Process Pad in progress


Team: Jain Kim, Colin Meltzer and Shima Salehi

May 8 (Sun)

Shima Soldered all the IR LEDs:

For having a multi-touch screen, we discovered that there are two main methods, the main concept of both was having the surface surrounding with symmetrical distributed IR LEDs around it, these LEDs produce a symmetric grid of IR beam, by user touching the surface the symmetry of this grid is curropted at the touch point and IR camera will detect this curroption point . However, there is subtle difference between the existing two methods, in one method LEDs exactly covered the thickness of surface while in the other one the LED strip is placed beneath the surface. Considering our limitations and our purpose, we chose the first method. Implementation of this method needs having LEDs surrounding the surface, for this we have this option to buy a LED strip and divide in a way to have the specific circuit needed or  soldering IR LEDs to make our own LED strip. As a result of financial restriction, we stayed with latter one. Hence, we designed our circuit to have an IR LED at each 1 inch and considering the dimensions of the Process Pad surface, we needed 80 LEDs. Furthermore, we decided to have   a 12v voltage resource, so that  by connecting multi-touch screen to laptop this voltage is provided and as each LED can endure 1.5v, the final circuit for Process Pad constitutes of 10 parallel branches with 8 IR LEDs at each. As a result of this calculation, we bought 90 IR LEDs and  soldered them to have 10 branches with 8 LEDS. To be honest, it was not the most fun part of the project but it was awsome to realize that the similar LED strip to our hand-made one worths more than 2000$.



May 9 (Mon)

Sent 2 resistors into flames!
After soldering LEDs, we were ready to assemble our circuit around the acrylic surface. We decided to add resistor to each branch in order to make our circuit capable of tolerating voltage corruption. we did some calculation to have the resistance level, we put those specific resistors in the circuit, however being not aware of those resistors current limit was the reason to have them in flames as pushing the switching on. Fortunately, although the resistors burned as we could known resistors as the altruistic elements of circuits, they saved our LEDs.


May 11(Wed)

Reviewing Shima’s electrical engineering background led us to dealing with voltage regulation problem. After solving the problem, we created circuit with the IR LEDs and hundreds of alligator clips. We briefly checked if all the IR LEDs are properly working. and also we connected the circuit to the reacTVision. the result pictures proved that the circuit was working. The most regretful part is that we do not have any picture of this circuit to show how the alligator clips were tricky for this purpose.


May 15 (Sun)

We tried to make the wiring simpler – to get rid of the excess alligator clips. We replaced all the alligator clips with strips of wires and added breadboards.



Wiring for the surface

Then, we checked if the camera can properly recognize the blobs of moving fingers on the acrylic surface. The incoming video image showed clear blobs of the moving fingers but the software – Community Core Vision (CCV), could not i.d. them properly. And dragging was not recognized at all. To solve this problem, we need to create a “compliant surface” to enhance the effect. We did some research on the web and concluded that we need  to make a compliant surface out of silicon sealant.

We also tried projecting images on the surface. We wanted to know whether projection from under or above would work better for Process Pad. The old projector in the lab was unfortunately too big and heavy, it would be very difficult to hang the projector from above. We decided to get a mirror and test if we could project from beneath. Also we need to add a projection surface to the acrylic.

For the next week, we will work on adding projection and compliant surface. We will get vellum sheet for projection and silicone layer for added friction.  Adding the layer will help getting clear blobs – when the user press down on the vellum sheet, the silicon gets squished onto the acrylic, making clear contact with the surface. It would let more light to escape down into the camera.


May 16 (Mon)
We sketched out how the surface frame would look like. We wanted to allow for team collaboration and the form of the frame to be inviting. We are going to make a curvy shaped surface in hope for those effect.




Sketches for the frame design


May 28 (Sat)

building the physical frame and making the silicone pad for Process Pad:

We mentioned that the dragging on the surface was not working properly, for solving this problem we realized that we should have vellum paper covered with RTV silicone. this silicone covered vellum paper will increase the friction between paper and acrylic surface so the camera will detect fingers dragging on the surface more properlly. For buying the silicone, we faced the challenge that we were not sure among several types of silicone which one we should choose and which solvent is more appropriate for this purpose, we watched some online videos to find the answers, after all we come up with the vague solution, hopefully the one we used will work properly.


Testing the surface


Building the frame:

Jain came up with the artistic design of the frame, the frame is designed in a way to specified each person authority zone in order to enhance collaboration. To build this frame with convenient weight and thickness, we decided to use 3 layers with different thickness, with the middle one the thickest one with ⅜ of inch thickness to cover the thickness of the touchscreen and the other layers’ thickness are ⅛ of inch. the very buttom level is cut out of the wood to be more solid and strong and the other two topper part out of compressed wood to be lighter, hence having  the whole structure lighter. Also Jain drew each layer to be built out of smaller pieces to consume less wood for building the frame. She also was more than cautious to have the cuts for each layers at different spots so having more stability for the three layers at the top of each other.


