FINCH MAKES LEARNING FUN AT ST. ANDREW’S
Submitted by Teacher Anthony MacPherson of St. Andrew’s Junior School.
Finch in Action at SAJS
The Finches for students at SAJS have been a great and are one of the more popular items in the lab. They have served as an accessible starting point for beginners, and an outlet for creativity among our more advanced users in the Brilliant lab. One of our goals within the board and our school specifically is to give as many students as we can exposure to the space regardless of background or knowledge level and the finches have been great since they are friendly for all skill ranges.
One of the first things we start with before students are able to create things for themselves is the concept of having the finch’s motion controlled by the user with arrow keys. It introduces simple concepts like an event triggering an action, the mechanics of left and right turns with the wheels etc. After this, students are free to explore and create.
Below are a few of the more unique projects that have been created at SAJS. I’d like to highlight that students took great pleasure in giving these projects their names, which is also part of the appeal of some of these ideas. I hope you like them!
Finchstrument: Look up the frequencies of any musical scale, and program the finch to “buzz” after pressing a different key. You can lay out your keyboard like a piano and even have sharps and flats if you want to create a chromatic scale. It can then be used to play simple songs directly from the finch. This is also a great way to cover some of the science curriculum relating to frequency, wavelengths, range of what a human ear can ear etc. This activity can be expanded by including slight colour changes with each pitch over the spectrum of visible light where, for example, a low C may be red, and a high C is violet, with everything in between corresponding to a colour in that spectrum.
Disco Finch: Program the finch to rapidly blink a series of colours, bonus if you can get it to “dance” back and forth as it blinks. This can be fun for a whole group as once students are finished they can turn off the lights in the room, put on music and watch the finch. We have used this in unison with the little bits kit where students would use one of the triggering mechanisms to have music play on the little bit while the finch “danced” and blinked different colours.
Roomba Envy: Try to copy the function of a Roomba vacuum by using the proximity sensor in the front to recognize walls, rotate and drive. It’s a fairly simple project but it’s cute and can be expanded upon. Maybe the finch makes a noise when it sees a wall, maybe it changes colour. It can be built on easily and is a nice way of students exploring “if, than” or “if, than, else” type statements.
DaFinchi: Attach a marker to the back of the finch and attempt to have it draw or write on a piece of bristle board. Students found it most effective to have the finch drive backward when doing this so it can make more abrupt line changes. The finch can either be pre-programed with a set of movements to create a drawing or have manual controls.
Tanning Finch: This was one of our early demo projects where the light and temperature sensors were used. Finch starts off blue and drives until it is under a “sun” (bright light, should be one that throws heat). The finch stops under the light, and once it reaches a set temperature, turns red (sunburnt), buzzes a note, and backs out of the light.
Scaredy Finch: Finch drives until the lights are off. Stops, “screams” with an 1100Hz buzz and turns blue. Drives again when the lights are on.
FinchWars: Requires 2 Finches. Mod your Finch with whatever you have around to either out muscle another finch or to try and flip it over. Mod’s can’t be permanent and can’t be so aggressive that it damages either Finch.
FinchTag: Requires 2 Finches. Use a variable to keep score every time one finch “sees” another. Area should be free of obstacles so the only thing one finch can see is the other. Set it for 2 minutes and see who ever “sees” the other finch the most wins.
One we have yet to try, but is available online is the Finch Simon Says. It’s a great demo of what’s possible with the finch and a great way to inspire creativity.