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Making a pencil drawing or scribble part of a circuit combines expression with technology.

Interactive Pencil Drawings

The first time I saw someone draw a line with a pencil to connect a circuit, I didn't think about it much. But then I experimented, and realized I could make a drawing, then attach a sensor, a Cricket, and a sound recorder -- and have the drawing tell a story! -Margaret
stuff you need
  • Paper
  • Graphite (Almost all pencils contain graphite. Try an assortment of pencils, some work better than others.)
  • Cricket
  • Display
  • Alligator-clip sensor
  • Cricket sound recorder or music box or lights or motors - what ever you would like to activate with your drawing!

First experiment with a simple line. Use a pencil to draw a heavy line on a piece of paper. Attach an alligator clip sensor and a display to your Cricket. Write a program to display the sensor value, then experiment with touching the sensor to the pencil line. Move the two clips closer together and farther apart along the line. How do the sensor values change?

(Tip: if you aren't getting a range of sensor values, try making the line heavier. Or try another pencil.)

On this test drawing, I wrote down the values I got at each "branch." I kept making the lines heavier and thicker until I could get four distinct values when I touched the sensor to each branch.

I used the values I got from my test drawing to write a program that would change the color of a tri-color LED. For example, a low sensor value might make the light bright pink and a high one make it green.This larger image of the program is much easier to see.
When I tried this with museum visitors, kids made all kinds of drawings to try. Some worked really well right away, and some had to be re-drawn to get them to work. Because kids could see right away (in the colored light and the display) how well or poorly their drawing conducted, they could keep revising drawings and trying new ones.
We soon covered two huge sheets of heavyweight paper with pencil drawings.
Will a long, skinny animal drawing work? What about a drawing of a big, round animal?
I made this drawing to tell a story. One alligator clips onto the end of the road and you touch the other clip to the house, the factory, the barn and the city to hear the story. The Cricket is programmed to play a different message for each of four sensor values.
What else
How do they get the lead in pencils?
Read all about it.
Read what Margaret wrote about her interactive storytelling idea.
Will food conduct electricity? Read about an activity that combines food and Crickets.

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