Binary Counting for Kids

Massimo Banzi challenged our team of Josh NobleMette René and myself to create an exhibit to teach kids about the digital age. 

The result of this challenge is The Binary Counter, an interactive display and teaching tool for kids to explore the most basic building blocks of digital information: 1's and 0's. We break a byte into its 8 bits and give each a physical and visual representation using motors and LEDs.

The Binary Counter uses movement to show the pattern of changing values for each location in the byte as the exhibit counts up. Kids watch as the card for each bit flips in front of them as they spin a large dial incrementing the decimal number on the screen. As they begin to understand the pattern, they can press corresponding buttons to change the value of each bit and see the resulting number calculated instantly. We used a processing sketch, eight servos and buttons driven by Arduino's to quickly prototype this effect. 

The objective of this project was to create the same experience of understanding kids have when seeing analog technology explained in a museum. A piston engine cut in half is easier to understand than a computer chip cut in half. This is a first step in alleviating that.