Recently, my infatuation with Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Physical Computing coincided nicely with Safari Books Online’s dedication to ongoing education and involvement with ConnectEd. Having volunteered at Seabury Hall in Makawao, Hawaii (Maui) in the past, I was given the opportunity to submit an idea for a “Winterim” 4-day workshop on the topic of my choice. If enough students signed up, I would spend a week in Maui teaching the workshop (and have a few days on the beach, of course).
Realizing that Raspberry Pi may be a little too finicky for middle schoolers, I shifted my attention to Arduino. I turned to Safari Flow to learn Arduino myself, and then used it to build a syllabus that matched my own educational journey and discovery curve. After submitting my proposal to the school, I anxiously waited to hear how many students I would get. The fact that alternative workshops were on topics such as sailing, canoeing, hiking, and windsurfing didn’t help my anxiety! I was pleased when I learned that 6 students had signed up. Almost immediately, I started receiving questions from the enthusiastic students, such as “Can I bring in my box of junk electronics to make a robot?” and “Can we hack my remote control car?” Once I saw those questions, I knew we were going to have a great week.
With the books and videos that I had in Flow and a few rather large orders from Maker Media and Adafruit, I was able to gather enough course material to ensure that we eased into programming and electronics while laying a strong foundation for tinkering, setting up the students for continued learning beyond the 4-day workshop.
An overview of my workshop is below, and in the near future I’m planning to share specific chapters and videos that were useful to me. I’m hoping that our story and pictures below will inspire you to use the material to support students of your own.
Day 1: Basic Circuits and Blinking LEDs
Day 2: More Inputs and Outputs
On day two, we used a third-party library and switch statements to decode signals via an infrared receiver, which listened for commands from universal remotes to control various outputs. We were able to switch on LEDs, control servos, and change colors of an RGB LED. We learned to read and sketch schematics and dug into basic programming concepts like switch and if/else statements and for loops. We also got a lot of practice mashing up code samples from books with our own code and modifying them to achieve our desired functionality.
Day 3: Field Trip
Day 4: Show and Tell
- A temperature probe that turns on an LED when the temperature exceeds 23° Celsius
- A game that challenges you to press a button as many times as you can (counted on a 7-segment display) until your toast pops up, as detected by a PIR motion sensor
- A fortune-telling “magic” 8-ball: Ask it a question and push a button on the remote, which triggers a servo pointer to randomly move back and forth before stopping at a response on the dial
- A motion-activated intruder alarm that can be armed/disarmed via remote control
- A motion-activated intruder alarm that plays a threatening melody with a buzzer when motion is detected
Special Thanks to Jaqueline Peterka and Roberta Hodara at Seabury Hall in Makawao, Hawaii, for making this happen!