Being a DJ Hero with Scratch and a Picoboard

By Neil Rickus on

Over the past few days, I’ve been playing with Scratch and a Picoboard. For those of you that don’t know, the board has two sensors (light and sound), a slider, a button and four alligator clips for creating a circuit. I’m always keen to make “physical computing” more engaging to children, so it appeared a good additional bit of kit alongside technologies such as Lego WeDo and FlowGo / Go Control.

Once I’d downloaded the drivers, the board was good to go, although I did need to provide the USB cable (this may be an additional cost to schools). Scratch recognised the board immediately, so it was time to get creative! A TV ad featuring a cartoon DJ inspired my first project, which gave me the idea to produce a “DJ mixing deck” program. This should also hopefully appeal to KS2 children!

After a bit of searching, I decided on using the Jackson 5’s “I want you back” and Paula Abdul’s “Straight up” as my DJ mixing songs of choice (the track list for the game “DJ Hero” here really helped!) and got to work. I had initially planned for the mixing deck to have the following features:
• Volume Fader – using the slider and altering volume of each track
• Start / stop – using a crocodile clip for each track
• Tempo – using a pair of crocodile clips to change the tempo up or down, with the Picoboard’s button to switch between the track to alter

Unfortunately, the tempo function in Scratch only works with short sounds, such as the drum beat, so was unable to adjust the tempo of a music track on the fly. Therefore, I added another feature by making use of the light sensor to automatically turn on the disco lights when it gets dark! I also added two sound effects (a whistle and a high-hat) to the remaining crocodile clips for when the DJ needs to ummmmm “rock the party” :-/

If you’d like to try it, the DJ program can be downloaded here – DJ – Computing Champions.sb. Unfortunately, it currently only works with Scratch 1.4 and not 2.0, although Picoboard support it is in the pipeline for the latest version. The songs are also not included due to copyright restrictions… Let me know what you think, especially if you’ve done similar things with a Picoboard, by getting in contact – preferably on Twitter @computingchamps