Light Blocks! Learn about physical computing by using code with LEDS.

ID: 50897 Type: Roundtable
  1. Susan Molnar, Purdue University, SuMo Design Workshop , United States

Tuesday, March 7 4:15 PM-5:15 PM

No presider for this session.

This project is a hands on way to use arduino based technology to create pieces of art that can communicate simple messages. The original project was done with kids as young as 7 participating, and then placed throughout mainstreet Greenville SC. The project involved discussions about computers and messages in public space and how media impacts communication. This workshop will go through the techniques to use basic coding skills in the Arduino coding environment to manipulate 16x32 RGB light boards. These light boards are able to create "pixel art" simple phrases, and sequences. This workshop will go through the process start to finish to create working "light blocks" Discussion of how to acquire and use these materials, and how this project might be contextualized will also be part of the workshop.


- State the role that microcontrollers play in simple physical computing Example: The microcontroller, controls the lights of the board - Explain how code and physical objects interact Example: The code switches on the values of RGB to create different colors of lights - Be able to Demonstrate basic Arduino programming skills to change the lights - Relate how the changing of the code interacting with changing of the lights applies to broader physical computing projects. Example: If an object runs with code a change in the programming will change the expected outcome.

Topical Outline

- Basic overview of Soldering and Circuits - Intro to Microcontrollers - Intro to Arduino programming - Physical Computing in the world around us


No prerequisites, although some computer knowledge is desirable. If possible, bringing a laptop with the Arduino IDE with the #AdafruitGFX library installed would be helpful.

Experience Level



Susan Molnar is a working artist and educator with 15 years experience who is dedicated to empowering others to understand and execute their ideas. Susan has a background in multi-media and cross-disciplinary arts. With a BFA from Tufts University, a diploma from School of the Museum of Fine Arts, as well as Media Studies graduate work from The New School she is currently pursuing a M.S.ed in Learning Design and Technology through Purdue University. Her diverse educational background continues to inform her processes and her life. By investigating the possibilities of new technologies while trying to understand their personal and cultural impacts, Susan strives to create opportunities for growth and experience for others that they may not have previously considered. She continues with this passion in developing effective processes for human performance improvement. In this vein, after relocating to South Carolina following a stem cell transplant for Leukemia, Susan became one of the founding members of iT2Pi, Introduction to Technology To Programming Inventors. The program is now in its third year, and has served several hundred kids in the upstate South Carolina region exposing them to technology and equipping them to be makers not just users. Susan has been an integral part of planning the iT2Pi expo each year, she as also written several grants and has been awarded 23,000 for the organization. Susan was also part of the initial planning stages of the iMAGINE Upstate festival and continues to serve on the iMPACT board. Through grant funding she was able to bring in the Chattanooga maker group ART 120 art bikes, which are student built using welding and metalworking skills to the inaugural event. She also organized several local events to try to spark the interest in starting a similar program in Upstate SC. In addition, she has written a 40,000 grant awarded to Project Hub Spartanburg for their pursuit of opening a Maker Space in downtown Spartanburg. Recently she has spoken about Technology and Arts and their relationship culture and our future at Atlanta Maker Faire 2015, Charlotte Maker Faire 2015 and ECPI Manufacturing Day 2015. Susan also serves on the ECPI curriculum advisory board for mechatronics. Most recently she has been named the 2016 Google Policy Fellow for the American Association of People with Disabilities. Currently, she works out of her studio SuMo Design Workshop in Travelers Rest, South Carolina.


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