Saturday, the Bakken Museum is offering kids and kids-at-heart a chance to explore and hack little devices that are kick-starting innovation around the country.
To kick of Computer Science Week at the museum, guests are invited to come to the Volta classroom on Dec. 15 between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to meet something called an Arduino micro-controller, a smart computer chip that can be programed to do a lot of strange and amazing things.
Guests will get to try their hands at programming LEGO robots to navigate a maze using sensors, and generally take their first steps towards learning to take over the world. All activities are free with the cost of admission.
For example: earlier this year, Southwest Minneapolis resident Zach Supalla and a team of local entrepreneurs unveiled a very cool new object, called a Spark Device. At its heart is an Arduino that helps programmers write all manner of innovative applications for the device. As Patch reported at the time:
Essentially, Supalla has come up with a very intelligent light socket that you can control from your smartphone or computer. Called a Spark, the small, barrel-shaped device screws in between your regular light sockets and your dimmable light bulbs. It connects to the Internet via your home wifi router, letting a user do everything from setting timers on their lights before vacation, to remotely turning them on and off using a special chip called an Arduino.
That may sound pretty simple, until you consider that these basic functions are just the beginning. The real genius of Spark, according to Supalla, is its free, open software. Any software developer in the world can use the Spark platform to come up with a fairly unlimited set of programs that can dramatically expand its functionality. Already, Supalla told Patch, he’s hoping someone will come up with an app that will dim or brighten a light in a user’s house depending on how close their smartphone-equipped child is to home, like a certain Weasley family clock from the Harry Potter movies.
The kind of flexibility inherrant in Arduinos is helping Supalla and countless other entrepreneurs create whole new classes of products which marry hardware and software genius—and which can be made in America.
Correction: This article originally misstated the date of the Bakken Museum's event. It is occurring Dec. 15, not Dec. 8. We apologize for this error.