Having spent much of my life in tech and Silicon Valley, I’m well aware of pitfalls that stand in the way of young women interested in my field.  And yet, for all the flak CS gets for being a harsh, unwelcoming environment, it was still more accessible for me than hardware.

Luckily, I’m not alone in wanting to change this, and there are organizations like SWE and CodeChix working on making this career path easier for underrepresented groups.  I’ve had a great time helping teach and mentor students in workshops on Arduino, web development, and robotics competitions.

Our most recent Arduino workshop gave attendees a crash course in basic circuits, ending with this theremin-like instrument as the final project.   It plays different musical notes and changes the LED patterns based on input from an ultrasonic distance sensor.


Since the event was open to the public and targeted at beginners, I put together a few simple demos so people could see other fun components in action at the end of the session.  One of my favorites, the touch-based softpot, offers a very modern interface but simpler kits often only include the turn-knob style potentiometers.  This one is hooked up to change the color of the LED based on where the strip is touched.


Here are some more photos of the workshop:







If you’re interested in the workshop and couldn’t make it, the presentation slides and code is available on Smitha’s site.  If you find the information there useful, please consider making a donation to CodeChix(nonprofit) to keep the work going.

Categories: Projects

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