Cardboard prototype



Cutouts from wood piece




Gluing the pieces


Cutting the wood was not easy task, we had to repeat cutting three times to have the clean thoroughly cut pieces and also gluing pieces of each layer was a little bit messy process. We had changed materials from real wood boards to MDFs.


May 30 (Mon)

Today we basically tried to come up with the best silicone texture for the vellum paper. The silicone layer we had used to cover vellum paper was too sticky, as a result when we put it on Process Pad, IR camera detected all the sticky parts instead of just recognizing the finger point. We were not sure how to make the silicone less sticky, one theory was to mix the two parts of silicone without solvent, the other theory was to let silicone to dry more, and the third one was to add powder-like material to it in order to make the silicone surface rough.


Preparing Vellum paper



Silicone coating


With grain of sugar


We had the silicone to be dried for two days, obviously having silicone to cure for a longer time would not be the best choice. So we decided to cover another piece of vellum with just two parts of silicone without solvent. Meanwhile waiting for this vellum sheet to cure, we added some sugar to our old vellum sheet. We covered small spot of the sheet with sugar and then tested the result with Process Pad. What we saw in CCV proved that we are in a right path, however, we had to use very thin layer of sugar with less density, this consideration made us wondering that maybe baking soda would be the better solution.

One of the biggest challenge with baking soda was its distribution on the vellum paper, although we tried different methods still the distribution of the baking soda on the vellum paper was not even and at some spots our finger could not be detected because of the thickness of the baking soda.

Figuring out the actual structure of the bottom part and the locating projector and mirror inside it was our second goal for today. We were lucky that the extra wood board, left-over from building the frame had the proper dimensions to make the cabinet structure out of it. We used L-shape metal mounts to connect three sides of the wood boards together while leaving one side open in order for us to have easily access to the IR camera, projector and mirror. Altogether these pieces were strong enough to carry the weight of acrylic surface and its frame. Still we feel the structure to be more sturdier, we will get more metal mounts to reinforce it tomorrow.


Support structure


For next step, we planned to determine the positions of the mirror, projector and IR camera inside the desk and also more systematic solution for distributing an even thin layer of baking powder on the silicone covered vellum sheet.


May 31 (Tue)
We spent almost all our time, working on redoing all the program on the PC instead of Mac, because it seems that Mac is not really compatible for using video library on it. So for recording video of users working on Process Pad, we decided to use Windows instead of Mac. It was a big trouble to redo all we have done during past weeks. We faced some problems such as installing PS3 camera driver on windows and using CCV in this environment. Colin conquered some challenges but still some left to deal within next two days.Another big challenge was covering vellum paper with sufficiently rough silicone layer, although with baking soda we gained some promising results but still it was far from ideal for the multi-touch surface. One other material that we tried for having less sticky silicone layer was baby powder -this is not misspelling or misunderstanding, we really used “baby powder”- because it seems that baby powder is softer than baking powder and its lighter so it will distributed evenly easier with air flow.

Nevertheless, the layer of baby powder on the silicone had the same issues as baking soda, in some areas it was too thick while in other areas they had ideal thickness. For solving this problem, we decided to mix baby powder in silicone beforehand, and then use this creamy silicone on the vellum. The result was disappointing, after this failure  we decided to test another methods on the  smaller piece of paper. So, while the silicone was not totally cured, we used metal brush for having scratches on silicone surface to make the surface slightly rough. As a result of this procedure, what we saw in CCV was much better. Hence, we are confident enough to try this method on a larger piece of vellum paper.


Positioning mirror and projector


June 1 (Wed)
We bought some more metal brackets and screws to bolster the structure of the bottom part of the table. Yesterday, we got Paulo to heroically cut the wood board with hand saw, so today, we added the metal pieces to strengthen the cabinet structure. We drilled and screwed them from inside which turned out to be not the best idea because the sharp end of the screws were sticking out in a dangerous way. So we had to redo all of them from outside.


Now we have structure that is sturdier than yesterday.


Colin – the team’s chief programmer,  is still struggling with the programming issues – he could not get the video recording to work. We decided for now we will focus on getting sound recording and photo taking to work.

Today, we have the most part of the physical part of process pad working – we got the cabinet/box-like bottom structure stabilized, figured out the position for mirror and projector, and got our ‘compliance surface,’ silicone spread on a piece of vellum paper with sprinkle of baby powder working.

We had some ideas for user interface, but considering the time we have left till the expo on Friday, this would not be our priority for this iteration.


User-interface flow


June 2 (Thu)
Colin made great progress with programming, and now we have the basic function of Process Pad working – but not the video recording. We made an executive decision to just focus on taking “snapshot” instead of videos for this iteration.We wanted to set Process Pad out in the CERAS lobby where the expo will take place on Friday. As soon as we turned the switch on the IR LEDs, we realized we are not getting any tracking images on the surface that can be recognized in the CCV. We had a moment of panic thinking that we somehow blew up the IR LEDs, which would mean the no Process Pad tomorrow. But soon we realized the the sunlight from the sunroof emits IR that messes up our system. We tried moving to the shade and reset the system, but we still had too much noise to get the Process Pad to work. We tried building a shield using black fabric to block sunlight. But after hours of trials we gave up and moved into the lab to set up.IMG_0451
Shading for setup 

Process Pad worked great in the lab! So we focused on making user-interface prettier.


