Hackademy ‘Inside The Machine’- Oct 26th 2011

Here are some links to resources, photos, videos etc. from our Hackademy ‘Inside The Machine’ physical computing event that we held on Oct 26th during the half term holiday.

The aim of this event was to engage children with physical computing opportunities. We had PicoBoards, Arduino, FIGnition, IQ microcontrollers – and Hama beads!

I hope that today’s event will be start of many others like it, not just at our school, but many others around the UK. If you wish to get involved in future events please email ALANaaatttODONOHOEdddoootttORGddoottUK

More photos and videos will be added to this blog as they become available. You can see a photo gallery here online.

In total,  28 children, most of them from our school signed up through our eventbrite page. So I was pleased to see that 25 children actually turned up on the day.

The welcome session was to explain to children why I had chosen to organise a physical computing event. I explained how modern day computer users are not encouraged to delve inside the machine, this makes it more difficult for users to learn about how computers work. So the ‘Inside The Machine’ event was to allow children to understand what computers looked like inside the case and how these could be connected to the world ‘outside the machine’. Perhaps the day should have been titled “Inside Out”?

We had 6 workshops running altogether and we asked children to select their preferences. We had a timetable like BarCamp with session titles and times on the wall. Each session leader gave a brief description of the aims of their session. Then children placed post it notes with their names on in the sessions of their choice on the session wall.

You can get a snapshot of what happened by going on a 1 minute tour of our event where you can see each workshop briefly. It starts with the session board just as the school bell rings.


The 6 different workshops were

Building a FIGnition 8 bit computer – led by Julian Skidmore

Scratch PicoBoards – led by Nick Jackson

Arduino Inventions – led by Cefn Hoile

Hama Beads 8 bit Sprites – led by R O’Donohoe (my 12 year old daughter)

IQ Microcontrollers – led by Alan O’Donohoe

Building a PIC Pong Game – provided by Games Britannia

It was clear that different sessions appealed to different groups of individuals.

During our morning break (after the first session) I interviewed some children to hear their opinions, you can listen to their feedback here. I encouraged children to choose a pseudonym for themselves – hence some of the silly names like ‘Mr Lemon’ and ‘Higgle Piggle’.

The Scratch Picoboard session allowed children to control virtual entities on screen, games for example by interacting using the PicoBoard inputs.

This included the slider (linear potentiometer) and microphone. Later one group tried to create a ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’ style game to test and improve co-ordination. This was very entertaining to see the children first attaching large pieces of conductive foil to their bodies and then try and synchronise their movements to the game.

The Arduino Invention session provided many children with the first Arduino experience. Cefn demonstrated some of his ‘Maduino’ inventions, then children protyped their own.

Listen to one 12 yr old talk about his Arduino invention.


It was clear by the large volumes of Nintendo inspired badges that many children enjoyed using Hama beads to create their own artefacts.

By the end of the day, some children had nearly completed their FIGnition computers. ‘Michael’ demonstrates his working.


Our next Hackademy event ‘After Hours’ is on Friday 4th November – a family hack evening. Families will work together in teams to hack a game to improve it. We will provide pizza, pop and prizes! Pizzas kindly sponsored by Toni’s Pizzas, Preston

We also hold regular Computing at School events for teachers or adults interested in teaching computing, our next two are March 1st and May 17th 2011

 A huge thanks to our sponsors and friends that supported us today

testled have sponsored lunch for our session leaders, snacks and drinks throughout the day, prizes and swag bag goodies. Woot!

Games Britannia who have supplied 5 Pong Game Kits. Yay!

Maplin Electronics who have supplied some swag bag goodies. Clap Clap!

BarCamp Blackpool who have supplied some BarCamp Rock. Yum Yum!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Simon Platt says:

    Jolly good! My youngster would have liked to come to this, I’m sure. We’re on the waiting list fior next Friday – I’m crossing my fingers.


  2. jose j viton says:


    I´m working with a group of student similat or yours. We play with robotics,learning program and hardware.
    I´ve developt and useful board that allow to link the real world and scratch using sensors and Actuator (even your onw developments) all base in aurduino.


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