Microcontrollers for Educators


Recently, one of SparkFun's biggest goals has been to get embedded electronics into the hands of teachers and students. A huge part of that endeavor has been the creation of the SparkFun Department of Education (DoE), hosted over at learn.sparkfun.com. They have been working to expand the offering of classes we hold at SFE headquarters. We have a slew of classes coming up - the first of which is Microcontrollers for Educators.

Microcontrollers for Educators takes place all day on August 9 and 10, 2012 and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - a class focused on helping educators learn how to make microcontrollers part of their curriculum. The class starts from from the very beginning (the very best place to start) with the installation of the Arduino programming environment. We'll then explain how to get it running and talking to the boards and then cover the basics of using the Processing language to graph data and build custom interfaces.

The class will go over the basics of Arduino using the SparkFun Inventor's Kit. Then we'll move onto LilyPad and E-textiles, and lastly we'll cover building the Simon game (and how to hack it!). Also, this class is good for 1.0 semester credit hour through Colorado School of Mines with an additional payment of $50.00 to be paid at the time of the class. Paperwork for credit will be made available at that time.

Head over to the DoE website to sign up! Hope to see you there!


Comments 22 comments

  • We understand the challenge ahead but are motivated by the hurdles, not deterred. This happens to be one of the best times for schools/districts to find funding for these types of materials. While we don’t foster the same love of anything given an acronym, many of the schools we are working with have found funding thanks to national attention on all things STE(A)M-related. We are committed to helping educators and students have the constructivist, kinesthetic learning experience with electronics regardless of the difficulties that lie ahead.

  • I used to count binary on my fingers. It is a pattern that can get automatic. I first saw it when a friend was idly counting the pages coming out of a line printer by moving his fingers and reading off the number when he was done. But, as an ex physic/chem/math high school teacher I agree with Chartle. You can blow an hour class easily with a simple mistake in lesson plans , like the beginner error of passing out a paper before you discuss what is to be done with it. And the budget problem is endemic. There is money for occasional pieces of capital equipment for labs, the rest is paper clips, cardboard, and plastic cups and trays for “micro chemistry”. The interesting experiments have all been replaced by safe-and-sane stuff that is boring as watching paint dry (I think that is a lab project now). Recall the grade schools were badly burned by heavy expenditures for the enthusiasts for teaching kids to program. First was a wave of Apple IIs, then a wave of iMacs or PCs. “Computer Labs” with a full time teacher moved over to manage it, etc. They are all for sale at the state surplus warehouse by the pallet load. The tech moves too fast. The kids can talk to their iPhone and it will answer them now. You guys have a tough row to hoe.

  • This is perfect, except for being held in the US ! :-( Not great for us UK peeps. What are the chances of packaging up the materials and selling them ? I’ve offered to teach an introduction to microcontrollers at my daughters school. But I’m not a teacher. I would love to buy a pack of materials that includes some lesson plans and ideas ? Any plans to offer this remotely ?

    Thanks.

    When are you guys opening a UK office !? :-)

    • Along the same lines as providing lesson plans etc, have you considered making kits including soldering stations, hand tools, etc. along with kits for students to build under supervision from experienced technical people in settings like summerschool or adult ed? The idea would be that the soldering stations and tools would be returned after use in the class. This would allow a lot of additional people to get their feet wet with electronics.

      • Spark Fun does carry 3 kits.

        http://www.sparkfun.com/products/11101

        http://www.sparkfun.com/products/11031

        http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10874

  • I don’t appreciate the hand signal

    • Oh c'mon. This is a little kid that is completely innocent to that.

      • Actually when you deal with little kids you have to be careful with stuff like that. If that pic was in some sort of lesson plan for the kids they would all notice it and detract from the lesson.

        • Guys, c'mon. She’s just counting in binary. “Very good, that’s a 4!”

          • I’m just trying to figure out what board she has. Maybe its a multiplexed RGB board with an atmega on it. It has to be RGB, what other led has 4 pins.

            • I’ll give you a hint - we do sell it on our site. =)

              • That hint. Lemme do some searching.

                After Search, Hmm I can’t find the kit. its not the 3x3x3 Led Cube. Hers only seems like it has an RGB LED at each corner. So maybe the Simon says, but there isn’t a kit that uses the battery pack that she is using over the through hole AA battery holder. Can’t find it. What does she have?

                • Hint 2: it IS in the kits category. And it’s hard to tell in the picture, but the board she’s holding is triangular.

                  • Aww its the Lectro Candle kit. Thats a nice little kit, nice and cheap. You guys should make a quick smd version, uses 3 RGB SMD LEDS, and 0805 cap, smd ATtiny and such. The board could remain the same size and it would be a nice little kit for people to practice on without feeling guilty if they don’t solder it right since it’s only $15.

                    • YOU WIN! Nicely done! =) And that’s an excellent idea for an SMD version; it’s not far removed from the new LilyTiny board. We’ll look into it!

    • She’s not giving you the finger - she’s explaining that those spaceships that you see on TV are only “this big”.

    • Gang sign. Nerds and geeks have to protect their turf! (good gangs)

  • I see a big hurdle to cross here. Once taken back to the schools, how is it going to be funded? Teachers would love to do this kind of stuff but would have no money to buy the kits.

    There are similar kits to teach physics, but all the teachers get are some rubber bands and Popsicle sticks. :-(

    Oh and sorry for being such a downer, but that’s the world today.

    ETA: Have you, Sparkfun, looked into any of these grants? It would be easier for you to do grant proposals for a number of schools versus the schools doing it individually. Though to do so you probably would have to make the Education Dept a separate, non profit entity.

    • Quite a few school districts have managed to purchase iPads or iPod Touch’s for their students. An Arduino & some sensors is far cheaper.

      • Also they probably got a grant to do so. My school district got a grant to buy a cart full of laptops, it was nice but now they are 5 years old.

        Another close school district got a grant to buy every student a laptop to take home.

        My Sister in Law works in a school district in Texas with gated communities and she has to ask her students to bring in basic school supplies, some ask for toilet paper.

        • It is very adhoc and dependant on the flavour of the month. Remember that the government and associated bodies need to justify there spending. Here in Australia during the GFC the governement spent there way out of recession (and it generally worked) by buying a laptop for every year 9 to 12 student - problrm was at school we didn’t have the inferstructure to handle these laptops to be added to the system - so they upgraded each of the schools with the minimum solution - they then had to come back and upgrade it to make it ackually work. now these laptops are getting old and we are trying to find out how to replace the laptops for the next wave of students (and we have a school of only 200 students)

          thanks tiny

      • Yes I’m sure dozens have, out of the hundreds of public school districts in the USA.:/ Just because you read a news story of a specific school or district having the cash to make worthwhile investments in technology never assume most or many can do so. Property values, local taxes, and the priorities of the local school board can make the financial realities of two neighboring school districts very different!


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