Process Pad working great  in the dark


The set up


Design for new menu button

Viral Network Defense Update


We are doing quite well; All work has been completed thus so far has been completed over the weekend of: 5/28 and 5/29.


Megan’s doing the code; she claims that there is no major issues yet with teh code as far as we know. The problem rather is the fact we’re having issue with SLATE. Specifically, we’re trying to get SLATE and reacTIVIsion to work together. According to Megan, the two programs are currently NOT talking to each other; that’s causing us some consternation. However, we have gotten ahold of Coram, and we’re also trying to get ahold of Tiffany. They’re willing, in their own way (Corum over the phone, for example) to help us calibrate the SLATE toolkit to work.  The fact that SLATE and reactivision is not talking to each other is the only problem that seems to be really seriously hampering our project;  when we have this problem fixed, the rest of the project will flow quite well. Furthermore, Megan is working to develop a solution to make the product more effective. She’s currently working hard on the code; Demetric is assisting her with that.


Demetric also has done a great job with GoogleSketchup. He’s been creating buildings that will eventually be cut with the 3d printer. We’re going to only print four to six objects as of now; Claire informs us that this is due more to the fact that because there is a lack of material. We do have about five to seven different models that are available to print. These buildings will be grouped together and then have a fiducial pasted under them. The reactivision camera will recognize these fiducials and hopefully will be able to generate nodes and buildings on maps; this’ll help power our viral network defense game. We were deciding between using plastic molds versus using the 3d printer, but we figured that using the 3d printer would lead to a faster resolution. Taking a look at his buildings has been somewhat inspirational; some of the buildings that he has created seemed to be really quite picturesque and has been inspired in a somewhat retro-futuristic manner.


Enky and Kevin had worked on building the table. Enky procured four large thick columns of wood; these pieces were individually very strong, but when put together with the acryllic board that we were using as our surface; we found that We drilled holes into the legs of the table and then added struts and supports. Specifically, we took metal rods that we found around the lab and then modeled similar supports to Bertrand’s groups table; we added ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ struts and supports which then allowed us to create a more stable table. One of the legs has ended up slightly crooked; in the future, we recognized that perhaps using such thick legs is not as conducive to easy support as is using a thinner leg. However, we were able to make it relatively stable (namely it doesn’t tip over easily, even when kicked and knocked) since we added several solid metal rods that act as a strong level of support for the table.


Kevin has also taken some time to work on writing manual, story materials, and other peripherals that would help give the project some context. Furthermore, he’s preparing the presentation. Everybody is currently on task at the moment; and we still are quite satisfied with the project’s progress at the moment.

Painting with light – work in progress





May 18th

Like a year go when I visited a computer recycling center one of the guys that worked at the center was friendly enough to give me a couple of fresnel lenses for my art projects.   So when it was time to come up with an idea for my final project I thought that now it was a good time to make an educational piece using the fresnel lens. When I started thinking on the installation, one of my interests was to mix old technologies with new technologies and to make a Painting with light educational interactive installation to teach kids about how light and color works.


My learning inspiration is that kids experience light from early ages, but the real concept is introduced generally in middle school. I hope that this installation is a start to diminish the gap between the ages that kids discovers color from the age that the theory is taught in schools.


May 19th


I looked around for what is out there and I remembered that a good friend of mine, Ken, had came up with an led art kid that he sales at the maker shed. I thought that I could add on to his kid using the Fresnel lens (I would cut the lens in tiny pieces and make an educational toolkit out of it)



But then I realized that my kit would not work because the Fresnel lens requires a larger scale for viewing.


May 24th


After lots of thinking I started planning the installation and I made some sketches. Basically I was going to build like a frame structure for the lens and like a pedestal type to hold the sensors for the interactivity area.


How it would works

  • The installation consists of mounting the Fresnel lens on top of a glass table.
  • The leds are projected into the backside of the Fresnel lens, thus producing a laser effect for each led.
  • The Leds are placed on top of servomotors.
  • When users turn on Potentiometer (knob) turns on the led and makes the light be more or less intense
  • Motion sensors or a slider makes the servos turn right or left
  • By moving the red, green and blue lads users can play with light, add or subtract light as well as make their own light painting based on given handouts with suggestions for activities.
  • hand outs is given to kids to teach how color addition and subtraction works by playing with the installation.
  • 2 final activities are given to kids to create color illusion light paintings








Soon after that with the help of the TA’s I realized that it was much better to have it display table wise. And I made this final sketch that consists of 9 LEDs  (different colors LEDS) Glass table
9 Potentiometers (that will turn on and adjust the led intensity, gogo board and the Fresnel lens


I was happy when I saw that the table inside the staff room could work


I made a paper protptype to see how it will work:




I started testing the leds and talking with the TA’s about how to do the color mixing and how much light intensity was required to mix the colors.

