Digital Arts & Technology Academy


Digital Arts & Technology Academy (DATA)

505access provides DATA Charter, a non-profit, Albuquerque charter high school, students with fun opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). Students are encouraged to share ideas with diverse communities so that we may learn from each other to produce a superior project. Projects presented to students have been created in cooperation with State and local groups to be used by New Mexicans with different abilities. All of our projects are in the public-domain, and use open-source software and open-source hardware licenses.

We started working with Aaron Jawson and his students since January 2016.  Since then we’ve worked on fun projects staring with lighted e-textiles — that I learned from Mariano, Mario and Allie from Parachute Factory!  I guess his students had fun too …

… in August 2016, Aaron Jawson and several of his students from the 2015/2016 school year, Spencer Angel, Robert Dennis, Sydney De Ruiter-Zylker, Isaiah Garcia, Grace Leninger, Maverick Marquez, Kacie Moreles, Elias Padilla and Anna Ramirez presented Lighten Up! Using Light in Designs at the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire.

In fact, Aaron as accepted the challenge to present more Lighten Up! workshops in the future!  THANK YOU, Aaron!  There’s a lot more Light to go around now! 🙂

In his classes, after a fun introduction to electronic circuits, Aaron presented lessons to help students appreciate difference in all of our abilities and lessons in more complex electronics. With this knowledge, groups of students worked together on designs for accessible keyboards. The front-end or layout of these keyboards are determined by each of the student groups.

All keyboards use the Arduino Leonardo microcontroller board to emulate human interface devices (HID) such as a keyboard or mouse easily. A Quick-Start guide for the Arduino Leonardo was provided to help everyone get up to speed quickly. It is possible to program the Leonardo to accept capacitive-touch input as seen in the following example: Capacitive Touch example code for the Arduino Leonardo (from Sew Electric by Leah Buechley and Kanjun Qiu).

However, the number of input/output ports on the Leonardo is limited to 17. One way of going beyond this number is to use Capacitive Touch Sensor Breakout boards by Adafruit. The circuit below takes advantage of the ease of use of the Adafruit MPR121 library while maximizing the number of capacitive inputs to 48!

Capacitive Touch sensor boardThe (above) Capacitive-touch protoboards (CTPB) are made up of four (maximum on one I2C bus) Adafruit MPR121 Capacitive Touch Sensor Breakout boards.  The CTPB can accommodate up to 48 sensors. Thus each keyboard can have up to 48 different keys*. The Arduino Leonardo microcontrollers are programmed using the Arduino IDE.

The Arduino Sketch (program) used to test these boards are based on the example code from the MPR121 Tutorial on the Adafruit website:

CTPB Test Script

After sensors are connected to the CTPB, students will modify our sample sketch that maps each sensor [number] to a desired function — in this case, the sketch sends a specific character to the computer.

Below are the keyboards from Aaron’s classes in the 2015/2016 school year.

  • Although the number of input keys is limited to 48, it is possible to increase the number of output characters above 48 by combining keys pressed to form additional characters. An example is the combination of the shift key and any letter key resulting in a capital letter.