Arduinos Storm the Boston Children’s Museum

Two months of tinkering, testing, and adapting our ideas brought us to this one final presentation. However, this final presentation was different from the usual 8-minute slideshow in front of other engineers — we were presenting to children as young as 1.

This was a new audience my classmates and I had never designed for. In teams of 4, my class had made new acoustic and electronic instruments. Yet, our projects were never actually used. Isn’t that the purpose of being an engineer? To make products for the community? That’s just the experience my first year engineering professor thought to give us.

As a student in Dr.Hertz’s Cornerstone of Engineering class at Northeastern University, we took part in a collaboration between Kadence Arts and the Boston Children’s museum. The challenge? Make an Arduino exhibit that can withstand a toddler.

Engineering students from Northeastern University presenting their Musical Cubes project at the Boston Children’s Museum. (From left to right: Avery, Kasandra, Erik, and Levon.)

DSC_0421My class section decided to make an exhibit with a time travel theme. There was a project that had visitors dig for dinosaur bones, shoot a catapult at a medieval tower, and then another that challenged visitors to lead a spacecraft. If a visitor completed an exhibit they would get one letter to answer the riddle “What type of dog can tell time?” My team’s time period was the 1960s James Bond era. On one bread board a visitor could choose a code they would like to crack by pressing a button and then hearing a tune. Next, they would put together a series of black, yellow, and white blocks that represents the tune they just heard. They would then slide the block past a color scanner and the scanner would report if they figured out the code or not.

Now that is simply how the project functioned. Personally, the most amazing part was seeing how 2 months of countless ideas and hours of work lead to one exhibit and lots of smiles. To those in the middle of a project, remember what challenge you wanted to overcome in the first place and know it’s worth it. Now to those of you still in the midst of trying to figure out the class riddle? It’s a watch dog.

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