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by Wayne on October 12, 2010

This summer, we were approached by the folks who run STEPS, a science and engineering summer camp for girls. One of the things they wanted to introduce this year was more electronics. It had to be hands on, and interesting to a high school girl.

With our help, each of the girls soldered together a “Nerdle,” and learned how to use the Nerdle software. I came in on the last day, and taught some basic programming using the Arduino IDE.

Nerdle open source electronic party game by Wayne and Layne, LLC

A Nerdle is an open-source hand-held electronic party game, like Taboo or Catchphrase. It has a little LCD display, and capacitive touch buttons. Anyone can upload new words and categories over USB, using an easy-to-use graphical program.

Because the Nerdle is powered by an Atmega328, we added the necessary polish so it is reprogrammable at a deeper level using the Arduino interface. I came in on the last day of the camp, after they had assembled the kits, and spent the morning going over basic programming. After lunch, the girls had free time to work with their Nerdle kits. I was completely floored.

Most of the girls had no programming experience whatsoever, and some of the stuff they came up with in just a few hours blew my mind. One girl programmed the device to play a Coldplay song using the piezo buzzer!

We gathered some feedback from the students:

Two people check their soldering work at STEPS

Building the nerdle was really fun! I found soldering to be very enjoyable, although it was tricky at first. I thought that the difficulty level of building the nerdle to be very suitable for me.

When building the nerdle, I thought it was a very easy and fun thing to build. I really enjoyed [soldering] together all the resistors and wires. I had no troubles at all.

When programming the nerdle I thought this was very easy as well. You went at a great pace that we could all follow along to. And I was really getting into [it] because I actually understood what we were discussing. This is what made it easy for me.

I liked learning to program it. It was fun and kept me interested.

The programming was understandable when explained by Adam. I think that I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun. It was very interesting and was not [frustrating] at all. Thank you!

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