Showing posts with label Arduino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arduino. Show all posts

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Tinkering With Arduino in Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free service that I used for the last two years to introduce my students to designing and building Arduino-powered circuits, cars, and simple machines. As I wrote back in January, Tinkercad was great for introdcuing Arduino in a pandemic. Besides the Arduino aspect, Tinkercad is also a great place to find inspiration for makerspace activities. 

Later today Tinkercad is hosting a free webinar for educators who want to learn how to get use all of what Tinkercad offers. The webinar is at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT. 

If the timing of Tinkercad's webinar doesn't work for you, don't worry. Tinkercad's YouTube channel is full of recordings of previous webinars. It also contains a great playlist of tutorials for learning about Arduino in Tinkercad

Applications for Education
My favorite benefit of using Tinkercad to introduce Arduino is that students don't risk breaking any physical products while learning important lessons about circuits. Students can use Tinkercad to learn about Ohms Law and the use of resistors without the risk of actually burning out an LED or other element of an Arduino circuit. Once they've used Tinkercad to master the basics of Arduino then they can safely move on to using physical Arduino products.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Two Search Refinement Tips That Helped My Students Today

The students in one of my classes are currently working on some Arduino projects of their own choosing. A few of them had the idea to build and program model cars. The trouble they ran into is that we didn't have any Bluetooth modules and a lot of the plans they were looking at called for Bluetooth modules. They were starting to get frustrated with their search results when I interjected with the quick tip to exclude "Bluetooth" in the advanced search menu in Google. 

By excluding "Bluetooth" from the search results and choosing "filetype PDF" in the advanced search menu my students were able to get past a lot of their initial frustration. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to exclude words from search results and how to search by file type. 

Another little tip to pass along to your students when they are searching for PDFs is to remind them to use "Ctrl + F" (Windows computers) or "Command + F" (Mac computers) to search within a PDF for keywords or phrases.

I include more tips like these in my on-demand webinar, Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Good Video Series for Introducing Arduino

Earlier this week I shared how I used Tinkercad to introduce my students to key concepts in Arduino design and programming. One of the supplementary materials that I posted in Google Classroom for that course is a series of introductory videos produced by Bob at I Like to Make Stuff

In a three-part series he covers the big, basic concepts of programming in general before moving into the specifics of Arduino programming. The final video in the series puts everything together for viewers. And if you're wondering what an Arduino is, Bob has that covered too.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Introducing Arduino in a Pandemic

Watching my students design and build Arduino projects is one of the things that I enjoy the most about my job. We've just gotten to the part of the school year in which I introduce my students to using Arduino. This year, because of our hybrid model of some students in class and some online at the same time, I've had to make some modifications to how I introduce Arduino and how students can work with the materials. 

Initial Introduction With Tinkercad:
Tinkercad is a service that I started using last spring when our school went to 100% online instruction. I'm using it again this year to introduce my students to key Arduino design and programming concepts. Within Tinkercad there is an Arduino simulator. With that simulator students can use virtual Arduinos with virtual breadboards and dozens of other virtual components. The simulator also includes an IDE in which students can write programs.

I strive to avoid information dumps. As Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager point out in their great book, Invent to Learn there's a tempation to explain "just one more thing" and before you know you've prattled on for twenty minutes and kids have lost interest in what could have been an exciting class. Therefore, last week I simply gave my students a quick demonstration of how to get into the simulator and then asked them to start experimenting with the code in the program for a simple blinking light. Once they figured out how to change the rate of blinking I let them pick any Arduino project they liked in Tinkercad's circuits gallery and let them make copies to dissect and discover the components and code in those projects.

The process of picking projects from Tinkercad's gallery and then dissecting those projects sparked a lot of questions from students. Some of my students had prior experience with Arduino so their questions skewed toward the programming while my students who didn't have prior experience with Arduino raised questions that skewed toward the physical components in the projects they selected. Those questions are going to be the basis for some of the conversations we have in class today (January 26th, yes, I'm writing this in the morning before class). Those questions are also influencing how I place students in breakout rooms for discussion today. 

Organizing Physical Materials
My students are in my physical classroom once per week right now (some on Tuesday and some on Friday). In the past I had students work in pairs on Arduino projects. Unfortunately, due to scheduling and health protocols I can't have students work in pairs on the physical projects this year. 

I'm fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space in my classroom. I'm giving each student their own shelf for their project materials and their own plastic storage boxes. I'm going to have students tape small, easily lost pieces like resistors that aren't currently in use to pieces of paper or to the plastic boxes in their assigned cabinets.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Arduino Design Project I'm Doing With Students Who Don't Have Materials at Home

Like a lot of other schools, mine closed without much more than a few hours notice. We went home on a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening we were told that we were not going back. My 9th grade computer science principles students were really starting to hit their stride with the various Arduino projects they were working on. Of course, I hadn't sent any materials home with my students.

