Devices for Environmental Sensing (Input/Output Fun)

I recently visited an after-school program for students in grades 2 through 5 to cover a topic for Computer Science Education Week.  The teacher and I had some discussion and I eventually settled on an activity designed to explain input and output through the context of sensing your environment and doing something fun with that information.  After demonstrating a temperature-sensing LED lamp I had built, I asked pairs of students to brainstorm devices that could gather environmental information and then use that information to create some type of sensory output. Students were tasked with explicitly identifying the input, output, and the relationship between the two. Students at all grade levels were able to use their imaginations to describe and draw their devices. As an example, one team's device produced sound from light input. The students described how light intensity affected output volume. Other students were then able to share situations where they thought this might be useful for individuals with limited sight. The teacher later recalled the students' excitement about how their inventions might be used in the real world.