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Author Topic: Building with My Own Children  (Read 7253 times)
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HI everyone. Thanks for being here for newbs like me. I am the mother of two small kids who are obsessed with, among other things, robots, cars, and computers. They also like dollies.

When I was seven I was given a little computer you could program using text. I think that enabled me to use computers much more fluently later on in life. That said, I haven't learned a computer language since CSS, and I only learned very basic DOS as a child then left it. smiley-red

I would like to take my two small children (one can read, five, the other knows letters, three) through a very, very simple project with Arduino so they can build something. Obviously I'd be doing much of the work, but I want them to see the code, how computers "think".

Other than a list of the simplest projects, can anyone recommend a tutorial for me to use with the kids? The children speak German though I don't, if there is anything geared at them.

I figure, if they can learn to read German they can surely learn a programming language. Thanks in advance for any and all of your tips.
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http://www.ladyada.net/learn/arduino/

For children that age you can't go wrong with (big) pushbuttons, blinky things (LEDs), and things that move (servos).
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 03:36:04 am by Coding Badly » Logged

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Wonderful! Thank you so much!
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I must say, go for it, it should be fun for both parent and kids (as long as you have the kids do stuff they can do).  The only thing to watch out for is not to fall into the stage mother/sports father type trap, where you insist on kids doing things your way, and you expect the kids to live out your dreams.  Enjoy the years, they can be fun, though of course frustrating at times.

However, given the age of the kids, it might be better with something simplified like snapcircuits or something similar (http://www.snapcircuits.net/).  Now, my general objection to these types of kits is like the current lego sets, where pretty much there isn't much you can do other than the things that are in the instruction manual, sort of like paint by numbers.  However, you want to get the kids interested first, and just making blinky lights on their own is rewarding.  Later, they can advance to the more creative side where they create things out of whole cloth, instead of building a particular kit.

There was a kickstarter project recently, that just closed, that attempted to make it easier to program microcontrollers.  You might check them out (http://www.modk.it/).

Another thing that might be helpful is using the concept of electronic bricks, that has a bunch of different sensors, lights, etc. that all use 4 or 3 wire connectors, and makes it easy to attach/remove different things.  The sensor shields (V4 and V5) have similar controls, where you can just plug in a thing that takes ground, vcc, and signal connections.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 01:18:19 pm by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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I forgot one thing from the list: noisy things (piezoelectric buzzer).
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I forgot one thing from the list: noisy things (piezoelectric buzzer).

Yep, though as a parent, it may be useful to have a lock out mode where no buzzer is allowed when the parent is sleeping.  smiley-roll-sweat
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"the only thing to watch out for is not to fall into the stage mother/sports father type trap, where you insist on kids doing things your way, and you expect the kids to live out your dreams."

smiley This is always a trap.

If they don't like it I will do it myself with my partner.

@Michael--cool! You are right--the kids could do more on their own with that. I like Arduino because of the programming part. These seem to be two different skills. But it looks like they are very complementary. Thank you for the suggestion.

"using the concept of electronic bricks, that has a bunch of different sensors, lights, etc. that all use 4 or 3 wire connectors, and makes it easy to attach/remove different things.  The sensor shields (V4 and V5) have similar controls, where you can just plug in a thing that takes ground, vcc, and signal connections."

These sound great. Thanks everyone again.
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@Michael--cool! You are right--the kids could do more on their own with that. I like Arduino because of the programming part. These seem to be two different skills. But it looks like they are very complementary. Thank you for the suggestion.
I think of snapcircuits as training wheels.  They are can be very helpful when one is young, but at some point the kid will outgrow them.  However, your kids are young now...

One thing that you might think of that I just bought is multiple protoshields with a small breadboard. Then you can easily remove the shield from the Arduino and put on another one without having to tear down your board and start over.  Just install something harmless like blink when you go between projects.

Of course as the kids get older, it may be appropriate to have each have their own Arduinos (or whatever system you are using by that time).
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 02:59:45 pm by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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Michael, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I have to see more of how Arduino works before I fully understand what you are talking about. I haven't bought one yet. I was waiting to see if anyone here would tell me, "Oh no way. You can't do that. They are way too young." or "Nonono--this product is WAY better for kids your age."

The response here has been fabulous. Thanks!
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Though they are still relatively new, I've heard good things about about littleBits.  They seem to be more free-form than Snapciruits in that as long as you follow the color coding system, you can mix and match "bits" to a great extent (had to stop myself from typing "quite a bit" smiley-wink ) and still get a circuit that does something.  They also are something your kids could probably put together themselves (under supervision).  Of course, like Snapcircuits they are something your kids will grow-out-of; so I'd use them as a fun introduction to electronics concepts and a supplement to whatever you do with ardiuno and conventional electronics.

That's all I can add to the excellent advice you've already recieved.
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The littlebits look cool, and does seem more extensible than snapcircuits.  Thanks for posting.
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You may also want to have a look at my blinkenlight experiments http://blog.blinkenlight.net/. You may either buy my shield to follow these experiments. Or you may buy a breadboard + 20 leds + resistors and some wires. Basically it depends if you want more focus on programming or more focus on electronics.
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Check out my experiments http://blog.blinkenlight.net

(SN)
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Hi MmeZeeZee,

you can also look at http://www.ted.com/talks/annmarie_thomas_squishy_circuits.html , there is a wonderful think like squishy circuit. It looks like a better thing for younger childs. You can mix it with more ambitious skills to teach and your kids ar not frustrated when they make it "allone" .... smiley-wink .

Thomas

PS: Here is the original source: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm
« Last Edit: July 21, 2012, 10:03:41 am by woodmaster » Logged

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I figure, if they can learn to read German they can surely learn a programming language
I used to wonder if there was ever a German dialect of COBOL, where the verb came at the end.   smiley
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I figure, if they can learn to read German they can surely learn a programming language
I used to wonder if there was ever a German dialect of COBOL, where the verb came at the end.   smiley

Given the propensity of German to string together words seemingly without limit, any programmers who used it would likely have to retire prematurely due to carpal tunnel syndrom. smiley-razz
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