For a couple of weeks I gave my students some lessons via EDpuzzle to keep the basic concepts fresh in their minds. When it became clear that we weren't going to be returning to our school I started to think of other ways to keep my students interested and challenge them a little bit. (Note, this is an elective course and most of my students would be working on these types of things even if we didn't offer a course about it).

What I'm doing this week and next week to try to keep my students interested and challenged is to give them a list of parts available then find or design a project that utilizes those components. They then have to write the code and directions for assembly. After they submit their project ideas and code I'm assembling the project in a Google Meet in front of them (I have a ton of materials in my home office). Below this paragraph you'll see the directions and parts list that I gave to my students this week.

1. Find or design an Arduino project that uses some or all of the parts listed below. The project can only use the parts that are listed below. Your project must be more complex than the basic blinking programs that we did in class before school was closed. Yes, you can consult the Arduino Project Hub as well as YouTube or any other website you find that has Arduino project ideas.

2. In a Google Document write out the steps for assembling the project. At the end of the document include the code that needs to be used in order for the project to run correctly.

Parts Available:

  • 2 Arduino Unos
  • 2 Breadboards
  • 1 Potentiometer
  • 1 5V Relay
  • 1 IR Receiver
  • 1 Remote
  • 5 Buttons
  • 2 Buzzers
  • 1 Ultrasonic Sensor
  • 1 Stepper Driver Motor
  • 1 Power Supply Module
  • 1 Servo Motor
  • 1 Temperature and Humidity Sensor Module
  • 1 Tilt Switch
  • 2 NPN Transistors
  • As many jumper wires as needed (up to 100)
  • As many resistors as needed (up to 50)
  • 1 LCD Display Module
  • 1 Diode Rectifier
  • As many single color LEDs as needed (up to 100)
  • 2 RGB LEDs
  • 2 USB cables to connect Arduino to computer.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Great Series for Introducing or Reviewing Arduino Programming Concepts

Arduino programming was one of the things that we were really starting to get rolling on just before school closed. Now that my school is closed and we're doing remote teaching and learning, I'm using EDpuzzle to create review activities for my students.

This week I used EDpuzzle to create lessons based on a great series of Arduino programming basics. The videos were produced by Bob at I Like to Make Stuff. In the three part series he covers the big, basic concepts of programming in general before moving into the specifics of Arduino programming. The final video in the series puts everything together for viewers. And if you're wondering what an Arduino is, Bob has that covered too. The first video in the series is embedded below and the rest can be found on I Like to Make Stuff.

If you're wondering what EDpuzzle is and how it works, I have that covered here.

And you're interested in learning more about Arduino, there's a section of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp dedicated to it. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Four Tips for Facilitating Classroom Arduino Projects

This year I have been doing a lot of Arduino projects with students in my Intro to Computer Science Principles course. Some of the projects have gone quite well and some not so well. I've talked about these in a couple of podcast episodes, but I haven't written anything about Arduino until now. If you're thinking about trying an Arduino project or you have tried one and it didn't go as well as you would have liked, here are four tips that I have to share based on my experience this year.

1. Start small and build slowly!
The first group of students that I had do Arduino projects got really excited. That excitement motivated them to start Googling for ideas for bigger projects than what I had anticipated. That's not a bad thing at all and I wanted to capitalize on their excitement so I let them run with it. Problems started to arise when they got into those bigger/advanced projects without having done all of the basic/beginner exercises first. They were missing some key concepts and had to go back before they could go forward. In the end, it all worked out okay but we took a very round about route to "okay."

The group of students that I have doing Arduino projects right now are going through each of the basic/ beginner projects that are built into the Arduino IDE and are available online right here. Because we're getting the basics covered early, I think that my current group will be able to complete advanced projects much more quickly than my first group did.

2. Make Printouts!
Unless you have an abundance of computers or monitors to the point that every student can have two to use, use printouts. My students seem to forget which windows they need open and toggling between the IDE and the sample code or directions on the same screen seems to cause more confusion than it does speed or clarity. I printed tutorials and sample code for my current students and it has gone quite well.

3. Work in pairs. 
Not only does working in pairs cut down on the amount of material that you need to purchase, it also introduces students to the concept of pair programming. Another benefit is that you have half as many hands going up when students do get stuck on a problem with their projects.

4. Assign cabinets or bins. 
Nothing will slow students' Arduino project progress like having to rebuild every at the beginning of every class. I'm fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space in my classroom so I can give pair of students their own shelf for their project materials. If I didn't have those cabinets I'd use shoe boxes or something similar for students to keep all of their project materials in. And I have students tape small, easily lost pieces like resistors that aren't currently in use to pieces of paper or to plastic boxes in their assigned cabinets. (I started the year with a bunch of pre-packaged Arduino kits, but over the course of the year the pieces got mixed around as needed).

