In my previous career I was fortunate to spend some time working with younger students on science and engineering projects. In doing this I saw first hand how engaged and interested the students were in STEM subjects. Since leaving that role I have had less opportunities to provide support but hopefully the Busy Hands skill can help inspire an interest in science.
What it does
The Busy Hands skill currently includes 5 science projects each of which have step by step instructions, equipment required and facts. You can ask the skill to start a project and it will take you through the steps one by one by saying next to proceed to the next instruction. If you don't fancy working on a project at that time you can simply ask for a science fact.
How I built it
I used AWS Lambda and the Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console to build the skill using the command line. I based the skill on the recipe example provided in the Alexa Cookbook but had to expand on this to provide multiple projects and more content.
Challenges I ran into
I had problems trying to expand to provide multiple projects. I was unsure of the best or most efficient way to output the content of the array so I spent a lot of time researching how arrays work with node.js and playing around with the code. In the end I created an array for each project containing three more arrays for steps, facts and instructions.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I had very little access to internet whilst trying to develop this skill so I had to find a method where I was testing and modifying code offline before I uploaded and tested with the Alexa Developer Console test environment. In doing so I learned how to use the ASK command line interface to manage my skills.
What I learned
I learned how to use the function cardRenderer so I can add a title, some text and an image to users using an Alexa with a display.
What's next for Busy Hands
The first thing would be to expand the content including the addition of more projects and facts. I would also like to develop a function so items can be added to a users cart so the equipment can be easily ordered for their project. Another thing I plan on introducing is a score chart where the status of each project can be tracked and points can be received. Along with this I will also implement a quiz game where the students can receive extra points by answering the questions correctly. I would also like to create videos for each of the projects and add them so users with an Alexa show can view them or they can be viewed via a web application.