THE BIG-BRAINED SUPERHEROES CLUB

BBSC Electronics and Digital Logic

Brains building brains in the latest BRAINSTORM e-zine! Thanks to the City of Seattle, SparkFun, and so many others for helping build our lab!

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"As the kiddos go back to school, knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math are certainly important, but their imagination, creativity and how they interact with others is critical."

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Would you like schematics for our Big Brain Logic Boxes? Of course you would! (Click on the link above to get them.)

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If you’ve been checking out our Facebook page, you know that our Big-Brained Superheroes helped Yesler Community Center’s Back-to-School event attendees learn about logic gates and create illuminated notebooks. And if you were at The Museum of Flight’s STEM Back-to-School weekend, you probably saw BBSC volunteers there doing same. In short, we’ve had an insanely nerdy week, and our schedules just keep getting nerdier. None of which would be possible without these exceptional sponsors:
guided: Generous donors of such amazing recycled notebooks!
Brown Paper Tickets: Batteries and LEDs and Maker Advocate Tamara’s time, oh my!
The City of Seattle: The sponsors of our digital logic project that keeps us off the streets!
Sparkfun: Also sparking so much digital logic fun!
And, as always, Somali Community Services and Yesler Community Center, who keep the lights on for us!
Kindness. So much Kindness everywhere. All for the cause of hacking brains and school supplies alike. Thank you so much, Team Big-Brained Superhero!

If you’ve been checking out our Facebook page, you know that our Big-Brained Superheroes helped Yesler Community Center’s Back-to-School event attendees learn about logic gates and create illuminated notebooks. And if you were at The Museum of Flight’s STEM Back-to-School weekend, you probably saw BBSC volunteers there doing same. In short, we’ve had an insanely nerdy week, and our schedules just keep getting nerdier. None of which would be possible without these exceptional sponsors:

  • guided: Generous donors of such amazing recycled notebooks!
  • Brown Paper Tickets: Batteries and LEDs and Maker Advocate Tamara’s time, oh my!
  • The City of Seattle: The sponsors of our digital logic project that keeps us off the streets!
  • Sparkfun: Also sparking so much digital logic fun!
  • And, as always, Somali Community Services and Yesler Community Center, who keep the lights on for us!

Kindness. So much Kindness everywhere. All for the cause of hacking brains and school supplies alike. Thank you so much, Team Big-Brained Superhero!

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United We Do!

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The profound connections between perspective, process, and possibility were on display during our first ever mini BBSC trip to Seattle’s Mini Maker Faire this year, sponsored by Brown Paper Tickets.
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Thanks (once again!) to BPT Maker Advocate, Tamara Clammer, several Big-Brained Superheroes got to do something totally new last weekend. Or, more accurately, we got to do something(s) totally new.

For instance, a few of our BBSes had never before ridden our city’s light rail:image

Or ridden the Seattle Center monorail: image

Or driven a remote-controlled submarine: image

And that was merely the beginning of the boundless process of making our Big-Brained Superhero world just a bit bigger.

Soon, it became time to lay hands on and make.

Simple machines with Xbot:image

And simple circuits with Curiosity Hacked:image

While the taller BBSes then proceeded to see the world anew through the latest tech: image

the shorties split to the Pacific Science Center to embiggen their brains in other ways: image

Whew! After a very full day, we returned to Yesler Community Center with heads full of ever-expanding notions of what big brains can do with just a little help from our friends.

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Big-Brained Superheroes vs. Code.org’s #HourOfCode

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Around this time last year, our young BBSes spent some time developing Codecademy’s web holiday cards. How did it go? Well…it could have gone better. This year, we spent time with Code.org’s Hour of Code. How did it go? Well…aside from a lack of headphones for every BBS coder, it couldn’t have gone better. It went so well that several of our young Big-Brained Superheroes are choosing to go Beyond One Hour. Even without BBS sidekicks around to help them!

And now, for the breakdown. Our BBS population for this exercise was fairly similar to that of last year’s Codecademy exercise, so we’ll skip that explanation and go straight into the review.

The Good:

  • Like last year’s Codecademy exercise, this year’s Code.org Hour of Code is freely available to anyone with a computer and internet access.
  • Unlike last year’s Codecademy project-based exercise, this year’s Hour of Code was game-based. This particular game-based approach provided much more method to the madness and enabled a leveling up process that was significantly more logical and predictable than Codecademy’s project-based approach. Coders were more motivated to think problems through, and they seemed to grasp much more programming logic as a result of Hour of Code’s game-based approach.
  • The Angry Birds character set is a great example of how broadly inclusive design doesn’t have to be banal or vapid, and the use of Angry Birds in Hour of Code was an obvious draw for our young BBSes.
  • The instructional videos were exceptional in that they were explanatory but didn’t give too much away. They were timed well, and the diversity of the instructors was inspiringly inclusive. Apparently, when Chris Bosh speaks, our Big-Brained Superheroes listen. (When they have the technical capability to do so, that is.) And the written instructions that were provided for those without sound capability eliminated a big obstacle for us.
  • The completion certificate at the end of the game was a nice reward and motivator for some BBSes.
  • Beyond One Hour provides us with a simple way to continue the learning!

