Member Since: January 12, 2011

Country: United States



Education Engineer @ Sparkfun

Courtesy of Terrence Fagan, Engineering Chair at Central Piedmont Community College. Terrence has done a lot of great work in engineering education and outreach in his community. He had the opportunity to attend the Fab10 Symposium in Barcelona last July. When he started telling me about his experience there, I felt it was a must for a blog post.

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This Saturday was the kick-off for the 28th FIRST Robotics Competition. This competition has grown from a couple dozen schools to over 3000 teams internationally. This year, Sparkfun has reached out to help teams in this year's competition.

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Last Friday at Skyline High School, rather than taking a traditional final exam, students in the Introduction to Electronics class with Ms. Vadovzski prepared poster presentations of projects that they created during the semester. Each project was required to demonstrate some type of interactivity using an Arduino and traditional electronics.

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We often teach beginning learners that the standard 16 MHz Arduino Uno is fast... really fast. 16 MHz means 16 Million cycles per second -- or that translates to 1/16 millionths of a second per cycle. That's a mere 62.5 ns. That's fast. So, is the Arduino _really_ that fast? Let's see...

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Today kicks-off the CSEdWeek and code.org's Hour of Code!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Check out this quick little hack using a standard temperature probe from my oven thermometer, our PicoBoard, and a little creative coding in Scratch!

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Many schools and homes have VEX robotics systems. It's an awesome and amazing platform. I've casually mentioned to several friends that integrating VEX with Arduino is super simple to do... Here's a quick snap-shot at what we got working today.

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Karen Brennan, Christan Balch, Michelle Chung recently authored a comprehensive guide for using Scratch in K-12 space. It covers everything from Getting Started to Creating Animations, Stories, Games, and even running your own "Hack-a-thon"

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How to get more out of the things in your classroom. Lower cost alternatives for your classroom Arduino projects.

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Back in January, we announced a small contest for teachers and educators using the SparkFun Inventor's Kit in their classes. We wanted to highlight and reward teachers for their hard work and dedication to promoting STEM education in the classroom.

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On the third Thursday of every month, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hosts an evening event for adults in the area called, Science Lounge. Their programming features live entertainment, demonstrations, hands-on demos, and an evening filled with science, education, and exploration! Each month features a different theme. For April, the Science Lounge theme was “Electrify!” What a perfect match for us here at SparkFun!

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Our education team is headed to Boston this week for NSTA 2014. Please stop by our booth and see what we've got going!

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A simple search on-line for "Arduino resources" results in "About 3,920,000 results (0.30 seconds)," but if you're just starting out and interested in getting Arduino into your classroom - this can be terribly overwhelming. So - here's a list of some of the sites I like to use.

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Hawaii Five-0

In October, a team of Sparkfunions were blessed with the opportunity to head to our 50th state to teach Arduino to kids, teachers, and makers on the islands of Hawaii.

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Re-cap of SparkFun @NSTA13 at the Area Conference in Denver.

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SparkFun EDU has a dedicated focus on K-12 education. We are showing several demos of our products, project ideas, and tutorials at the NSTA regional conference in Denver. Come visit us!

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A friend of mine pointed me to this amazing graphic novel created by a former Olin graduate on the perspective of "What is Engineering"

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One of the largest public school entities in the country kicked off a pilot program to integrate Software Engineering in grades 6 and 9 for 20 different schools. SparkFun was chosen to support their foray into embedded electronics, arduino, and eTextiles.

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SparkFun EDU ran a 3 day short course for educators with Bollman tech building, making, and engineering using Arduino and other tools with microcontrollers.

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A quick overview of a summer-camp program shared with us by one of our friends and followers of SparkFun EDU.

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Reflection on an article about tech career advice from Google's top female executives

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Trip report for our visit with the Hacker-Scouts program and the Parachute Factory in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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Cambridge Bound!

We're heading to the Cambridge Science Festival

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SparkFun Inventor's Kit for RedBot

February 10, 2015

This Experiment Guide offers nine experiments to get you started with the SparkFun RedBot. This guide is designed for those familiar with our SparkFun Inventors Kit and want to take their robotics knowledge to the next level.

