The very first Arduino session was just an intro to the ideas and processes behind working with electronics and art. During the session we had a little play with a proximity sensor making a servo turn, I made a very rough prototype of a claw that grabs when you go near it.
For the longer series of workshops I originally wanted to make a heat sensitive flower-shaped toy that would open up in the warm and close and shiver in the cold. However I decided to use things I could find around the house, a cheap oil lamp and an LED tea-light were the starting points. I decided to try a simple digital on/off command, rather than variable inputs, as I wanted to spend some time working on the items I had brought in to make working, realistic prototype. I programmed the lamp light to switch on when the lamp is picked up and turn off when the lamp is put down. I initially thought of using a pressure sensor to determine the state of the lamp but my kit only contained a sound emitter, which I could have used as an input but someone suggested using a button switch – a much better idea. I had to use a can opener to get the bottom of the lamp off so I could run connecting cables inside and position the button in some cardboard . Writing the programme didn’t take very long so I decided to experiment with another variable input. I put a motor onto the lamp, where it connects to the handle and then programmed the light to flicker when the motor turned. This didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped as I had problems mapping the motor on the computer and the motor was only being read when it was turning in one direction. I had to debug the program a few times before I got it even close to flickering! Unfortunately the connection between the lamp and the handle was a bit shoddy (just a lot of electrical tape) so the motor wasn’t turning as well as it could have been but I ended the workshops with a fairly good working(ish) prototype. But most importantly a good grasp of the basics of circuitry and programming.