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Topics - tiktok0

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Thought I would post some of the things I have learned.  I am a computer science teacher in high school and have been working with another math teacher, a former engineer, to get the wiimote project usable in the school setting.  I currently have a smartboard as well and my goal is to make the wiimote as close in use as the smartboard for ease.

Here are some things we have learned.

1)  The IR light is important.  The first few weeks of the project was spent with a radio shack light that the wiimote had a real hard time tracking.  The Vishnay lights work well.

2)  It is impractical in a school-like setting, as well as probably anywhere that wants to use this permanently, to use batteries for the wiimote over time.  We have attached a power cord to the wiimote.  The wiimote now draws power while plugged in but will continue to work if unplugged (batteries are still there and will recharge when plugged in).

3)  While the wiimote was impractical being wireless, the light pen itself is impractical being wired.  We are currently using old dry-erase markers for the pens with a AA inside.  Some of the images of rigged pens have things on the outside, which will never work.  Everything needs to be internal with easy battery replacement, although the batteries will last quite a while.

4)  The current version of the pen uses an industrial strength click switch which takes a bit of getting used to as you learn to click and release as you move the pen around.  Before taking this to the next level, we need a new  switch system.  Our current work involves coming up with the right tip-switch idea.  At the very least, if a click switch is used (as it is easiest to make) get one that is silent.  The clicking noise bothers me to no end.

5)  As the pen should be usable on any surface, we want to make sure it is seamless at the tip and durable.  The current solution involves using the same caps that the dry erase markers come with, with the outer edge cut away to give a form fitting plastic tip.  If you use red or green caps, the IR light bleeds straight through with no trouble and the IR pen works the same.  Black and blue caps block the IR light entirely.  Capping the tip ensures you are not putting excess pressure on the light.

6)  After trying several different programs, the closest I have found to the Smartboard's software is a program called Jarnal.  Jarnal allows quick access to different pen sizes and colours, easy erasing, and the ability to easily add and manuever between slides.  The interface is all readily available and easy to pick up.  The software has built in line-paper, graph paper, and blank backgrounds which all come in handy especially in math classes.  Also has the ability to export directly to PDF, which I then post my in class notes online.  Limitations include the slide previews not autoupdating as you write, using the line tool will only write one line at a time then defaults back to the pen you were writing with, and no built in circle/rectangle drawing tools.  The program is in java, so I think my next step will be to modify it myself when I get some time.

7)  The wiimote has a limit on distance for accuracy.  Putting the wiimote off the sides is proving to be a difficult prospect for multiple reasons - a) you block the wiimote if you move to that side (and teachers are always going all over), b) one side is more accurate than the other with the angles.  Straight on position seems to be the best, as in having the wiimote and the projector lined up directly.  Once you are used to writing with a projector with a smartboard, you learn how not to ever block the projector image as you write.  If you are not blocking the projector image, you are not blocking the wiimote.  This being said, a large projected image needs the projector farther back, 9' range.  The wiimote is awful at this distance as it makes everything squiggly.  The wiimote should be placed closer, approximately 6-7' or closer if you can.

8)  If you buy $3.00 worth of parts from Mouser, they will send you a giant 2000+ page catalog for free...which probably costs them $5.00 in paper/shipping.  Quite funny.

9)  A metal light pen casing is probably best, or a strong plastic, as our newest small problem has been found - students accidentally drop the pens.  A dry erase marker can be dropped or thrown with no problem normally.  Triple it's normal weight and that plastic becomes quite brittle and splits when dropped.

10) Showing this off with a game like Crayon Physics gets people's attention.  Have some fun.

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