After doing some research I modified the installation to have no micro controllers at  all but instead to build my own circuitry to turn on the leds as well as to adjust the intensity of each led.


Doing the circuitry for testing



Then to make sure that color mixing will happen I ordered super bright leds. One for red, green and blue as well as a pack of different leds for the optical illusions part of the installation.


I would divide the installation in 2 areas.


One are would be where the users would controls the RGB  leds to make white ( the addition concept) Those 3 leds would be  fixed to a specific location, where they would modify the intensity of the leds to color mix.


The second area would be on the opposite side of the table where I will have a more free play station where users are invited to test and mix different leds, based on an activity hand out that I will pass on.


Also I will cut the lens to make it smaller to have a smaller area of the lens for users to play with it. I thought that would help to control the variables and to make the threshold smaller for possible errors.


How it works: ( work in progress)

  • The installation consists of mounting the Fresnel lens on top of a glass table.
  • The leds are projected into the back side of the Fresnel lens, thus producing a laser effect for each led.
  • the installation has 2 interactivity area.

1st area- Activity – addition- to make white

  • Three high power Leds are placed horizontally, R G B
  • Each of those leds are connected to a Potentiometer (knob)
  • By moving the Potentiometer  connect to a custom circuitry, the users ate to turn the led on or off  as well as to adjust the light intensity.
  • 1 hand out is given to kids to teach how color addition and subtraction works

2nd area – Activity – optical illusions.

  • 2 activities are given to kids to create color illusion light paintings
  • 5 magnets mechanism that holds 5 different color leds (very similar to slate ) are placed in the lens  for users to move leds around the lens.

It would work like this:


  • the idea of having them on the magnets pieces is that that way users can move the leds freely on the “table”  and color mix.
  • TBD if some lights are able to turn on or off  and TBD how this  area will be electrically made….
  • first thought is to have them running on 3V batteries  and or to  connect the leds to the gogo board to turn them on or off and to adjust the light intensity for more complicated color mixing.
  • I will make the decision after I am able to test how other leds behave besides RGB behave.


May 30th

Today I began to test the leds. The leds are ultra bright and work great.  It was a bit of challenge to get them because I realized that my online order  was not going to arrive on Tuesday.  I went to frys to get them. They did not have red but I was able to get the other two working.


The leds are really bright and the reflections on the lens look beautiful. The leds are able to mix colors successfully. I mixed green with blue and saw cyan. I also used a diffuse shade on the led to see how a more diffuse and wider light reflection will work.




With the help of the TA, I did a breadboard prototype to see how will the circuitry work.  The breadboard had basically the Led and a potentiometer to adjust the led brightness. We tested and it works nicely. I started soldering the leds into longer pieces of wire. I realized that I really needed to get that to test  where the leds will be placed.




To make the table more stable I found a couple of would pieces that may work great to support the lens on top of the table stand. I also went ahead and marked the extra lens that I want to cut out. I also decided to do the entire work area circular, following the color wheel inspiration, I also researched for examples of content of how RGB is explained and their importance in computers  and other technologies.




Tomorrow I hope to do the start testing and to cut the extra lens as wells as to built the prototype for the ultra bright leds.


May 31st

Today I started to cut the lens into a circular shape.  I drew the circle by calculating a perfect ratio from the center. Then the TA started to cut the lens, it worked out great. It looks so much better. I specially like the analogy between the installation and the color wheel, as well as how the table becomes more playful and inviting for people to interacted with it from various sides.

Then we started to work on getting the table more stable. For that we cut 4 pieces of wood.  Unfortunately we try hard to ensemble them but because we did not have the proper tools for them we decided to wait till tomorrow. So that the TA could bring the tools from his house.




Then I started to test the leds; I placed them and calculated how far out they need to be. I found a good position for them, so I went ahead and made a black box that would sustain the leds and the breadboard.




I drew the box and then did a cardboard prototype and it worked great. I cut it off using black acrylic with the laser cutter.  I also cut a piece of transparent acrylic. I sand the transparent piece with the hope that by projecting the led into the sanded acrylic, the light will be diffused. However I did not get a diffuse effect as I wanted. Tomorrow I am going to test if I can get that effect with ping balls. And or add on perhaps a paper filter that I have in mind to diffuse the light.




Unfortunately when I was testing something did a short circuit, and one of the leds burned. I am hoping that tomorrow the other leds that I ordered will arrive before I go to school. Otherwise I will stop at Jameco and get another pair


I also picked up a sample leds bag. That bag comes with a lot of different colors leds and sizes. I hope to use some of these leds in one of the other sides of the circle.