The Less Good:

  • Once our BBSes got the auditory reward for completing a level, they tended to skim through the text that told them they might have completed the level using fewer lines of code. Making that information more prominent (at least the first time around) would have given them stronger cues that there was more learning to get from the level they just completed.
  • Also, it would help if the link to “Show Code” were more obvious or if the lines of code came up automatically in at least one level so coders wouldn’t unintentionally skip over it.

All in all, we are thrilled with how our coding exercise went this year, and we’re continuing to use Code.org in our BBSC meetings. For us, it was not just a method of learning some basic programming logic, but it also served as a welcoming, inclusive invitation to explore the world of computer programming. After completing their Hour of Code, several of our coders went on to build web pages using W3schools:

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Or played with Tynker and other code-learning platforms directly available through the Code.org website:image

In short, even though our coding exercise this year was not holiday-centric, Code.org’s Hour of Code provided us with some fine holiday (and beyond) fun!

DISCLAIMER: The BBSC is not affiliated with any of the code learning platforms or sites discussed in this post. However, one of our volunteer brain-hackers (Launchpad McD) does work for Facebook, which is somehow involved with Code.org (though we don’t know how, and we didn’t know this before we began exploring Code.org).

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Thanks so much to Seattle Met Magazine for granting The Big-Brained Superheroes Club their Light a Fire “Purely for the Love” award!

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Big-Brained Superheroes vs. the Rain

Saturday may have been the rainiest day of the year so far, but that didn’t stop Yesler Terrace from engaging in its bi-annual neighborhood clean-up. From there, ten Big-Brained Superheroes braved even more rain on our walk to our favorite maker space—Jigsaw Renaissance—in Seattle’s International District.

This trip was a reward for a brave young BBS who received the first ever Big-Brained Harry Potter leadership award for defending others against bullying.

Here’s our exceptional BBS Harry Potter Leader working on an electronics project at Jigsaw Renaissance:

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Other young Big-Brained Superheroes were fortunate enough to share in the adventure. Happily, Jigsaw Renaissance is more fun than Disneyland.

Here are a few of us working on a robotic arm and a salt water conductivity experiment:

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A few young BBSes then expressed their appreciation for BBS Volunteer Mr. Measurement Man via whiteboard:

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And also learned a bit of guitar and keyboard:

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Much Persistence was exercised in the process of analyzing and deconstructing a broken cell phone:

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World Pizza also made a delicious appearance.

Big-Brained Superheroes definitely know how to make the best out of a torrential downpour!

* Thanks to BBS Volunteer, Launchpad McD, for compiling this post! *

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It Takes a Village to Go to Mars

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Yesterday, a few Big-Brained Superhero volunteers met over 70(!) unofficial big-brained superheroes at East African Community Services in New Holly. It was an amazing two hours in which we travelled to Mars…and Venus…and Mercury…and every other planet in our solar system via rocket ships of our imagination. In the process, not only did we exercise all of our superpowers, but we talked a bit about design and development, chemical reactions, forces and motion, and our solar system. (We even briefly discussed what “NASA” stands for and what its scientists and engineers learn from launch failures.)

So, how does all this happen? Well, if we were Carl Sagan, we would start by acknowledging the origins of the universe. But since we’re The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, we start by acknowledging our shared superpowers. And then, we recognize the hours and hours and hours of work done by BBS volunteers and EACS staff, volunteers, and community members. And then, we appreciate the wide variety of in-kind contributions from a whole host of big-brained superheroes present and past:

  • We love Cappy’s Gym for rescuing over 40+ water bottles from their recycle bin to serve as our rocket ships!
  • We love EACS and BBS volunteers for providing over 4 1/2 gallons of vinegar for rocket fuel and 16 ounces of baking soda for rocket engines. Not to mention Julianna of SPACE for, so long ago, providing the paper towels we used for engine casings.
  • We love Starbucks on Capitol Hill for handing over a handful of corks to BBS volunteer Mr. Measurement Man, who went door-to-door in search of serviceable containment methods for our rocket engines and fuel.
  • We love EACS, BBS volunteers, and our old Gasworks Kite Shop for providing tape, markers, and streamers used to accessorize our rocket ships. Plus the sidewalk chalk and tin cans for the launchpads.

And finally, we love EACS staff, volunteers, and community members (Elizia, Connie, and everyone else) for giving us the privilege of meeting so many new big-brained superheroes! (And for letting us accidentally use the roof as a landing pad for so many unmanned recyclable vehicles…sorry about that, EACS.) You all really know how to party!image

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This oddly compelling Iron Man vs. Tesla video demonstrates that STEAM and superheroes were pretty much made for each other.

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