Electronics and Tech Primer
I just wanted to take a moment to write a post about some of the electronics resources we will use throughout our science experiments and projects for the classroom. Everything we use is available to the general public and more often than not, we will include links to purchase the exact same materials if you are interested in duplicating it in your classroom. Here is a quick overview of some of those things for all of you who may not be familiar with what is available.
Arduino Arduino is a set of open source hardware components that are offered at low prices and can be used in almost any electronics project for the classroom. They range in cost from about $30 all the way up to hundreds, but mostly on the low end. Even the cheapest Arduino (usually the Uno line) offers incredible power and flexibility in designing and building circuits. They are essentially a small computer with all the parts necessary to read input, process logic (code) and produce output. We will use them extensively to create cool experiments and projects for the classroom. We will post any code that is required for a particular project so don’t worry about having to write it! Getting started with your own Arduino is very simple. Just visit their getting started page to get the software (very lightweight) and you can be up and running in around 5 minutes!
Raspberry Pi The Pi is similar to the Arduino boards but it comes with built in in network capabilities and a full software stack. We use it in several of our projects that require internet access. Again, if any coding is required, that will be shared as well as diagrams and descriptions of how to build the circuits. As the Pi is a bit more powerful than most of the Arduino boards, it will also take a bit more time for setup. It runs an entire operating system and is essentially a self contained computer. Visit their website for detailed instructions on getting started...you could be up and running with a Pi in less than an hour!
Circuits Of course any electronics we make for the classroom are going to require some sort of circuit. We keep it as basic and simple as possible and always build and share prototypes. The circuits will mainly consist of the same components...a board (like Arduino or Pi), a breadboard, jumper wires (they just connect things electrically), and various components such as resistors, switches, buttons, or display screens. Anytime we build a circuit, we include the circuit diagram in our blog post and in the detailed instructions for how to build the project (usually on Instructables). We will also include links for where to purchase the materials if you do not have them already (usually materials are very cheap...for example, the photoresistors used in the Photoresistor ‘Radar Gun’ cost $6 for 20).
There are tons of fantastic web resources to learn more about basic circuits. Sparkfun has some amazing resources, tutorials and is also where we get a lot of our components! Check out their introduction page or check out the intro page from Autodesk on getting started with circuits!
Code Almost all of our tech projects including the projects that use the Arduino and Raspberry Pi are going to require some code in order to work properly. The code informs the processor what logic needs to be executed. We post ALL of our code for classroom DIY projects so you can simply copy and paste it most of the time to get your projects working. The website we use to post our code is called Gitlab. It is free for public use and hosts all our code that is versioned controlled with git.
While we would never expect teachers to become computer engineers to integrate technology into the classroom, there are some great resources out there if you are interested! Of course coding is something close to my heart as it is a fun and challenging sort of engineering. There are more software engineering jobs available right now than the workforce could possibly fill so I encourage anyone interested to learn more (teachers and students alike!) Not everyone should be a computer engineer and we would never say otherwise but many of Rosanna’s students have surprised us in how they thrive coding when given the opportunity (more to come about how we work the Hour of Code and code.org games into the curriculum)! Here are a couple of my favorite places to learn more about coding!
If you are thinking that integrating technology into the learning environment in a meaningful way is a daunting task, then you are absolutely correct. Nevertheless, that is why we are here. We are going to post as much as we can to truly help lower the amount of effort required by educators to a reasonable level so nobody is deterred from accomplishing greatness with technology in their classrooms or at home (parents...you can do this with your children as well!)
Keep in mind at this point all of our experiments are prototypes. We currently only offer them as ideas and DIY projects, but perhaps eventually we will reach a point where we can offer them for sale for a low price. As we continue to develop some of the ideas and projects, we will continue to develop our ability to write meaningful instructions for the DIYs. As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact us but please keep in mind we are only working on Edjro part time as both Rosanna and I have full time commitments!