June 1st


In the morning I waited for FedEx but my leds were not going to come in early in the morning so I went ahead and bought one.  Unfortunately I could not find a red high power led. I also went to an art store to buy laminated paper.


I arrive to school and immediately tested the laminated paper with the working led, to see if the paper that I just bought will diffuse the light and it did.  I was very happy about it. The light gets diffuse and makes a nice thick enough light triangle. The color is able to mix successfully.


The TA had come in and secured the wood structure into the table, it looks great. Some of the dimensions of the black box that will hold the leds were wrong and some had changed due to the wood structure so I had to re-cut them.  I cut them with the laser cutter. Then, I started to glue and to put together the black box that will hold the leds.


Then I solder the potentiometers to the leds and finished making the breadboard. I tested one of the potentiometers and it worked great.





I drilled 3 holes to one of the black acrylic pieces (the top piece) to install the potentiometers. Then I secure that piece into the installation and installed the electronics on the box. I tested the two potentiometers and they worked great.


Although after playing with it, the blue potentiometer was not diming the light properly so I had to replace it.



I started to clean up, I placed all the electronics inside a cardboard box that I will cover with black fabric. The I started  to re evaluate the activities that I will have for the people to do. Because I am also working on an Ipad complementary app I may have the activities linked to the Ipad.



Tomorrow I hope to install the red led and to secure the soldering. Then  I will cover with black tape the non-black areas of the installation and I will be pretty much finishing up.



I am happy that all is working.

June 2nd

I came in and tested the red led. It works.  Then I install the red led inside the black box together with the other two leds. I had to put in more tape to make sure that the leds were not going to move.

Then I taped all the wood structure with black tape. The black tape made the installation look so much better.

I spend some time looking at how the colors were mixing, and I was not quite happy with the white result. I went online and looked for more information about the leds placement was perhaps a problem. I was able to find that the green led should be in between the blue and the green. I went ahead and moved the green led to the center. After that change I was able to get a much more stronger white result.

I also made the activities for the  APP and for the installation. I made the  general activities so that  people could play with the app without  having to be physically playing with the installation. However, I think that to have the users of the installation play with the APP helps to come across with the message. I am happy  about how both, the physical and the virtual model complement each other.



I cut with the vynil cutter numbers to put around the knovs, to help users understand how much of each color they are adding in. I also  tried several times to paint the knovs with glowing paint( to see it in the dark) but it did not work.

Some of the potentiometers started to fail, so I went ahead and replace them. As the day went by, the potentiometer failed again until they stopped working. I had to go to frys and get new potentiometers that were 1k ohms and that had a better power resistance.

The new potentiometers had a different diameter, so with the help of the TA we drilled new holes for the potentiometers. I solder them back again. I made a mistake while soldering, the knobs did not correspond to the led placement so I had to unsolder them all and change the wires to make it all correspond. It was a challenge to do that because at that point I was exhausted. At the end I finished soldering and all was working back again. The  new potentiometers give a nice wide range for color mixing and are very stable.


June 3rd.

It was a lot of fun to demo painting with light. Everything worked out great.  People loved the installation, thought it was beautiful and  thought that it is indeed important to teach kids about RGB.

I think that for a lot of people was very enjoyable to see theory in practice, because lots of people know that RGB makes white but nobody really gets to experience the process of making white. Also lots of  people  shared with me how confusing was for them to learn that color light had other primary colors that pigment. People also saw the importance of having an APP  to complement the work. All these comments made me feel( more)  great about my work and subject matter. :0)


6 final photos with caption:


















BBA Final Project – Brain Explorer


Bertrand Schneider and Jenelle Wallace

For more details on the project (goal, learning theories, expected outcomes and so on), please consult this document.

Evolution of the project

Day 1 (Saturday): learning a lot of processing (basic stuff)


Day 2 (Sunday): still learning a lot of processing (libraries; TUIO and a physics library)


Day 3 (Monday): first trial with Tags and TUIO. Software side: basic springs between tags with the physics library. Brainstorming on how to mount the brain on the supports.


Day 4 (Tuesday): Building the physical support (table with a semi-transparent surface, camera, projector,…)


Day 5 (Wednesday): trying to get the tracking of the tags more efficient (e.g. with IR markers). No success (Bertrand spent quite some time testing Collin’s multitouch table to improve the way fiducials were tracked). The solution: getting bigger tags on vinyl stickers. Deciding on what should be the final setting: table built with acrylic sheets, projector from the SLATE system, camera to be bought (the logitech one is not very good).

The evolution of the tags (from left to right): paper, paper on acrylic, mirror acrylic, vynil sticker on acrylic

Final iteration: use the laser cutter to engrave the acrylic on one side to make the surface look frosted and minimize reflection through the tags


Day 6 (Thursday)

Jenelle is working on the physical part (putting magnets in the brain, building the supports for the tags, making all of the feducials, and so on); Bertrand is working on the software (visualizing potentials travelling across the brain). Brainstorming on how the next steps of the project.

