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pgruenbaum
12-15-2008, 06:31 PM
We teach creative technology classes to teenagers in low-income neighborhoods in Seattle to get them excited about technology careers. Rather than just teaching how to use commercial software, we try to figure out some way for them to be creating something new and different. For the longest time, we wanted to teach a class where the students built hardware, but there was a requirement that the cost of hardware had to be extremely low, since our goal is to create classes that any community center or school can teach.

So we had them build a Dance Dance Revolution machine. We got a Phidget interface kit from Trossen Robotics and it was actually quite easy to write some .NET code that read in an XML file that defined the images, music, and dance steps. When you hit the go button, it played the music and then swapped out images to show arrows “lighting up”. Phidget provides a .NET library that makes it easy for you to get events when the circuit is closed between ground and one of eight inputs, so it was just a question of creating some kind of cheap sensor for the footpad that would close a circuit when you stepped on it.


The footpads were built of cardboard, aluminum, speaker wire, and glue, and tape. They aren’t built to last, but they last long enough to do a final event, and it only takes about 30 minutes for a class of eight kids to build four of these.




http://sdkbridge.com/images/footpads.GIF




http://sdkbridge.com/images/makingPads.jpg



They designed the arrows using PowerPoint and edited the music using Audacity (freeware) to create a one minute music clip. Then they used XML Marker (also freeware) to create the XML for the dance steps. They tested out their steps using an emulator where you use the keypads instead of the footpads.

Once everything was working, we did a final event where they showed off the Dance Dance Revolution machine at the 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle. Their designs went up on a huge screen with a fantastic sound system, and it made for an exciting event.


http://sdkbridge.com/images/DdrProject.jpeg


This is a video we made of the project:
YouTube - Inspiring Low-Income Youth Thru Technological Creativity

This program was started at Red Llama, and has now moved to SDK Bridge. We are teaching this class in other communities -- and the beauty is that the total hardware cost (including headphones for the students) is under $200. To learn more about the program, visit http://www.sdkbridge.com/youth.html.

jes1510
12-15-2008, 11:29 PM
I've never been a fan of the dance games but I have to admit I'm really impressed with what you've done here. I'm also impressed with how you've let underprivileged kids have access and work with new technology with a really low budget. Awesome and inspiring!

4mem8
12-15-2008, 11:55 PM
Totally agree on this one jes1510, What a great interest these kids must have to get involved in this project, well done to all.

Alex
12-16-2008, 08:51 AM
I'm floored pgruenbaum.... This is truly an incredible and inspiring use of bridgeware technology. I can only imagine the confidence you're building in these kids!

I have you entered in this round of the TRC Project Contest:D

darkback2
12-16-2008, 10:41 AM
Your also in the Junkbot 2 contest. I'm inspired by the project, and think we can stretch the junkbot rules a bit in this case. It will be up to the judges anyway so...

Awesome.