With the introduction of the Digital Technologies curriculum across Australia, Arduino technology is a great way to engage and inspire students to think creatively and create Digital Solutions to real world issues in their community. Meeting curriculum demands at the same time as equipping students with real world skills.
Excited, convinced but not sure where to begin? Don’t worry you are not alone, there many models, vendors and kits to choose from, but which is right for you and your students?
Unfortunately there is no one easy answer, but here are some suggestions. Before I begin I must declare my bias, as Intel’s Education Outreach Manager in Australia I have been working mainly with Intel technologies, but hopefully this guide provides some useful getting started tips.
In addition for project ideas and sample lesson guides and plans make sure you visit the Innovation Toolbox’s project page.
Arduino is an open source programming language that can be downloaded and used for free from http://arduino.cc . Using this software or IDE (Integrated development environment) you can program an Arduino compatible board (Commonly referred to as an Arduino) to process and react in a whole host of ways. There are many types of boards that serve many different purposes and once you become familiar with Arduino you will inevitably want to try some of these unique solutions. To begin with however, I recommend starting with more conventional general purpose prototyping boards that are applicable for multiple applications, like those mentioned below:
The Arduino Uno is what a Corolla is to the motor world, the tried and true standard in Arduino. It contains all of the standard Arduino features and there are heaps of resources to support implementation and creation of awesome projects with this little number.
Genuino 101* board
The Genuino 101 board is the new standard in Arduino and is almost identical to the Uno with some additional features. With Bluetooth, Gyroscopes and an Accelerometer the project and problem solving potential only expands. Most of the activities and guides on the Innovation Toolbox have been tested with the Genuino 101 board.
Both of the above boards are compact, reasonably dependable (this is maker technology so there are never any guarantees) and have resources and a community around them to support your implementation in the classroom.
Intel Galileo and Edison
These two boards are in a slightly higher price bracket and whilst they can perform the same tasks as the Uno and Genuino 101 board, they also have the ability to run an alternative operating system such as Linux. These boards would only be needed for people pushing the boundaries of physical computing.
When you unpack your Arduino you will notice there is not much to have fun with, this is where additional kits come in. Kits provide you with sensors, motors, servos lights and more to allow students imagination and creation skills to take flight.
There are a plethora available for sale and you might find one specifically for your purpose, such as an agriculture kit. The two below are awesome starter kits that contain experiment guides and are widely used, you will also find getting started guides and curriculum resources to connect them to more than just Digital Technologies on the Innovation Toolbox.
SparkFun Inventors Kit
You can obtain this kit for the majority of the boards outlined above and with an online experiment guide students can follow they will be STEMing up your classroom in no time. This kit contains light sensors (photoresistors), motors, servos and much more. This kit does require extensive wiring and circuit composition so whilst suitable for beginners, experiments take time to put together. You will also notice there are many small parts which could easily go missing, but this will be the best science circuits lesson students will have. If you purchase this awesome kit, don’t forget to add in some spare jumper wires, leds and resistors to your shopping cart.
Seeed Studio Grove Starter Kit for Arduino
This kit is like ‘plug and play’ for Arduino. You receive a shield or a top for your Arduino in to which you can simply plug in sensors and components. Complete with an experiment guide you will have students creating and innovating in no time. Without the need for extensive circuit completion this kit is especially suitable for beginners or where the focus is on the solution not on circuit design. You will need to remind students to take extra care when working with this kit as the pins on the shield can bend very easily.
Hopefully this small and brief introduction will give you confidence to get started in the world of Arduino. Most importantly don’t be afraid. You will make mistakes (I have made plenty), your students might know more and learn faster than you, but the outcomes, the brilliant digital solutions make this one journey to embark upon today!
If you have any suggestions, comments or additions to this guide please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. All hardware items and kit can be found at online retailers such as LittleBird Electronics