Side profile of the finished Pail
Writing the Arduino code
The crucial component: duct tape
As an Econ major and Education minor, I'm really interested in development of new pathways that improve the education of future generations. I also like puns. By combining this background with a desire to do something more out-of-the-box, I knew I had to go Beyond the Pail.
What it does
Beyond the Pail serves as a tech-enabled bundle of joy for the precocious and inquisitive child. With a focus on measurement technology (encompassing elementary lessons on weight and different measurement systems), this Pail helps target the K-5 demographic to develop their spatial-kinetic learning skills, which are often overlooked in our current test-focused and behavioral-dependent educational system.
Well, that's what I wanted it to do. During this hackathon, I managed to figure out how to jury-rig the Arduino and get the LCD to display "Beyond the Pail" on the side; that's about it.
How I built it
I obtained an Arduino, breadboard panel, and LCD display from a friend. From there, I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to connect all the wires so that the LCD would actually display stuff (it turns out that I had two wires in the wrong spot, which, when corrected, finally made everything work). After that, I spent some time learning how to code in Arduino, and created custom code to successfully change text on the bottom of the screen, but leave the top text the same. Finally, I got my roll of duct tape and taped the Arduino board to a smiling Jack-O-Lantern bucket that was lying around.
Challenges I ran into
I'm not a CS major. I'm not even an engineer! It was a steep learning curve to figure out how to actually put an Arduino together, especially since it's been a few years since I've played with electric circuits. After some trial-and-error, plus squinting at more than a few diagrams and online forums, I managed to make the LCD turn on. From there, I tackled the challenge of learning Arduino code (albeit a minor one - my CS106A knowledge came in handy!)
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I entered into this hackathon with very little development-focused coding background, and certainly no experience with "hardware hacks". Learning how to use Arduino to accomplish something on the hardware side was a really great accomplishment for me; it's something that I've wanted to do for years, but never had the impetus to do until now.
What I learned
I learned how to build a functional Arduino circuit, troubleshoot physical and software-side bugs, and creatively imagine a better future through the EdTech space. I also learned that there are a lot of hardware-side ideas that are easy to create in theory, but hard to implement if you have no prior knowledge whatsoever on the hardware side.
What's next for Beyond the Pail
Adding more features that help achieve the spatial-kinetic goals I have set, including a load cell connected to Arduino to measure weight real-time (which is what I originally wanted to try to create).