Tag Archives: coding

These friendship bracelets will introduce more female programmers to the world

Jewelbots is reinventing the classic charm bracelet as a Bluetooth-enabled wearable that will teach girls how to code.

Developers Sara Chipps, Brooke Moreland and Maria Paula Saba have noticed that there is an extreme lack of women in the STEM-related fields. And although research has shown that 75% of girls were interested in such disciplines, a vast majority are choosing not to pursue computer science. In order to help combat this downward trend, the team has designed a new product that they hope will introduce the future generation of female engineers to coding. Unlike other wearable gadgetry on the market today, which track steps, count calories and monitor heart rates, Jewelbots are programmable bracelets that enable its young users to personalize and build their own custom features.


Originally inspired by the popularity of Minecraft for the predominantly adolescent male crowd, the entrepreneurs wanted to establish a similar environment for girls that would also allow them to explore their creativity and write their own mods.

Makers begin with a simple IFTTT-like statements on an accompanying mobile app. Once they are ready to advance, girls can plug their device into a PC, and using the open source Arduino IDE, customize their bracelets to their liking with sample libraries on the startup’s website. For instance, they can program their jewelry to illuminate with every new Instagram follower, when they receive a text from mom, their favorite TV show is about to start, or even if there is a change in the weather forecast. However, the possibilities are only limited to the imagination of its wearer.


Beyond that, the bands help keep girls stay in touch with their friends. Connected through Bluetooth Low Energy, the bracelets create a mesh network that lets users communicate with other Jewelbots wearers nearby, even without a paired phone or Wi-Fi. The Jewelbots can blink, vibrate and light up to communicate in Morse code. In terms of hardware, each unit is packed with a BLE SoC, a vibration motor, four LEDs, a button and a battery which can be recharged via USB.

“The numbers of women in computer science have actually shrunk since the mid 80s. At the same time, engineering and tech jobs are growing like crazy,” Moreland explains. “We want to inspire a deep curiosity and lasting love for computers and programming. A love that these girls can take with them throughout their careers and lives.”


As a way to test their theory, the team launched “Take Your Daughter To Hack.” During these daylong, bi-coastal events, parents and daughters (sons, too) were given the chance to devise wearables using the highly-popular Arduino GEMMA (ATtiny85) as well as a HTML/CSS workshop using Tumblr to make fun and engaging projects together. Safe to say, they were a success!

While its prototypes are currently being finalized, the end product will make its debut at the tail-end of summer, with widespread delivery expected to get underway in March 2016. At that time, the bracelets will come in a variety of colors — including pink, green, lavender, red, garnet, blue, teal, gray and back — and will be just as fashionable as they are fun! Interested? Head over to Jewelbot’s official Kickstarter page, where the New York City-based startup is seeking $30,000.

BBC to give out 1 million devices to kids as part of new initiative

BBC launches a UK-wide initiative to inspire the next generation of programmers and engineers.

It’s no secret that the Maker Movement has transcended well beyond the garages and workspaces of a few tinkerers. The phenomenon has proliferated the walls of schools, libraries, museums and retailers, among countless other establishments. Academic institutions and startups, particularly those seen on crowdfunding sites, have developed new projects in hopes of spurring the pursuit of STEM-related fields for the next generation. Maker Faire attendance is also on the rise as thousands of DIYers come together at one of 80 community events spanning across 10 countries. Looking to continue carrying that momentum, BBC has launched a new project — in partnership with over 50 organizations — which is looking to give a personal coding device to every child in year 7 across the country. That’s 1 million free devices in total to students, generally aged between 11 and 13, as part of the campaign they’re calling “Make it Digital.”


Back in the 1980s, the BBC launched a Computer Literacy Project which aimed to support the learning of computing — at the time a relatively new concept for a vast majority — in schools and the home. This included a commercial partnership with Acorn Computers to produce a microcomputer as the backbone of the initiative: the BBC Micro. While nine models were eventually made with the BBC brand, the phrase “Micro” is usually used colloquially to refer to the first six (Model A, B, B+64, B+128, Master 128, and Master Compact). Well now, the news giant is reimagining its popular 1980s campaign by introducing its successor, the BBC Micro Bit.

Based on a processor which would appear to be an ATmega32U4, the Micro Bit will give students a physical companion in their path to coding competence. While merely a prototype at this point, it will be a standalone, palm-sized device equipped with an LED display and compatible with the Touch Develop, Python and C++ languages.


Young Makers will then be able to create text via a series of lights as well as devise basic games. What’s nice is that the final version of Micro Bit will feature a Bluetooth link and will be able to sync up with other incredibly-popular boards like Arduino, Galileo, Kano and Raspberry Pi, in addition to other Micro Bits.

According to BBC, the Micro Bit will be distributed later this year, most likely the fall. The program was designed as a response to a shortage within the digital industry, given that nearly 1.4 million professionals will be needed over the next five years. BBC is hoping to aid in building the country’s talent pool and arming them with the requisite coding skills through a range of new partnerships and projects.

Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here.

