Since the program I will be presenting through work for the next few months will be on using the Arduino in art and science, I decided to explore if there would be a post-lesson activity that could show use of the Arduino in other subject areas. I settled on Language Arts, since I enjoy poetry and wanted to see if the form could be rethought in an interactive way that will have students create a machine-aided haiku using core computational thinking concepts such as problem decomposition, data collection and automation (Barr & Stephenson, 2011). I’d come across computer poetry in Mindstorms (Papert, 1993) and a quick Google search of “Arduino Poetry” showed that several people have had similar ideas. This approach would be unique in that the program will use readings from temperature, light, and sound sensors to choose appropriate descriptive words.
Here’s my interpretation of the Count the Dots activity. Sorry for the shakeycam, my production assistant had gone to bed.
The program was created using Python on a Raspberry Pi, and the LED lights were controlled with an Arduino. The binary value was passed from the Pi to the Arduino via serial over USB.
Circuit design is a popular type of project in the maker movement. During our time creating Maker Faire projects, we experimented with creating circuits using conductive thread, play-doh/squishy circuits, copper tape, conductive ink, and littleBits that use magnetic connections. Having all these different approaches for lighting up LEDs, activating motors, or powering any other component makes circuit design accessible to students of many different levels of ability and interests. Yet if we are to encourage students to move towards becoming expert learners, it would be useful to have a path available to students who would like to pursue circuit design further. Teachers may not be experts in this field, so allowing students to turn to their personal learning network is an attractive choice. Since circuit design lends itself well to open inquiry, a wealth of resources would be needed. As I pursued my learning project on circuit design through CAD programs and printing inexpensive circuit boards through OSHPark, I found there was a plethora of videos and forums available on just those topics. This process of learning from people with similar interests, including taking part in what Gee (2013) calls an affinity space was well suited for my learning goals, as my video on networked learning explains.
While exploring resources for my networked learning project on designing and printing a circuit board, one of the first links I came across was a post from Reddit on a fairly new subreddit /r/PrintedCircuitBoards titled: Teaching Circuits to high school kids: Bread board the only option? Responses listed several choices such as Eagle, which I used briefly to teach an activity for summer camp last year, but it was clunky in many ways and interest seemed to be turning to some of the newer programs. I decided to learn KiCad, as it is open source, under active development, and is increasing in popularity.
I’ve decided to dust off a learning goal I’ve put on hold for at least a year: create PCBs using simple CAD programs and at least reach the point where I could send out a design for printing. This was an idea I explored with students in Hack this Camp, but we stopped at the point of using photo-sensitive copper to have a circuit printed, but never drilled it and tried out the design. Now there are a multitude of companies that will print out user-designed boards inexpensively. I would like to use this skill in order to be able to do projects that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise if we had to buy an entire kit, such as for a Drawdio. A related skill would be figuring out how to program ATMEL chips that are integrated in many circuits.