Sphero devices and code for art-making


Cathy Hunt & Daniel Martinez

iPadArtRoom & St Hilda’s School

We’ve been painting with light, using code!

In this cross-curricular project, educators and students became a team, exploring the potential of Sphero devices and code for art-making.

Year 4 students from St Hilda’s School Gold Coast designed programs in apps to control the movement of the ball and the sequence of coloured light during that travel. With the light glowing, the plan was to record the trail, or ‘paint with light’, using a long exposure photographic technique.

As you can see in the video produced by these creative kids, creating a classroom in the dark is exciting stuff! The development of critical thinking and problem solving skills across this series of lessons was obvious, as students used an iterative and collaborative approach to develop the ability to control their balls of light. Spheros were driving through paths creating zigzags, squares, triangles and more complex ideas such as spirals, and the students jumped into the creation of more sophisticated ‘drawings’ to bring their own ideas to life.

One of the great things about this kind of task is hearing the student conversations as their teams engage with experimental ways of working, estimating and making predictions, jumping between the Sphero ball, their code and photographic equipment. Hypothesis are developed and tested, with many decisions emerging through trial and error. Problems are solved on the go and success develops through an iterative process and effective collaboration.

The learning goals within this cross-curricular lesson design included an opportunity to dig deeper into some of the following science, maths, technology and art concepts;

  • The properties and behaviour of light

  • Photographic processes, including shutter speed, lens function, etc.

  • Angles, distances, shape and size

  • Composition, balance, depth, space and perspective

  • The elements of art and design, particularly colour, shape, line and composition

This project represented a significant collaboration between Senior and Junior school, Visual Art teacher Cathy Hunt and Year 4 classroom teacher Daniel Martinez. By sharing skillsets and working together across year levels, Cathy and Dan were able to model a successful, connected and cross-curricular approach. Confidence in the creative process grew as educators and students experimented with new ideas together.

Importantly, this project was designed to be shared freely with educators worldwide, and Dan and Cathy have created extensive resources to support and inspire others. Dan’s iTunes U course is directed towards Primary generalist and maths teachers, and Cathy’s blogging and social shares connect visual and media arts teachers to innovative approaches for technology integration.

Read more about this project at the iPadArtRoom Blog