End of Year Arduino Projects
I took a big risk this year and decided to offer an Electronics class. I chose to teach it while I was still new to the Arduino platform and had a lot to learn about it myself… but I had the opportunity to purchase a class set of Sparkfun Inventor’s Kits, and I inherited a Computer Applications class with 23 students in it. I told my administrator at the time I was struggling with the notion of spending a semester teaching Powerpoint and Word when I had a set of Arduinos. Could I turn the class into an Electronics class instead? Although I sensed skepticism and I felt I was a little crazy, nobody told me “no”. On day 1, I told the students that even though they were signed up for Computer Applications, we’d be learning electronics – and we built the plane as it was flying. After my 2nd semester of teaching Electronics, I decided I’m keeping it. It was a great experience.
I built the whole class around Sparkfun Inventor’s Kits.
I started by having the class do investigations using electromagnets, copper tape, resistors, voltmeters, batteries, and LED’s. We opened the SIK before mid-semester and started doing lessons from there. I used circuits from the guidebook, but I adapted them to become troubleshooting lessons or investigations instead of recipes. I generally had the students write all of their own code instead of using the example code from the kit. Since this is not a coding class per se, I focused very little on the structure of the code and instead worked with the students on troubleshooting techniques like reading the serial monitor, using a multimeter, partner coding, and trial and error.
In the end, I required a final project. The project’s requirements were:
– Must include at least one sensor
– Must use two types of output
– Must be creative
– Must document what you did with a photo, video, description, the code, and a short reflection piece
– Must collaborate with others, be inventive, and display a “maker mindset”.
Truly, I was blown away by what the students made. Their ideas were so good and they took them much farther than I could have imagined. They made:
– A light wheel that tells you a color on an LED, an LCD screen, and by turning a servo to a color when you turn a potentiometer.
– An “Electronic Birthday Cake”
– An “Electronic Piano” that plays color-coordinated musical notes with pushbuttons
– A homemade video game made using Processing and an Arduino-based controller.
And more. They were so awesome. I’m so humbled at how quickly the students picked everything up.
I required the students to turn in enough information that it could be turned into an online tutorial, and then I copied and pasted their information into a Google Site. In the spirit of open-source innovation, if you or your students are looking for some great beginner projects, this site shows you what some determined 13-year-old kids can do.
This class taught me what it’s really like to be a “maker”. It’s amazing that we live in a time where you can come up with an idea in your head, create the circuit, design the code, 3-D print the housing and then your idea is in front of you when it was in your head not that long ago. The students were beaming with pride at what they accomplished. We presented our projects at the school’s Math Carnival and invited sixth-graders to visit the class for a special demo day. I can see this group of students carrying these skills with them for a lifetime. I’m excited to see what they make.