Pocket Tech

This program is a set of six cart-based, hands-on activities that explore the technology of personal electronic devices. With real electronics and interactive models of “software” and “hardware” functions, visitors will discover how pocket-sized computers input, store, display, and communicate information to connect us to the world. These activities build understanding of everyday technology and provide insight into emerging materials science and computational research.

Our eyes perceive a continuous image when we look at a screen, but in fact, images are made up of tiny points of light called pixels. Look through a lens to see the individual pixels on the screen, and then turn up the magnification to see that each pixel is composed of red, green, and blue subpixels. Play with a macro-scale model that uses a tricolor LED to represent how the color of a pixel can be tuned to any color of the rainbow.

Computers follow simple rules and inputs that build up in multiple levels to result in ultimately complex actions. Break down the process in this activity as you help a friendly character make some decisions about his day through basic truth tables and logic gates. The activity has built-in levels that can be presented as appropriate for different age and time constraints.

We communicate using complex words made up of letters, but computers only process 1s and 0s. In this activity, put simple arithmetic skills to work to translate your birthdate into binary code. Learn how this code is the basis for a complete character code used by all computers.

Turn your phone 90°, and your screen automatically rotates between portrait and landscape. In this short demonstration, zoom into the inside of your device with a macro-scale model of how an accelerometer senses the force of gravity.

Cellular phones communicate via invisible radio waves. In this demonstration, you can literally see antennas, transmitters, and receivers at work by using the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. As you transmit sound across the mini-network, explore different factors that affect cellular signal transmission including signal strength, obstacles, and reflection.

How does your device know where your finger touched the screen? With a two-player, “Battleship”-style apparatus that uses a real Nintendo DS screen, discover the invisible grid embedded inside every touch screen that maps the coordinates of your input. Then, learn how the DS touch screen actually works through a macro-scale model and explore the pros and cons of different screen technologies.


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