Interaction Point Prototyping

Bath Spa University approached us a couple of weeks ago to think about a workshop we could create with their students at Bath City Farm to engage them in the Bathscape project. Bathscape Landscape Partnership is a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project aiming to reconnect people with the natural landscape surrounding Bath. We came up with the idea to create interaction points around the farm as part of an audio trail to encourage visitors to explore the farm and learn about its heritage, the people who work there and the stunning landscape it is situated in. During the workshop, the Bath Spa students would create the interaction points from start to finish; collecting and editing audio clips, assembling and gluing the boxes then coding them to play their audio and displaying them around the farm.

This week we’ve had the go-ahead for the workshop so Lucas, Chris and I have been busy prototyping the interaction points. Above shows my initial design inspired by the Bath City Farm logo. With some tweaks and design changes the box was ready to be lasercut, varnished and glued (times five!). Lucas and I then got cracking with the electronics to go inside, using raspberry pi’s, speakers, motion sensors and buttons.

Since the students at the workshop may not have electronics experience, we kept the boxes a simple as possible: one input (from a button or motion sensor) to one output (the speaker playing their audio file). Raspberry pi’s are tiny computers that have a variety of input and output pins available for these tasks. We wired up all the components to wires with push-fit connectors that are easily plugged into the pins on the raspberry pi. Then we used the programming language Scratch to run the circuit automatically when the pi is switched on. Scratch allows you to code by connecting blocks as shown below (right). We also downloaded Audacity onto the pi’s so that the students could edit their audio files on them directly. We chose to use software that is free to download so that the students can continue using them at home if they are inspired during the workshop!

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