WINTER WEEK 3: SparkFun and Makey Makey

Another eventful seminar with C&E…this time we took a field trip to the SparkFun headquarters in Boulder, CO.  SparkFun creates small electronic parts and computer processors, along with kits and an array of other cool things.  Everything is made in house, from the computer code that hosts their website to the graphic design, engineering, manufacturing of parts, shipping and receiving, customer service, and tech support.

We spent the morning learning Processing, an open-source computer programming language, which was new for most of us.  Derek, our instructor, began with easy syntax and then made it more complicated with each example.

After lunch, we got to open the red boxes at our stations, which contained Makey Makeys.  These are plug and play devices that have limitless possibilities.  You have to complete a circuit with the alligator clips, but how you choose to do it is up to you.  We transformed bananas and apples into arrow keys, and other students used bracelets, sunglasses, and copper tape to make buttons and control the computer.  Ideally, we would write our own program in Processing and use it to control the Makey Makey, but that’s more than a one day workshop. At least everyone had an introduction to this world of open-source technology.  Lastly, we toured the facility and learned about the work culture at SparkFun.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere, Google-like, and it was interesting to see how a less corporate-type business runs their operation.

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