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.

The Sparkfun Inventor's Kit, from sparkfun.com

The Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit, from sparkfun.com

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.

The "Light Wheel"

The “Light Wheel”



– An “Electronic Birthday Cake”

It plays the birthday song, and then you turn a potentiometer to "blow out" the candles.

It plays the birthday song, and then you turn a potentiometer to “blow out” the candles.

– An “Electronic Piano” that plays color-coordinated musical notes with pushbuttons

Plays color-coded notes with each button press.

Plays color-coded notes with each button press.

– A homemade video game made using Processing and an Arduino-based controller.

The game is a little tank game that's a lot of fun.

The game is a little tank game that’s a lot of fun.

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.



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About dupriestmath

I'm a former software engineer who has taught middle school math and computer science for the past 6 years. I believe every kid has the right to be a thinker. I started this blog to save resources for integrating programming in the Common Core math classroom. I also use it to save my lessons and reflections from teaching budding computer scientists! Coding has transformed how I teach and think. You'll love what it does for you. You should try it.

One response to “End of Year Arduino Projects”

  1. gflint says :

    This is cool. I have been using Arduino kits for a few years now in my high school programming class. We do more on the programming side than the electronics side. It is such a neat aside from the usual programming in language X. Seeing how things actually work as opposed to the black box approach is great. Your kids did some amazing work.

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