Digital Arts & Technology Academy (DATA)
After our first year, Aaron’s students helped to present the Lighten Up! workshop at the Albuquerque Mini Makerfaire 2016!
We just finished our third year working with Aaron Jawson and his freshmen classes. Each year, we started with lighted bookmarks using e-textiles components (sewable light emitting diodes (LED), conductive thread, battery holders, CR2032 batteries and an assortment of craft materials). After a fun introduction, Aaron presents lessons to help students appreciate differences in all of our abilities and more lessons in electronics. With this knowledge, groups of students work together to design accessible* keyboards. The layout of these keyboards are determined by each of the student groups.
All keyboards use the Arduino Leonardo microcontroller to emulate human interface devices (HID) such as a keyboard or mouse. A Quick-Start guide for the Arduino Leonardo was provided to help everyone get up to speed quickly. It is possible to program the Arduino 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 Arduino Leonardo microcontroller is limited to 17. One way of going beyond this number is to use Capacitive Touch Sensor Breakout boards by Adafruit Industries.
The (above) Capacitive-touch protoboard (CTPB) is 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 following Arduino Sketch (program) used to test these boards is based on the example code from the MPR121 Tutorial on the Adafruit website:
After sensors are connected to the CTPB, students modified our sample sketch for use with their own keyboard.
Keyboards from Aaron’s 2015/2016 freshmen classes.
Keyboards from Aaron’s 2016/2017 freshmen classes.
Keyboards from Aaron’s 2017/2018 freshmen classes.
* Accessible keyboards are designed to address the needs of people with motor disabilities.
** 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.