As part of their curriculum, these students created a sensory board to help preschoolers express themselves through their art and touch sensors.
The Interactive Wall Kit is a great way to make robust interactive murals or sensory boards. Using this kit, a group of students created a sound mural for a preschool as part of their Education Accelerated by Service and Technology (EAST) class. Inspired by one of the student's mother, an occupational therapist, they decided to do this project to help children with disabilities. They researched different locations where they could help out and discovered the local Sunshine School, a preschool for children with diverse physical and developmental needs. The 7th graders decided to focus on the lobby of the Sunshine School where they wanted to showcase both the art of the children to visitors and to have an object the children there could interact with.
The interactive sound mural incorporated 3D printed objects, made with TinkerCad, as sensors that allowed the children to feel and touch the sensors, identifying shapes and tracing textures with their fingers. They also implemented a recording function: using one sensor as a recording button, a child could record their voice and hear it back when pressing the corresponding play button. For the mural itself, the students used kids' drawings as they wanted to incorporate their vision in the mural, using Adobe Illustrator to recreate their art digitally. As a finishing touch, they added LED strips for the rays of the sun.
Overall the project took 5 months, without counting the COVID induced break. Also due to COVID restrictions, they had to change their design plan since they couldn't demo or build objects on site: It was required to not include any tactile objects that couldn’t be sprayed clean throughout the day. They also weren't able to go to the school, and have a big opening ceremony, instead opting for a Zoom ceremony. Via Zoom, they could see the joy on all of the kids faces, and the excitement that the creation was there. The installation has been running for a while and the children are enjoying it every day on their own and with their occupational therapists.
The group hopes this inspires others to do a similar interactive installations that and hope people can see how this can be used in schools and with young children. The students would love to build them in the near future, as they learned a lot about capacitive sensors and the possibilities with Bare Conductive products, creating things user can not only just see, but also touch and hear.
Images: Helen Tyson Middle School
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