There are many children's toys that make sounds and flash lights. Many teach pitch but few teach rhythm.
Jigsaw Renaissance Hackerspace supports kinesthetic learning of rhythm development and offers a cooperative environment for group performance and play.
A child picking up the Jigbox and shaking it will hear the sound of a maraca and see a colorful light flashing. The color of the light will follow the direction and intensity of the shaking. A single simple row of 5 colored buttons invite exploration. If the black button is pressed, the sound of a cowbell is heard, the red button a bongo, and the other buttons produce a plucked string and the sound of a dog-bark.
As the child continues to play, they will find that pressing three buttons together will start a periodic drum sound. In this recording mode, one LED blinks along with the metronome sound. Pressing buttons and shaking the Jigbox plays the sounds as before, but also records a track of all the sounds.
When a group of children get together with their Jigboxes, the built in radios will detect the presence of the others, and the beat lights on all of them will blink at the same times.
The group will learn to coordinate their body movements while listening to their bandmates. This teaches timing and spacial awareness.
Pressing three buttons together will change from recording to playback. The previous track will be played back, but this time the notes will have been corrected so they fall one the beat marker. The child can simply enjoy their recorded track, or make the experience richer by playing along with the recorded track.
As they play along, the metronome LED will blink at the recorded rate while the 'hit' LED will show the notes as they play them.
To reinforce the timing lesson, the color and brightness of the hit LED will change to show how closely they are shaking the Jigbox in time with the recording. The closer they are to hitting the beat, the brighter and greener the hit LED flashes.
A video of a prototype being used can be seen here:
Building a prototype:
We wanted to put the various boards into a box so we could test the shaking and button use.
The main processing board was purchased from Olimex for a different project. To mount the buttons, LEDs and accelerometer, a board was designed to hold these components. The details of this board were included in a previous blog post.
The PCB were built using an “at home” process. The full movie of making the PCBs can be seen on Youtube at:
While we wait for the final configurations of the PCB we assembled the accessory board and processor boards into a plastic case to try the product out. The build order is:
Place the accessory board so the buttons protrude through a slot cut in the front of the box. The LED's align with holes just below the buttons.
Then the processor board is stacked on the back of the accessory board with spacers between the two. The battery pack is added and the speaker plugged in to the processor board. The speaker (not shown) is mounted on the rear of the case.
Finally the case is screwed together:
Tools and libraries
The following tools and products were used to develop the Jigbox:
Olimex STM (http://www.olimex.com/dev/stm32-103stk.html )
Quantum Platform (http://state-machine.com)
EagleCAD (http://www.cadsoftusa.com/ )
The source code is available on github.com at:
Also in the same github project, in the subfolder 'board' the EagleCAD files are available for the product's circuit and PCB layout.