and not up in your Dad's face!)

All in all, good stuff!  So head over to Amazon to get your own Strobotop to start playing around with.

(It looks like Rufus Butler Seder is also scheduled to be one of the guest speakers/instigators during the AAM and NAME Creativity and Collaboration 2011 Retreat happening in October.)

2) The Arduino Cookbook 
"Arduino" is the generic name for the open source microcontroller boards (plus the free software development environment) that lets anyone (really!) start experimenting with physical computing.
I've just started to scratch the surface of all the possibilities of using Arduino in my own exhibits/design work, and I'm really finding it challenging and enjoyable in a good way.  

Basically Arduino lets you easily get computers to interact with the real world. You can use Arduino to make cool interactive objects that can sense inputs from switches, sensors, and computers, and then control motors, lights, and other physical outputs.

Arduino has been a boon to artists, makers, and exhibits people in providing a way to (relatively) quickly and cheaply translate their creative ideas into the powerful world of physical computing.  

While there is a great deal of information and sharing about Arduino tools and techniques available online, for myself I also like to have a handy reference book or two nearby.  And that's where the excellent Arduino Cookbook comes in.  Written in a style that makes it accessible to both the Arduino expert and newbie alike, the Cookbook provides a great reference and road map for creating Arduino projects.

I hope you have a chance to explore both the Strobotop, and the Arduino Cookbook.  Have your own suggestions for cool stuff that you'd like to share?  Let us know about them in the "Comments" Section below!

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