April 14, 2020
Use binary code to create (and wear) a secret message
In times like these, it is nice to be able to look down and see a reminder of a meaningful message that makes you happy. In this activity, we will use binary code to create a bracelet, keychain or necklace that holds a secret message.
What is binary code?
Just like we have different languages, computers have a language of their own. Computers cannot understand letters, numbers and symbols the way we do. Instead, they use binary code to store and send information.
Binary means only using two options to represent information – in this case, those two options are “1” and “0.” Each “1” or “0” in binary code is known as a bit. When you put together eight bits, you get a line of binary code called a byte.
When working with letters, numbers and symbols, each individual character is represented by its own unique byte. For example, the letter “A” is represented by the byte “0100 0001.” This code is all based on a system known as ASCII (as-kee), which stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII was developed in the 1960s to standardize the way that computers communicate. Each character you see on your keyboard has its designated byte represented by ASCII.
This activity includes 5-10 minutes of preparation and about 15-30 minutes of learning time. It is best suited for children in elementary or middle school grades.
- String or pipe cleaners
- 3 different colored beads (Don’t have beads on hand? Use different types of pasta, seeds or even paper.)
- Pencil and paper
- Binary Bracelet Code Key here:
1. Think of a word or phrase that makes you happy and write it down.
2. Use the Binary Bracelet Code Key (see image above) to find the unique byte for each of the characters in your message. You may find it useful to write out your message in binary before starting on your bracelet.
For example, we chose the word, Science:
You’ll notice the binary code uses different bytes for upper case and lowercase letters.
You can even add numbers and punctuation marks to your message!
3. Select two different colored beads, one to represent the “0” bit and the other to represent the “1” bit. The third color bead will be your spacer bead to use between letters and words.
4. Start making your bracelet. Add the different colored beads following the code that matches your message. You can add one spacer bead in between each of your letters and two spacer beads in between each word, or only add spacer beads between words.
For example, our “Science” bracelet would look like this:
If you’re using a phrase, we highly recommend using smaller beads. For example, “Science is FUN!” would look like this:
5. Show your creation to a family member. Have them use the Binary Code Key to decode your message. Better yet, make them a bracelet to share a secret happy message that is just for them!
How to adjust for younger and older learners
For younger learners, use the Binary Symbol Table (pictured above) to use symbols instead of 1s and 0s to represent the Binary code. Start with a simple word, or even initials to make a bracelet. Try using larger objects, like different colored playdough, blocks, or paper to make your secret message.
Have older learners write a secret message note for someone using binary code. Challenge them to decipher your message.
Can’t get enough of secret codes? Create your own code language, and challenge friends and family to break your code.