Amid screams and shouts the stamping feet of 25 kids jumping from line to line to avoid the ghosts chasing them, their hands cupped tightly around tiny cubes of light illuminated by LEDs, echos up to the rafters in the darkened gym. Gosh those kids were loud.
This game was the culmination of a two part workshop I planned and led for 9 to 11 year olds through the LCRC after school program. This project is part of Artengine’s community arts initiatives and is funded by the Community Foundation of Ottawa. The first part of the workshop was focused on introducing the kids to basic electronics through the creation of LED-lit cubes. I augmented the design put out by Evil Mad Scientist to accomodate smaller, less coordinated fingers, cut out the aluminum traces and laid them out on adhesive sheets pre-workshop. Because there was a big range in their level and comfort with folding paper I brought an easier cut-out box to the first session as well.
I made a few quick drawings to help the kids understand what was happening with the battery and LED:
Then I let them choose which design they wanted to make. After testing the Foldie design many times I was able to work with the delicacy of the foil and paper fairly well, but the kids went through many ripped aluminum traces before being able to get it working.
Here’s one of the best examples from the kids:
And here are some alternate boxes the kids made:
The nice thing about the cut-out boxes was that the design allowed for drawing and coloring, while the design with the aluminum traces became too bulky with crayon and marker build up to fold and work properly.
In the second session I came back with a third design that involved no cutting and easy folding to form two halves of a box. After the kids finished we went into the gym to play a large-scale human version of the classic arcade game Pac-Man, where the kids became Pac-Men holding their bits of light as food and running away by following the lines of the gym from two kids appointed as ghosts holding nothing.
I was able to capture their movements through the light trails of the LEDs, which look like the erratic movements of very excited fireflies:
If they got tagged by the ghosts they had to sit down on the spot and not move until they were able to tag another Pac-Man within their reach. They played for an hour with a few change-ups of the ghosts.
After seeing them run through the darkness with lights stationary and moving it felt like being transported to an open field at dusk with the magic and wonder of the cosmos all around, if one could tune out the echoed endless shrieking.