MaKey MaKey featured at DevArt in London

Earlier this week, JoyLabz COO David ten Have reached out to us about the DevArt Young Creators project currently taking place at the Barbican in London. For those unfamiliar with the project, the event is a series of 3-week creative workshops for schools, youth groups and code clubs, led by the DevArt interactive artists Zach Lieberman, Karsten Schmidt and duo Varvara and Mar, in collaboration with Google and the Barbican.


Each session, hosted in the DevArt section of the Digital Revolution Exhibition at the Barbican in London, will introduce young Makers (ranging from ages 9 – 13) to computer coding and art. In true Maker spirit, the sessions provide attendees with a hands-on opportunity to make their very first creation with code: a digital butterfly, a piece of music, or a 3D-printed work of art.

This week, MaKey MaKey will be exploring the creative possibilities of code in an educational workshop organized by Google and led by American artist and computer programmer Zach Lieberman.

Zach Lieberman’s latest work matches musical notes from live radio around the world to the 88 keys on a standard piano keyboard. The result? Unique, ever-changing soundscapes. Featured in Lieberman’s workshop, the MaKey MaKey platform enables anyone to turn everyday objects into touch pads, and with the aid of alligator clips, a USB cable and the Internet, create just about anything.


“We believe everyone is creative, inventive and imaginative. And that anyone can create the future and change the world,” explains Jay Silver, CEO of MaKey MaKey. “It is human nature to repurpose the world, you know, leaves and sticks are used to make roofs and structures, stones to make tools… In modern day, how do you repurpose computer programs and pencils? Well it’s already possible to do! MaKey MaKey catalyzes the process for people of all ages who haven’t tried it yet. Draw a game controller with a pencil and hook it to a video game, and touch the drawing with your finger to actually play the game.”

In creating Play the World, 2014, Lieberman has used code to match the keys on an Internet-connected keyboard to musical notes sampled from hundreds of live radio stations around the world – from Nigerian sports radio to Brazilian Bossa Nova radio. And because the notes are drawn from live radio, the sound and source changes each time a key is played, resulting in a unique piece of music every time. Speakers and visual displays are arranged in a circle around the keyboard, so you can see where in the world the sounds are coming from. The effect is a celebration of the vast, enchanting, global soundscape that surrounds us.

Interested in learning more about DevArt and each of this week’s Inspiration Workshops? More details can be found here.

No drunk coding with Gitdown

Gitdown – created by Alex Qin and Geoffrey Litt during a recent hackathon – can perhaps best be described as a platform designed to prevent engineers from committing code when intoxicated.

As ITWorld’s Phil Johnson reports, Gitdown is built around the Arduino DrinkShield, an open source breathalyzer. Essentially, Gitdown requires a software engineer to blow into the breathalyzer before committing code. Meaning, individuals with blood alcohol levels are stopped dead in their tracks, presumably before they manage to embarrass themselves.

“It’s certainly pretty easy to mix alcohol and code. Lots of the companies that I worked out had beer in the corporate fridge and developers wouldn’t be shy about cracking them open at their desks late in the day (and sometimes not so late). And, of course, lots of coding goes on at home and at strange hours when your own private stash of booze is readily available,” writes Johnson.

“As for me, during all my years as a developer, I didn’t do much drinking and coding. Once I had a beer or two, writing code and trying to solve complex problems was about the last thing I wanted to do. I was at my best coding when the only drug that I was on was caffeine and could think clearly. It’s hard for me to believe that really good software development or design can get done under the influence.”


Yes, we know there is almost always version control software with its magic “undo” abilities, but still. Friends don’t let friends code drunk, especially over the holiday season.

Field Lines: An Arduino-powered interactive instrument

Designed by Charles Peck, Field Lines draws on a number of disciplines including physical design, carpentry, circuit design and coding. The instrument itself includes three sections of magnetic material: magnetic sand, a compass array and zinc-plated iron.

“Audiences are able to manipulate these materials with a magnet in the space below each case while infrared sensors pick up their movement,” Peck wrote in a recent blog post referenced on the official Arduino site. “The sensors send that information to an [Atmel-powered] Arduino board, which then creates unique music for each section.”

Field Lines premiered at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis to a mostly adult crowd this past March.

“I ran into a few kinks, which I was subsequently able to solve, but for the most part I was able to enjoy meeting with the curious audience and seeing how they interacted with the musical and physical materials,” Peck explained. “Since then, the piece has found a home at the Works Museum, which caters to elementary age students. There it has been integrated into their ‘Sensor Zone’ exhibit.”

According to Peck, Field Lines is powered by an Arduino Mega 2560 (ATmega2560), which was selected due to its 16 analog inputs and the Mozzi audio library.

“This is a terrific ‘almost 9-bit’ open-source library for the Arduino platform. Having said that, the library comes with its limitations (or at least it did, it is being improved by leaps and bounds every day). The main issue being a high and continuous ringing pitch, which seems to be derived from the sample rate (16kHz),” he continued. “After a bit of digging, however, I discovered that this issue can be solved with a small electronic circuit. The circuit combines a low pass filter and a twin-t notch filter in series and you can find the schematic floating around on the Mozzi website.”

Interested in learning more about the Arduino-powered Field Lines? You can check out the official project page here.