Computalopolis wasn't Built in a Day - WICO Summer 2019 6.2

Over each of the weeks of the summer program we introduced a new theme for the end of week projects where tinkerers could make use of a wide variety of high/low tech tools, computational concepts and engineering practices to explore their own ideas.


While we hope that each project expressed unique and personally meaningful ideas, creating a shared theme builds a sense of social scaffolding and helps to counter the blank page problem when makers are unsure of what to work towards.


For the sixth week of the camp we introduced the idea of a Computatopolis, a collaborative city that integrates digital technology and programming to all aspects of daily life. This felt like a nice provocation because the group produced a range of ideas from the imaginative and whimsical to the practical with everything in-between.

All summer we had been thinking about taking a trip to the wave organ (a special musical exhibit created by the Exploratorium near the PFA) and with the last week in SF it was the perfect chance to get to see a weird and unusual addition to our city for a bit of inspiration for our mini projects.


In the afternoon we started in earnest on our projects which included a cardboard bridge, busy airport, cat themed stories, a super hero turtle, an arcade, sushi maker, a clock tower and a musical mayor’s hat!


These projects all integrated lights, sounds motors, switches and sensors in interesting and innovative ways. We encourages the group to develop project ideas that had some clear low threshold starting points but allowed for complexification over time.


One of the projects that was really interesting was the clocktower. This camper started by building a solid cardboard tower (about three feet tall) with a velcro wall so that she could get in and adjust the electronics. The project included a paper circuit LED face, a continuous servo for the hands and a chime that played after the clock had rotated a certain number of times.


The superhero turtle made use of six positional servos to make a really complicated and articulated creature! It was so cool to see how much personality the group gave this little character.

One of the kids made a super cool sushi bot that moved across the ground and spun a ‘knife’ around while it drove over a cardboard fish. It was so cool to see how this funny idea went from a undefined drawing to a physical prototype.

Justin modeled the musical mayor hat with a really funky beat that was triggered as he moved around the room. The team creating the hat used the Lectrify ‘bit:buddy’ with a headphone jack so that the beat could be played extra loud.


As always we opened up the space at the end of the day for special friends, family and parents to get to see our process of creating ideas as well as possible next steps to work on after the camp. There are so many possibilities for this computational city theme and it would be fun to keep exploring these ideas.