The central activity of the project, creating plant watering robots was suggested by teacher Phil Hewitt, who had researched Raspberry Pi irrigation systems online. As FACT were due to exhibit Rachel Rayns Neurotic Machines, an artwork featuring Raspberry Pi irrigation systems, it seemed the perfect fit. The challenge was to find a way of making Raspberry Pi plant watering systems that would be accessible to year 3 students at the two primary schools and children with special educational needs at Lansbury Bridge school.
Since artists working with FACT pioneered the use of internet connected plant watering systems, plant watering robots have become a popular DIY project within the maker community. While there are a lot of great tutorials explaining how to make your own Raspberry Pi plant watering systems, most of require a level of Python programming and electronics skills well beyond the reach of your average Key stage 2 students, aged 7 to 11. Teachers highlighted the challenge that Python programming & complex electronics could raise to year 3 students in a busy classroom setting and suggested the use of Scratch as a programming language that their students were confident with. We used the Raspberry Pi in combination with two micocontrollers, the Picoboard which can be controlled using Scratch and Arduino, which can be controlled using an adapted version of Scratch called Scratch4Arduino.
Plants and Robots is part of the Curious Minds SLICE initiative, which aims to support arts organisations to develop their offer to schools.