Jenelle putting magnets on the brain and building the supports

Bertrand programming links between the tags


Day 7 (Friday):

– (Bertrand) trying to calibrate the webcam and the project; more difficult than planned. Fixing bugs in the software.

– (Jenelle) working on the supports for each brain part.

Also brainstorming on a conceptual level: a better representation of the axons should look like this:

Planning on adding Myelin sheath and Schwann’s cells to the axons

Next iteration on how to visualize an axon:

two brain parts, with the axon of a neuron stretched between them


Day 8 (Saturday):

Jenelle worked on the supports, and is almost done with it.
Bertrand fixed a few bugs with the way axons are visualized (thanks Shima!) and build a table for the system.


Day 9 (Sunday)

After several days of gluing my fingers together with five different types of glue (superglue, epoxy, gorilla glue, acrylic glue, superglue) I (Jenelle) finished the supports!

[Note: Acetone is great for dissolving almost all of the glue types listed above.]

Several useful tips about gluing that might seem self-evident but require more planning than I thought to deal with the uneven surface of our brain model: 

– If only using one support, try to put it at the balance point.

– Maximize the surface area of contact between the supports and the pieces.

– Use epoxy when space-filling glue is necessary – if the pieces don’t fit exactly to the shape of the supports.

– Top off with superglue around the edges of the epoxy – it seems to be stronger.


Day 10 (Monday)

The brain is now forming a network!


And we had our first user :)

Several users suggested that it was a bit distracting to move back and forth between the physical interface and our computer program when looking at cutting the connections. Based on this feedback, we decided that it would be nice to have the user interact with the physical system using an IR pen whose input could be picked up by a Wii remote. Therefore, Bertrand began working on getting the Wii remote to connect to the computer while Jenelle made an IR pen based on this design:
Day 11 (Tuesday)
Bertrand got the final setup for the projector working–we decided that it would be best to have the projector underneath the table rather than mounted above as we had originally planned. However, we realized that this led to another problem with our system: we were planning to project images on the surface of the brain, and we obviously couldn’t do this from underneath. We had already figured out that we couldn’t project directly onto the brain surface since it was too uneven to focus, but we had an idea of giving the user a “magnifying glass” that he or she could hold above the surface of the brain, and then images could be projected onto it. Unfortunately, with our new projector set-up, this idea was no longer feasible.
After some discussion, we came up with the idea of displaying the image underneath the selected brain piece. Jenelle noted that one thing she has had difficulty with in her study of neuroscience is relating the brain sections that researchers use to stain and study different regions with the 3D structure of the whole brain. Therefore, she came up with the idea of having a functionality where the user could scroll through brain sections from top to bottom and locate the region of interest.
We took images from an online brain atlas:
It took a bit of work to coordinate the images from the atlas with our physical model. Looking at both horizontal sections and coronal sections helped.
For the first prototype, I decided to just make horizontal sections to correspond with each piece. Of course, the final version would have horizontal, coronal, and sagittal sections. The work involved importing the images into Photoshop, removing the backgrounds (so the images would look nice on the screen), adjusting the colors, and pinpointing the regions involved in the visual pathway. Here’s one example image:

Day 11 (Tuesday)

Bertrand spent the day working on using the wiimote and improving the visual representation of the visual pathways of the brain. The user can now cut a connection with an IR pen:


Day 12 (Wednesday)

Building the user interface: there is now three buttons on the top of the screen, where you can select different modes:

  • Visual pathway, which displays simplified connections to highlight how information travels from the eyes to the visual cortex
  • Network, which is the default mode
  • Structure, which displays horizontal slides of the brain

Day 13 (Thursday)

We worked on the final calibration of the system in the atrium where the expo would be. We had the amazing realization that sunlight contains IR light (duh)! After lots of different solutions (we tried putting posterboard and fabric around the edges of our table), we decided that a black fabric shield was the only fix.

Below is a screenshot of the “structure” mode, where the user can go through the different slices of a specific part of the brain by moving the IR pen on the image.

We also loaded the brain slice images into the program, and struggled a bit with resizing them and getting the orientation correct (the projector flips the images horizontally, so the text was all backwards).


Day 14 (Friday) – The Presentation

We worked on the final calibration of the system in the atrium where the expo would be. We had the amazing realization that sunlight contains IR light (duh)! After lots of different solutions (we tried putting posterboard and fabric around the edges of our table), we decided that a black fabric shield was the only fix.

Above is Bertrand demonstrating the system to someone. Notice that there is a webcam between the two eyes: what the brain perceives is displayed on the bottom left corner of the table, thus the user can directly see how cutting different connections affect what the brain sees.

