SmartyKit @ KIT Singapore follow-up

Hi, this is Sergei Panarin! Thanks for participating in our series of workshops at KIT Singapore on January, 20!

Here is the summary of what we have done with kids on every workshop and link to a guide with video instructions on how to make a 4-button piano for those who are interested.

On the way to assemble a computer

On workshops #1 — #3 kids assembled and learned the basic principles of key computer modules — CPU,  generator and LCD-screen (check the scheme below).

 

Workshop #1 — Artificial brain

We focused on the main chip inside every computer and smartphone — central processing unit (CPU) or processor. It does all the work – executing computer programs (software) instruction after instruction. On the workshop, we assembled ‘breadboard’ with a CPU that executes ‘no-operation’ instruction and seeks for the next one. These causes LEDs to blink as CPU changes address seeking for the new instructions. Also, we discussed that CPU has 3 main buses – address bus, data bus and control bus to communicate and guide all the other chips in the computer.

To start CPU once again kids could cooperate with those who assembled a generator on the workshop #2 – the generator could produce a clock signal for the CPU.

Workshop #2 — Mini-piano

Generator — is a heart of a computer that generates a clock signal for the CPU and syncronizes other chips. So on Step 1 we assembled a generator on the chip #1 that produced a sound via a beeper. We used a capacitor (a component that stores electricity and then gives it back) and a resistor (a component that resists the flow of electricity). On Step 2 we added chip #2 that lowers the tone of the chip #1 and produces 4 tones out of one (each one has frequency two times lower than the previous one). Video guide with instructions for Step 2 is here.

This signals could be used to run a CPU and other modules of the computer.

Workshop #3 — Smiling pixels

On this workshop, we learned the basics of the LCD screens — screens that consist of the small dots — ‘pixels’, that could glow or not glow. Every screen controller (a.k.a. video card) turns on neede pixels to form a picture on the screen. Also, we have seen with kids that this is done many-many times per second so our eye could not see it (and we lowered the update rate to see it).

In practice, kids drew their 8×8 pixels picture and then translated it into binary code — 1’s and 0’s. After that we used an encoding machine to convert it to the computer code — hexadecimal — we pressed buttons in the positions where it were 1’s and got the code for every row of our picture. Then I uploaded the code to the chip, we plugged it into the 8×8 LED screen and see the picture. This is how all the screens really work!

Conclusion

If you have any questions — please feel free to contact me via email (sergpanarin@gmail.com) or Telegram (@spanarin). Also would love to see you at the next workshops! Also, you could subscribe (in English) to announcements on our English website www.smartykit.org and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.