Digital Arts & Technology Academy


Digital Arts & Technology Academy (DATA)

505access provides DATA Charter, a non-profit, Albuquerque charter high school, students with fun project to explore areas in 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 superior projects. Projects presented to students have been created in cooperation with State and local groups that benefit New Mexicans of all abilities. All of our projects are in the public-domain, and use open-source software and open-source hardware licenses.

Currently, we are in our third year working with Aaron Jawson and his freshmen classes.  We start with lighted bookmarks using e-textiles components (sewable light emitting diodes (LED), conductive thread, battery holders, CR2032 batteries and an assortment of craft materials).

We had so much fun that year that Aaron and several of his students (Spencer Angel, Robert Dennis, Sydney De Ruiter-Zylker, Isaiah Garcia, Grace Leninger, Maverick Marquez, Kacie Moreles, Elias Padilla and Anna Ramirez) presented the workshop Lighten Up! Using Light in Designs at the 2016 Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire.

In fact, Aaron as accepted the challenge to present more Lighten Up! workshops in the future!  THANK YOU, Aaron! 🙂

After a fun introduction to electronic circuits, Aaron presents 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 group.

All keyboards use the Arduino Leonardo microcontroller 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 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.

Capacitive Touch sensor boardThe (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:

CTPB Test Script

After sensors are connected to the CTPB, students modified our sample sketch for use with their own keyboard.

Below are the keyboards from Aaron’s 2015/2016 freshmen classes.

Below are two keyboards from Aaron’s 2016/2017 freshmen classes.

  • 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.