Presented by:

Tom Lauwers

from BirdBrain Technologies LLC

Tom is Founder and CEO at BirdBrain Technologies, located in Pittsburgh, PA. He seeks to design educational tools that catalyze positive making, coding, and engineering learning experiences in the classroom.

Tom received a Ph.D in robotics in 2010 from Carnegie Mellon in part for his work designing the Finch Robot and Hummingbird Robotics Kit. Tom's research was founded on engaging all students, regardless of background, in robotics and engineering, and BirdBrain's products continue this mission. The Finch is a small robot designed to inspire and delight students learning computer science by providing a tangible representation of their code. The Hummingbird is a kit that allows students to create and program robots built from electronic components and craft materials.

Tom resides in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood with his wife, two kids, cat, and a small army of robots. He would be an invaluable ally in the event of a robot uprising.

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The online nature of Snap! is a great advantage because it works across multiple platforms without requiring users to install anything. However, in the past, integrating physical computing with Snap! has required the user to install software to translate the Snap! commands into Bluetooth or serial commands to the hardware. With the advent of progressive web apps, communication with the hardware can be embedded in a web page that also contains Snap!, which streamlines the experience for users. This talk will demonstrate how progressive web apps can be used with the Hummingbird and Finch robots to provide cross-platform functionality using Bluetooth or Web HID communication on MacOS, Windows, and ChromeOS.

This talk will include a demonstration of the power of progressive web apps using the website. We will demonstrate how to connect the Hummingbird and Finch robots via Bluetooth and show how Snap! is embedded in a webpage that also contains important information about the status of the robot. This structure also means that the webpage can customize the Snap! blocks shown to fit the robot or combination of robots that are connected.

The latter portion of this talk will describe the basic technical details of this approach for developers who may be interested in integrating other physical computing devices with Snap!. This will include an overview of the parts of this open-source software and how it handles communication between Snap! and the robot hardware. The talk will conclude with a description of some of the best practices we have developed through work with teachers and students.

20 min
Room 1
Snap!Con 2021