Reading reflection week 9


“From my observations and their testimonies, it was apparent that students went through a significant transformation, from being lost to gradually finding their way through the new materials, environment, and methods of working and collaborating.” (Blikstein, 2008)


I believe that the students are more likely to seek collaboration and help from other students when they are lost in the process. Seeking ways to solve complex problems help the students to learn constructive ways to complete the task step by step. A student who can complete the work without any help may not end up doing any collaboration. In comparison, being lost helps the students to learn new skills such as communicating with other students and completing the task effectively. It is important for teachers to support such a collaborative environment. If the student is lost in a traditional classroom environment where no one is allowed to talk except teachers, the student is in very bad situation. Instead, the student is much better off if he or she is allowed to talk with other students about the assignment. We should encourage peer-to-peer learning in education.


The children learn a lot while they are going from the “being lost” state to the “completed” state. As a result of the experience in the process, they are more willing to pursue any task than giving up the task. They will be equipped with skills such as collaboration, social, and designing skills to get the work done. These skills are crucial for their lives in general.

Reading Response Week 9


Paulo Freire’s book and philosophy are powerful because they extend beyond formal education. His thoughts impact how people interact with each other and the world.

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.” Freire does not merely posit that suppressing people’s intellectual creativity/curiosity impedes learning, he maintains that it suppresses the individual in a much more disturbing way. However, Freire does not focus solely on changing the environment of learning/the world. He focus on changing the perspective of the individual.

The key to solving problems and improving the world is for every person–no matter how poor or intelligent–to believe that he is of worth and that he is capable of solving problems. Furthermore, when people focus on problems that need to be solved rather than tools (be it physical tools, current ideas, or people) that environment becomes one that is more conducive to the empowered individual.

For me, I struggle with Freire because there seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg problem with the environment and the individual. I’d love people’s insights and thoughts!

Computational Literacy Response


Computational Literacy is not about knowing how to engage the basic functions of a computer. Rather, computational literacy is about being able to engage a computer in a new way. It’s about problem solving and being able to make sense of a new computer or an unknown computer-based system. A computer manual tells people about basic functions of computers and computationally literate people see how those functions can interact in powerful ways. Computationally literate people are the intersections.


In DiSessa’s book, I liked how he talked about the infrastructure side of literacy. Literacy is infrastructural because it is used to learn other things, it is more than an educational goal–it is an educational/life means. Similarly, computational literacy can be a infrastructural. The way I’ve primarily seen computer classes in middle school and high school taught is that they are seen as promoting computer (not computational literacy). This limitation may be due to the curriculum constraints and/or the teacher constraints.


If we move to a world of education that internalizes computational literacy as infrastructural, we will see changes to how we deal with misconceptions in science and math. Right now, “misconceptions” focus on explaining how children’s performance/thoughts fail to align with standard approaches. However, children’s “misconceptions” are usually grounded in some sort or reasoning. If computer literacy becomes foundational and classrooms leverage computers to teach students in a hands-on/Pappert-esque way, then many of these “misconceptions” will work themselves out naturally. This is positive because often when we correct misconceptions, we throw the baby out with the bath water because we discourage the creative thinking and perceptiveness that yielded the initial conception.





Computational Literacy


Computational literacy, as diSessa explains it, is much more than being able to operate a computer; it is using the computer as a tool, to enhance and extend one’s own abilities. It is creating synergy between the brain and the computer that allows people to think, represent and create in new, more meaningful ways. The literacy diSessa is referring to is “not artificial intelligence in the sense of placing our own intelligence or knowledge, or some enhanced version of it, into a machine. Instead, it is an intelligence achieved cooperatively with external materials” (2001, p. 5). In this cooperation between human and computer, ideas can be formed and represented in ways otherwise impossible. It seems we, as a culture, are learning how to navigate these new means of creation and how to make sense of these new representations.


As we become computationally literate, we gain great new avenues for education. Particularly in mathematics and science education computers can be used to aid in reworking misconceptions. While the current model in many schools is to try to replace misconceptions with simple facts, students often require much more robust learning experiences in order to grasp the truth behind their misconceptions. Since we learn by associating every new piece of information with what we already know, changing a student’s understanding is not as easy as replacing an incorrect node. Learners need to gather new information and reconstruct their own conceptual framework. This process, as diSessa suggests, can be aided by working with a computer.


While (re)discovering mathematics and science concepts is the best way to truly learn and understand them, this process is long and circuitous and is therefore bypassed by educators in favor of simply getting information across. It may be that computational literacy allows for a much richer, more condensed version of rediscovering mathematics and science principles. If this is the case, computational literacy may help learners to rebuild their conceptual frameworks in the event of a misconception.


Computational Literacy & Student Misconceptions


According to the DiSessa readings, computational literacy is the understanding made possible only with the help of unique representations produced by new media.  Like the technology of writing that came before, new media provides not just a different way to express old ideas, but the ability to express ideas that were difficult, if not impossible to communicate before.  DiSessa describes the new cognitive abilities which make up computational literacy as “meta-representational competencies,” meaning the ability to understand the vast and varied representations produced by new media.  Furthermore, the usability of these precise, interactive, new media representations allows students to learn concepts previously through inaccessible to non-experts or young learners.  However, DiSessa makes the important point that the technology is only one part of computational literacy.   He also discusses the cultural and social factors that must come into play in order to support any new emerging literacy.


In terms of addressing students misconceptions, the computational literacy described by DiSessa offers a promising solution.  As Smith et al. describe, it is not enough to replace students’ wrong ideas with right ones.  Rather, it is much more effective to be able to connect the correct understanding to the parts of their thinking that are accurate.  For a teacher to do this for each individual student in a classroom is a huge challenge.  However, modeling programs, like the ones used by DiSessa for the Newton’s Law and Falling Body experiments, scaffold the process so students can realize and readjust their own misconceptions.  Such programs also make students’ thinking visible, giving teachers a more immediate understanding  of the misconceptions occurring than is possible with traditional methods.


The power of discovering rules for oneself is also invaluable for addressing scientific and mathematical misconceptions. For this reason the success of DiSessa’s various re-inventing experiments made possible by new media is quite compelling.  Though I remember teachers trying to facilitate discovering rules for ourselves during school, it always came off as extremely artificial. We followed a series of steps to answer the teacher’s problem rather than addressing the unique problems created by our own misconceptions.  Thus, instead of producing the “ah-ha” moment that comes from working through one’s own misconceptions, it was an anticlimactic reproduction of a proof for someone else’s problem.  However, the ability to understand, experiment with, and easily manipulate new media representations now makes it possible for students to not only answer the same questions as Galileo and Newton, but to first come up with those questions themselves, which is infinitely more powerful.


Computational literacy

As diSessa mentioned  in her works, computer literacy, in her opinion interchangeable term by “material intelligence”  , is the capabilities of our mind acquired in cooperation with external devices.Hence, these group of capabilities cannot be achieved without existence of our mind or the related external tool. The author by explaining the three pillars of computational literacies, also emphasizes on the fact that  besides human’s mind and external tool, for obtaining these capabilities  the appropriate social setting is needed.
People nowadays depending on their professional field possess various kinds of computational literacies. To mention one as an example for clarifying, let’s consider agent based modeling approach that we have practiced during these previous weeks. Agent based modeling approach is definitely a type of computational literacy. Our mind by the help of associated software becomes capable of analyzing emergent behaviors caused by agents’ action. this capability could not be acquired with out our mind being able to extract the agent set of rules and without having the proper software such as Netlogo for modeling the phenomena based on these rules.
For achieving this literacy also the third pillar called the social one is needed. as an example, the teaching of ABM approach could be considerably benefited from educational curriculum and the extent it is accepted by the educators.  Furthermore as a part of social pillar of development of ABM it should be mentioned that creation of the software such as Netlogo rooted in developing earlier educational softwares such as Starlogo and earlier movement in educational world such as the growth of constructivism school of thought.

However, could computational literacies such as ABM solve misconceptions about phenomena being modeled? to be honest, if our answer to this question is yes, probably we are one of the techno-centric followers who overestimate the values and effects of technology. Computational leteracies of different kinds should be considered as  facilitators of solving misconceptions rather than solutions for them. for example if we introduced ABM to an educational system, besides making sure that it has beneficiary inscription system (material pillar) that matches learners’ cognitive capabilities ( cognitive pillar) we should also assure that educational setting has enough coordination with this approach.

Nevertheless, doing all these, does not mean that we take the misconception out of the man kind history of learning. It just means that we provide students with more opportunities to challenge their prior knowledge, and also put more restrictions for limiting students’ misunderstanding. as an example , students working with ABM have the chance to test their theory for explaining different phenamona, these opportunities help them to check the validation of their hypothesis, also ABM learning environment to the great extent prevents students from  misunderstanding  that a complex outcome is the result of complex agents’ behaviors, nevertheless, still besides all these facts it is still possible that students working with ABM possess  misconceptions about a concept.

on the other words, although computational literacies are not the ultimate solutions for solving students’ misconception, they give learners more opportunities to test their perceptions and knowledge. Borrowing electrical engineering analogy, material intelligence is like the extra filter on the way of mental process, that filter  takes creative ideas out of  the combination of misconceptions and useful understandings resulted from learners’ previous knowledge and leave behind misconceptions. But as engineers would say no filter is ideal and also each filter will work optimally just  in a certain condition. Which means we do not leave behind all misconceptions by using computational literacies, also for using computational literacies we need prepared social setting.

In conclusion, we should remember that Instead of considering learners a an empty, flat ground, we should  consider them  as a ground filled with many building blocks with different shapes. According to constructivism approach, it could be said that  education system is in charge of empowering learners to manipulate these blocks for shaping a new more complex structure. for accomplishing such a specific constructional task,  it is possible that some building blocks are not being used, some should be changed slightly while others should change tremendously. While learners’ prior knowledge is that building blocks, Computational literacies should be perceived as a tool which enable learners to build more complex structure out of these blocks. Considering this metaphor, although computational literacies is of a significant role for creating new knowledge based on prior knowledge,however,  having just that tool is not enough for solving misconceptions and acquiring  new knowledge.



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