Students create projects that introduce them to Arduino—a small device that can be easily programmed to control and monitor a variety of external devices like LEDs and sensors. First they learn a few simple programming structures and commands to blink LEDs. Then they are given three challenges—to modify an LED blinking rate until it cannot be seen, to replicate a heartbeat pattern and to send Morse code messages. This activity prepares students to create more involved multiple-LED patterns in the Part 2 companion activity.
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In the companion activity, students experimented with Arduino programming to blink a single LED. During this activity, students build on that experience as they learn about breadboards and how to hook up multiple LEDs and control them individually so that they can complete a variety of challenges to create fun patterns! To conclude, students apply the knowledge they have gained to create LED-based light sculptures.
Students program the drive motors of a SparkFun RedBot with a multistep control sequence—a “dance.” Doing this is a great introduction to robotics and improves overall technical literacy by helping students understand that we use programs to control the motion and function of robots, and without the correct programming, robots do not operate as intended and are unable to complete simple tasks that we count on them to perform. Students are given the basic code and then time to experiment, alter and evolve it on their own. As time permits, students may also want to construct and decorate frames and chassis for their robots using found/recycled materials such as cardboard boxes.