Want to learn more about using Arduino in your classroom or makerspace? Come to the Practical Ed Virtual Tech Summer Camp

Thursday, October 31, 2019

How My Students Are Using Google Sheets With Their Arduino Projects

The students in one of my classes are starting to make some Arduino-powered gadgets. I let them choose what they wanted to build so I have some that are making cars, one making a Bluetooth-connected locks, and couple making a variation of this Hacking STEM project. In other words, there are a lot of things going on at once with 13 students working on different projects at the same time.

I am fortunate in that I have a fairly generous budget for buying supplies for my class. I have a lot of Arduino-compatible parts available to my students. My students can pick and choose the parts that they need to use. But I need a way to keep track of parts they're using. I set up a Google Form that they use to record the parts they take from the collection. That makes it easy to see who has which parts. 

When we started our exploration of Arduino I had students just writing in their notebooks or Google Docs to document what they were trying to accomplish. That was fine at first. Before too long that got a little messy when it came time for me to review what they were doing. That was partly my fault because I didn't give them a structure for recording their trials and observations. 

Keeping Track of Parts and Progress With Google Sheets
To satisfy the need to keep track of parts and the need for a clear way to review what students are working on, I set up a Google Sheets template that all of my students are now following. In the Google Sheet template there is a sheet for parts used and parts needed. There is a second sheet included on which students document problems they've encountered, solutions they've tried, and solutions that worked. You can view a copy of the template right here

Arduino Parts Suppliers
There are two suppliers that I've used for Arduino parts. Those are Elegoo and SparkFun. The Elegoo Mega 2560 (affiliate link) is a good place to start if you're looking to get started with some simple Arduino projects with your students. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Activities

On a fairly regular basis I'm asked for recommendations for hands-on STEM activities. In fact, just this morning I answered an email from a reader who was seeking that recommendation. Here are three of my go-to recommendations for hands-on STEM activities.

Microsoft has two excellent and free resources for those who are seeking ideas for hands-on STEM lessons. The first is MakeCode. MakeCode offers free programs that students can use to develop their programming skills. These include coding with LEGO Mindstorms, Adafruit, and Micro:bit. Checkout the MakeCode YouTube channel for great project ideas.

The second offering from Microsoft is called Hacking STEM. The idea behind Hacking STEM is to make low-cost or no-cost hands-on STEM projects accessible to as many people as possible. You can follow Microsoft's directions as written or modify the projects to use other materials to build the projects. In the following video I explain how I modified one of the Hacking STEM projects. So you might say that I hacked a Hacking STEM project.

Science Snacks from Exploratorium has been a recommendation of mine for a few years now. Science Snacks are activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations.

Working with Arduino circuit boards is a fantastic way for students to develop programming skills. Students write programs on their computers then see their programs "come to life" through the lights, motors, and robotics connected to their Arduino boards. The Arduino project hub is full of project ideas for beginner through advanced programmers. If you're new to Arduino and wondering what hardware to purchase to get started, there are many inexpensive kits for beginners. I'm partial to this Arduino hardware kit for beginners.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Short List of Physical Tech Products That I Recommend

From time to time I am asked for recommendations on the purchase of physical tech products. I generally don't make recommendations for school-wide or other large scale purchases, but I will make recommendations for small purchases. Here's the short list of physical tech products that I recommend today.

Elegoo UNO Super Starter Kit for Arduino
If you're thinking about trying your hand at Arduino programming, this kit has everything that you need to get started. It even includes a comprehensive tutorial and suggested first projects. It's a good deal at $34.99 (less if you have Amazon Prime). I've purchased more than a dozen of these kits for use in some of my workshops.

Blu Snowball Microphone
I have been recommending this microphone for years. It's an affordable, high-quality microphone for recording on your Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer. I own two of them. One of which has seen on four continents, been dropped countless times, and triggered more TSA "enhanced security screenings" than I care to count. At $49.99 it is affordable and durable. These have been around for so long that you can actually get refurbished ones now.

Acer R11 Touchscreen Chromebook
Today, I do most of my daily work on a Lenovo T470s Windows 10 laptop. But for a while I was using my Chromebook for the bulk of my work and the Acer R11 is the Chromebook that I still use whenever I host workshops geared toward Chromebook-using teachers. The Acer R11 is an affordable and durable touchscreen Chromebook. If I was buying a Chromebook for one of my kids today, the Acer R11 is the one that I'd go for. You can buy this new for $299 or refurbished for $219.

Essential Android Phone
I have been using and abusing Android phones since 2011. The Essential Phone is the one I am using today. The only one that I liked better was my custom Motorola Pure Droid X. The Essential Phone is one of the only truly unlocked smartphones on the market today. It doesn't come with any pre-installed apps other than what is absolutely essential to make the phone and camera run. You can buy it today for $443 and use it on any network. I published a detailed review of this phone on Practical Ed Tech.