Re-Programming the LilyTiny / LilyTwinkle

September 11, 2014

A quick tutorial showing how to reprogram the ATtiny85 IC found on the LilyTiny or LilyTwinkle boards.

DigitalSandbox PicoBoard

August 15, 2014

This tutorial walks through how to upload code to your Digital Sandbox to emulate the functionality of the PicoBoard with Scratch.

Simon Splosion Wireless

February 13, 2014

This is a tutorial demonstrating one of many techniques to "hack" the Simon Says. We will highlight the technique to take your Simon Says Wireless.

Vernier Photogate

January 7, 2014

Vernier Photogate Timer -- using the Serial Enabled LCD Kit.

Logic Levels

June 3, 2013

Learn the difference between 3.3 V and 5 V devices.
  • The original version of the library has a feature that causes the RedBot to stop when it is bumped. This was creating some issues, so this feature was removed, and now the only thing you can do is read the state of the bumper. We apologize for the change in the revision.

  • Glad to hear the PicoBoard example worked! It’s a great additional feature to the DS. To answer your question, the DigitalSandbox can be re-programmed with any standard Arduino Sketch. The original condition generally has something like the Blink example loaded on there. You can find this under File –> Examples –> Basics –> Blink.

    If you’d like to see some examples of code that you can try out on your Digital Sandbox, check-out our virtual Digital Sandbox here.

  • That’s very cool. Thanks for sharing that. I love what the team at RevRobotics have done. The RIOduino is pretty cool. We are definitely not looking to copy or re-invent something that’s already been made. I also really like their new structural system!

  • Now that the RoboRIO is out and available, we’ll definitely start looking at making an adapter for the MXP breakout. I’d love to see what teams start doing with the expansion port this year.

  • Wow – Thank you, Steve and everyone else! This is great community grassroots work. Arduino hides / masks a lot of subtle details that teachers and beginners often never see.

    One example is what is inside the main.cpp. In the current version of Arduino it looks like this – it’s not a while(1){} – well, it is – but it’s written as an empty for() loop.

    int main(void)
    #if defined(USBCON)
        for (;;) {
            if (serialEventRun) serialEventRun();
        return 0;

    Then, if we dig into the digitalWrite() – it looks ugly – kind of like this:

    void digitalWrite(uint8_t pin, uint8_t val)
        uint8_t timer = digitalPinToTimer(pin);
        uint8_t bit = digitalPinToBitMask(pin);
        uint8_t port = digitalPinToPort(pin);
        volatile uint8_t *out;
        if (port == NOT_A_PIN) return;
        // If the pin that support PWM output, we need to turn it off
        // before doing a digital write.
        if (timer != NOT_ON_TIMER) turnOffPWM(timer);
        out = portOutputRegister(port);
        uint8_t oldSREG = SREG;
        if (val == LOW) {
            *out &= ~bit;
        } else {
            *out |= bit;
        SREG = oldSREG;

    I agree that a straight PORTB memory write is probably the most efficient – but, who’s going to remember how which bit to shift? And moreover – how often do our student need this speed? For me, it’s digitalWrite(13, HIGH) – I suppose this really just shows how much overhread Arduino is adding on!

  • That’s exactly right. As for how many instructions are being called, I haven’t dug in that far. I also suspect that the interrupt handlers, the Serial checking, and the multiple “assembly level” instructions are all adding overhead as well.

  • That’s awesome. Thanks Christian! I agree that more points would probably give a better curve fit. There was a time when I would have used Matlab for this – but, man - python and the scipy library is pretty slick! Thank you for sharing this! What I love is that this is using Scratch (a pretty simple and easy to use programming language) and extending beyond what most people use it for.

  • Technically, this does not fall under the strictest sense of the rules. However, if the 4 flex sensors and 4 servos fall under the $50 spending limit for “materials beyond SIK,” your project will still be considered valid. That being said, we are still very excited to see this project you’ve created with 5 flex sensors and 5 servos! Please do share this with us!

  • Yes, this is allowable under the other ‘design and structural materials" category – so long as it is under the $50 spending limit.

  • Yes. We did not specify things such as this, but auxiliary materials such as a power supply and wires can be grouped together under the “design and structural materials” category.

    We are excited to see your submissions! I’m sorry we did not respond to your comment sooner!

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Simon Wireless

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