Core output devices for novices?

I've been doing some thinking about how best to put Arduinos in the hands of schoolchildren.

I'm working towards a system... not unlike Littlebits, if you know of them... where users "plug" modules into the Arduino, via a standardized plug and socket system.

What modules would you think should be available in the range?

Yes, yes... we would all like "everything" to be available and possible. But educators have to live in the real world, with budgets, and with accidents happening when novices are using things.

I am somewhat "funking" the issue of "output devices" by building into my activity suggestions use of the serial monitor... so complex output of text and numbers is "taken care of" that way.

I'm inclined to avoid the I2C devices, because I hope there's enough to "amuse" the novice without getting onto the extra issues which arise if you want to go into I2C.

I was thinking I'd ask you about OUTPUT devices, for now, to see what the reaction is. A similar (but separate!) thread can be started, if there seems to be interest?

Am I so limiting my "plug and socket" Arduino that it will be too dull for the people I want to make enthusiastic?

Single bit output devices... like an LED... are no problem. But even here, I would welcome your thoughts as to the sorts of things which should be available... so, to "seed" the list, there is...

==== Single (digital) bit devices:

LEDs... sundry colors Buzzers... self oscillating piezos, for routine use... plus (?) simple piezos, to be oscillated by software, to show users how nice it is to have a self oscillating piezo?

Simple motors, i.e. not fancy servo motors. Are they worth including? (Of course, they won't be powered directly by the Arduino output pin.)

==== Single bit devices, using PWM pulse streams...

Servo motors

Bar graphs? Are there standard, reasonably inexpensive ones which would show 1 LED for one waveform, all LEDs for a different one, and differing numbers for in-between waveforms?

===== Single bit devices, using serial data steams...

Smart LED strings and arrays.

Serial-to-VGA adapters... expensive, but they give a great output opportunity. (http://www.arunet.co.uk/tkboyd/ec/SerialToVGA.htm)

And as the "Arduino side" is just a single bit, this (and similar) would not be a problem.

Are there other things fed by a serial data stream which are just too good to "leave out", even if they are a bit expensive?

==== Two bit devices....

H-Bridges, controlling simple DC motors

I am loathe to build into the system sockets for 3, 4, 5... etc bits because I want to keep it simple, but if there are things you think really would be particularly useful in courses for newbies... and they are robust and (reasonably) inexpensive, please list them! Maybe I should reconsider my reluctance? Or find a way around the problems which arise for maintaining flexibility without introducing ways for novices to make damaging mistakes...

Another way to think about my question: If you were introducing novices to Arduinos, what (affordable!) output devices would you want available to your pupils? (Don't worry about the technical requirements, e.g. bit count, etc)

=== Thanks for your help! This is a part of something that is discussed more broadly at...

http://flat-earth-academy.com/sci/phys/elec/InSchools.htm

... where I have written about the broader questions of why we ought to put electricity/ electronics and Arduinos in schools. Any thoughts on that welcome, too, though perhaps email would be better than this forum, for that?

This is not a joke. I just build few things with my grand-kids - 3 and 5 years old destructors!

It ain't Arduino , but IMHO rugged (!) way to get kids fired up. You can build logic circuits , which WAST majority of Arduino newbies have no clue about! The basic is "recommended" for 8 to 108 ages and the advanced box has about 30 parts to build a mobile robot!

If one can reverse the miniaturization trend of Arduino - this snap-on concept would be literary bullet proof ( I know, wrong choice of words) for kids.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Snap-Circuits-Junior-Electronics-Projects-Kit/11037219

I think if you explain concept of I/O of ANY computing gizmo, I2C is not that complex. But again, most beginners "cannot be bothered" with basic, they want to shoot the rocket to the Mars first.

Good luck. Vaclav

Snap Circuits: Interesting!

For some "getting started" lessons, might be the way to go.

Except for the youngest children, I would hope to wean them on to ordinary breadboard work if going far, but Snap Circuits might have a place in the curriculum. Modular. Not too expensive, for what they give you. But when you get to logic gates, it gets a bit expensive... $10 for a single AND gate... but maybe worth it for the convenience of hook-up, etc???

http://www.snapcircuits.net/products/product_sub/parts=MTI=/135

Excellent range of modules.

I know a good high school teacher who is thinking of them as a part of his teaching... having tested them with his "resident" 7 and 5 year olds!

tkbyd: Snap Circuits: Interesting!

For some "getting started" lessons, might be the way to go.

Except for the youngest children, I would hope to wean them on to ordinary breadboard work if going far, but Snap Circuits might have a place in the curriculum. Modular. Not too expensive, for what they give you. But when you get to logic gates, it gets a bit expensive... $10 for a single AND gate... but maybe worth it for the convenience of hook-up, etc???

http://www.snapcircuits.net/products/product_sub/parts=MTI=/135

Excellent range of modules.

I know a good high school teacher who is thinking of them as a part of his teaching... having tested them with his "resident" 7 and 5 year olds!

I was not talking about logic circuits. The kit I used comes with two switches and a diagram how to wire them as "AND" function. I recall my first Boolean algebra AND "circuit" and we just used two switches / relays to get the message across. I think it is better to start that way instead of some fancy box which does same but comes with three wires.

have you look at fritzing software? It may not do "hands on " but it covers it pretty much all - components (hardware) ,schematic,PCB, software ( Arduino IDE) , solderless breadboard. I just tried few things and it looks as good learning tool. It is designed for Arduino processors. I did not have much time to play, but NT ( see bellow) does provide "conversion " from schematic to breadboard automatically ( at lest it did few years ago).

Nice but I am not sure one does learn much using such software.

Few years back there was "Electronic workbench" free software to build virtual circuits, exuding processor of course. I think it is now offered by National Technologies and you can get "student license " for free if you are a teacher.

The "cool" thing about EW you can simulate real stuff without smoking things!

But as I said, it lacks the "hands on" experience and may be boring to whizzbang kids.