Micro:bit proxy lamps: using a lighting rig in the classroom

Educational Technology

Abstract

Micro:bit proxy lamps were designed to give children hands-on experience of using a lighting rig in the classroom.

Method

Each proxy lamp consists of a BBC Micro:bit, and a broker which acts as a bridge between the proxy lamps and existing industry stage lighting control protocols.

Takeaways

The proxies offer the potential to engage students in practice-based skills learning which was previously impractical in institutional contexts.

Micro:bit proxy lamps were designed to give children hands-on experience of using a lighting rig in the classroom. The lamps were created as part of the Gig Academy project where students gained real-world skill by putting on musical gigs and shows at their school.

The lamps fit on a tabletop and model the main elements of full-sized stage lights. They can be controlled using professional lighting software allowing students to learn and practice their skills before transferring to a full lighting rig.

One of the main problems with teaching lighting in the classroom is the rigs are heavy and often take a long time to set up, and takedown. The Micro:bit proxy lamps allowed students to learn skills without the long setup or the need for specialist rooms.

“The model lights were good because they just let us look at different settings and helped us all understand software that we were using.” - student who took part in Gig Academy

The proxies offer the potential to engage students in practice-based skills learning which was previously impractical in institutional contexts.

How it works

Each proxy lamp consists of a BBC Micro:bit running a Python application, placed inside a laser-cut plastic case. The devices are battery powered, and have one or multiple LEDs connected to the pins of the Micro:bit.

The proxy lamps are controlled wirelessly to avoid complex wiring, increase productive classroom time, and to reduce cognitive load, so that students can concentrate on the lamps and controller rather than specific cabling required.

The requirement to seamlessly support students' transition from abstract simplified models to real equipment led us to the development of broker, the linchpin in the deployment hardware and the corresponding proxy lamp.

The broker is a portable, mains-powered unit which acts as a bridge, or ‘protocol broker’, between the proxy lamps and existing industry stage lighting control protocols. It contains a Raspberry Pi running Open Lighting Architecture software. This allows for both proxy lamps and real equipment to be controlled by both off-the-shelf software and industry-standard hardware controllers.

Publication

Tangible Lighting Proxies: Brokering the Transition from Classroom to Stage, TEI '21

Publications

Tangible Lighting Proxies: Brokering the Transition from Classroom to Stage

  1. Nicholson R
  2. Kirk D
  3. Bartindale T

2021ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction