Starting Arduino Project At High School

terryking228: Some schools are still in a dark ages. Remember when the teacher knew everything, and the students just received it (and forgot it)..

It's ironic how educators - the people who are supposed to be engaged in the art of learning - know so little about the educational realm! In fact, one of my education professors told our class "Some teachers started teaching wrong their first year and have continued doing it that way for the last thirty years"

Virtually always, I am very much against the objectivist methodology - this deployment & assessment technique is "dark ages" indeed. I'm proactively in the constructivist camp - and proud to be here. I've studied and employed the benefits from pedagogical, andragogical, and heutagogical systems.

Today in public education we see an unrealistic and unnecessary emphasis on high stakes testing which has literally become the god of education convincing the local administrators what should be driving the motivation for and defining the direction of what occurs. Why should anyone really think about or care what's truly best for students? . . . ? Oh, I know, you can't document that in a bar chart and the higher the bars which provide links to administrative "image security."

Rant over - sorry.

The machines in our room had Windows 7 Pro removed in favor of XP 64 (the IT dept did not want to support yet another OS, from what I'm told). I have a large, thick XP book which may help me unlock the prohibition instituted by the IT department which so often eliminates the students from using software that would be essential in not only accomplishing the standards I'm required to teach, but also the opportunities to explore additional information and experience challenging events like the Arduino projects.

I have almost finalized my decision to require students bring in their laptop computers in order to accomplish our goals. Asking IT for old computers - ha! That would require forms, paperwork and a willing department to cooperate. I don't mind the first two, but the last one simply does not exist. This is just one of the many reasons why this will be my last - and hopefully my best - year of teaching in this district. I cannot ever be satisfied in an environment where unnecessary restrictions are imposed which restrict or prohibit my ability to teach, more important, their ability to learn.

Uh oh, another rant, sorry.

If the laptop requirement was imposed, my participation level would involve very few number of students. Also, please keep in mind our school district includes students who 75% of them qualify for receiving free or reduced lunches - lots of poverty. I am even willing to purchase four of these kits with my own money to help out but I am unsure if I'm really going to make a difference or if this will spin into another frustrating, uneventful experience regardless of the intentions to provide a useful, educationally rewarding, and FUN experience.

Maybe I'll discover a local authority/corporation who will donate a few laptops for my computer lab and I'll toss on Linux Mint and create my own wireless intranet and all the applications will be available for our learning purposes and . . . I can still dream, right?

As I have been reprimanded previously for asking for "too much" IT support, I cannot afford to "push" the IT requirements in my classroom: I want a stellar recommendation from my boss when I apply for another job. BTW, I offered to manage all the requirements of the existing machines in my lab and expressed how I used to do this for sixteen years before I began teaching in public education. Nope, not wanted, the boss recently paid an IT consulting firm thousands of dollars to have our machines upgraded with software we're leasing from a vendor.

Regardless, I will do what I can with what I have. I am not getting paid for the after school club I'm required to sponsor so I am going to take control - as much as I can - and provide these students with Arduino projects they will hopefully embrace and we'll all be better for this endeavor, having FUN along the journey! :)

Sorry to rant - too much coffee this morning (ha).

Maybe you should talk to the local computer shop or put an ad in the local paper for old PC’s. Maybe there is a big firm in Atlanta (?) that could help you out.
Or the Southern Polytechnic State University (or is that your school?) - I expect an university has some PC’s to share and most universities like students with hands on experience…

OrDobbins Airforce base? Life University? When I googled maps for “Computer Store marietta GA” it came up with 9 shops…

No, I’m not familiar with Marietta, just used Google maps to locate some firms :slight_smile:

OK. I limit myself to 5 mins a day complaining about "professional" IT, and my wife, who has worked in good to excellent private schools outside the USA education envelope for 8 years, and is very technology literate, takes up about 3 mins a day.

But it's the weekend.

I can not understand how management at any endeavor can not believe that IT is a service to it's customers, who are the company employees who will make or break the company. Unless it's a school. Customer Service, Customer understanding, Customer collaboration, Customer Respect!

Dammit, I was once the Personal Computer Coordinator for the Manufacturing and Laboratory site of a big 3-letter company. There were 8200 employees and about 5000 were personal computer users. I didn't do that alone; I had a department of talented and hard-working people and a manager who took the non-technical non-user stuff off our backs. Our job was to enable those 5000 customers (most within walking distance of my office!) to get their job done as efficiently and intelligently as possible. And anticipate their needs and next years hardware and software and network changes. If management decided, after consultation with the Customers, that certain software or hardware was needed, our job was to make it happen and help the Customer be productive.

Now, some customers will never be happy or satisfied. Human nature. But you can't let that color your approach to the NEXT customer, and withdraw into Defensive IT.

I could go on, but the only point is IT is NOT an end in itself, it's only a TOOL for productive work. it is a SERVICE to CUSTOMERs.


These days, I am blissfully (well, except for a couple of Windows7 issues) IT support for 2 people. And we love each other already ;)

millis: ALSO --> and this may be a big hurdle, the IT department WILL NOT allow me to install software on the student machines. Besides asking students to bring in laptops for this endeavor, does anyone have an idea how I can overcome this obstacle and get my students the software they need for this ongoing adventure? We have 28 student computers, each has 6GB RAM, good processors, and blah, blah, blah.

If you (or any of your students) know how to set up a USB thumbdrive to boot Linux (most modern distros make this easy) - you could do this, then install the Arduino IDE and other bits on the thumbdrive, then just boot with it - files and such generated can be saved to the thumbdrive as well. No modifications needed to the school computers.

Then again, if you do this without asking the IT department, and something goes wrong (virus or whatnot - that has nothing to do with the boot sticks) - they might just try to blame you and your "hacker" ways (IT departments in general tend to have a severe, misplaced, and generally uneducated opinion about anything "not Windows"; feels like the 1980s all over again, back when the IT department had a distrust over anything that wasn't a mainframe - ie, the rise of personal computers).

Hopefully - someone in IT will have a clue about Linux, USB booting from thumbdrives, etc - and will cut you a break (maybe they'll even help you, in the interest of educating the kids)...

Good luck! :)

Thanks - I frequently use my ThinkPad with a 16GB Linux Mint thumb drive - works great with my computers at home.

I tried using this technique with the machines in my classroom but the BIOS skips the USB ports when booting up and - of course - the IT department won't let me change the BIOS boot order setting - it's password protected and will remain that way because they are the IT department and they have the POWWWAAAAHHHHH!!!!!


Woo hoo!

My Uno & kit arrived today and I've been having a blast working with this thing!

Now to prepare a good presentation for my class on Wednesday!

I'm going to show them this video -->

Sounds great
If you get stuck you know where to turn to. I don’t like meaningless assessment either. Countless educators are happy to see small percentage improvement but don’t know real learning only happens when the students go home and read on and even study topics that aren’t covered, out of self interest. You can’t find normalized gain if student understands topics not even taught. The gain would be infinity. That is what teaching should be. To motivate. Not to shower a bunch of knowledge points and see the percentage that are retained.

Last Wednesday I introduced them to the Arduino using mine that was only blinking. I showed them how to change a variable in the program to speed up or slow down the blinking pattern among the five LED's

It's going to take a lot more to impress them - I realize this, so I asked them to take the initiative and discover what's being done with the Arduino and select something to do that they may have an interest in

This week I plan on creating a very simple interactive device that takes input then provides motion, lights and sound. If they don't have any direction, I'll ask them to reproduce what I've done or have them start at the beginning, blinking the #13 LED on their Uno and moving on from there.

It's funny how so many of them look at something like a simple robot and think it's a five minute project. It's sad how many give up when they realize the activity requires more than five minutes to accomplish AND it requires them to think.

A civilization that allows themselves to be controlled by others deserves the inevitable bondage.


I blame video games and society. We are only educated to be skilled workers and can do paper work. On the other hand, if you can sneak video game elements into your teaching, you can get more attention from your kids. A couple decades back when I was a kid, I'd be thrilled to play a round of a video game, any kind of game. Fast forward to 2011, kids have seen them all and don't get the thrill seeing anything anymore. Take a look at this thing:

It is a persistence of vision display. You can display anything on it like "Welcome" but I chose to display angular speed and acceleration for my lab. Most of my college students liked it. Kids love it. It's not very hard to build.

thanks liudr

I am contemplating using a separate battery pack for the project I'm creating for tomorrow's presentation. Anyone have an idea what battery requirements and connectors would be sufficient for an Uno operating one or two small servos, 8 LED's and a speaker?


millis: thanks liudr

I am contemplating using a separate battery pack for the project I'm creating for tomorrow's presentation. Anyone have an idea what battery requirements and connectors would be sufficient for an Uno operating one or two small servos, 8 LED's and a speaker?


I'd try a lipo (Lithium polymer ion) rechargeable battery. The 9V battery is usually too weak. In case you have a bunch of AA, have at least 5 in series.

Hi all,

I'm starting a similar project for my students... (16-year old, no knowlegde in IT for now...located in Antwerp, Belgium) Starting from scratch as they don't have any knowledge of electronics what so ever.

I found this: to explain them the basics of electronics combined with the arduino board.

I'm a hardware instructor, and this will be the first time i'm going to tackle the arduino-robot project. My goal is to create a simple autonomous robot with my students and i've got half a schoolyear time to get to that. Starting in January... buying Arduino kits next week.

Hope we can all learn from this forum topic... looks promissing

Regards and success

Thanks StijnK!

Rather than "redefining the wheel" (because I'm lazy - ha) I will be relying mostly on tutorials already created and proven to be helpful rather than creating my own. And why not, eh?

I am approaching my project with very loose, almost zero guidelines - the deployment of the Arduino project in my curricula is an experiment in itself. For example, I'm only requiring students to provide their own Arduino Uno's and a basic starter kit. I'll help them a little with programming and understanding a few electronics fundamentals, but I want them to take gigantic steps towards creating a project that captures a personal interest.

I realize there are no real shortcuts to understanding electronics, programming, and so forth, and I am aware the path we're taking is probably not be the most efficient, however in the past I've asked students to participate in activities which, seemed fairly dull or too time consuming (building a prototyping board from scratch, for example).

Although there will still be a learning curve, the Arduino Uno will help students enter the realm of electronics very quickly and allow them to access a gigantic community of support, while spending very few dollars in the process (at least initially - ha). I want my students to experience the satisfaction from coming up with an idea then working out all the problems in order to have a successful result. That simple two-step process is the epitome of learning, in my opinion. Ironically, from an educator's point of view, this methodology is critically missing, almost nonexistent in contemporary secondary public education.

So, I'm anticipating some negative criticism from my far-left brain peers who take a much more structured approach to learning - that's understandable, no problem. I also want everyone to know I'm interjecting these microcontroller-related activities as accessory projects to our mainstream curricula and also during optional, after-school meetings. It is my greatest hope that at least a few of my students will embrace the world of electronics and go very far with it, hopefully even using this to positively influence future careers.

Thanks everyone!

I have a thought: you make a couple of cool projects, show them to your students. Then let them choose which one they want to do, then give them tasks to finish each part of their projects. If they don't see the end results, they don't have much motivations to work hard. Kids these days lack any type of imagination, probably ripped away from media overexposure of everything real or not. If I do a project, I imagine the outcome in my head and that keeps me working hard to get there.

Hint: Americans love cars. Do a project that you can use on a car like this one I did maybe:

Overnight it became featured and has received about 4K views.

FYI, I have not driven blind-folded yet. I need my own garage to do that.

@liudr I'm not sure if that works for every student. There are also students who don't have it in them... students who don't see the link between hardware and software, between an arduino board and your automatic parking system... So you need to help them A LOT ! taht doesn't mean they are not motivated...

I agree with millis to take small steps and don't get your hopes up to much :) I'm using the arduino to teach them electronics (Ohm's law, Volt, resistors, diodes,...) because you can actually let them put in practice what they've seen and read about. see previous post with courses...

Putting all together they will stay motivated because they know it could go everywhere with the arduinoboard. (car, parking system, webserver, lcd-screen, mini bots,...)

I promised them that we would create a small robot, but they don't know they will get thought electronics during the process XD

and now i'm going back to look at some tutorials :sweat_smile:



StijnK: I promised them that we would create a small robot, but they don't know they will get thought electronics during the process

I really like this approach and I plan on doing the same.


Due to some minor setbacks i had to wait, and wait on my ARDX-kits but…
I got my 11 inventors kits today and started the first tests…
I got my kits from an electroshop in Dendermonde who based the kit on an ADAFruit tutorial.
Wasn’t so expensive (about 80 euro’s) and it came with breadboard, cables, a servo, a DC-motor, a buzzer, leds, … you name it and it’s in there :slight_smile:

Started with the blinking led and the first questions kame to mind already :slight_smile:

Hoping to have some good lessons in januari.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


For the one's who need it!

This can help in your classes. The explanation is short, clear, to the point... i like it!



You might want to have a look at my Blinkenlight experiments I am pretty sure that they contain some useful content for an introductionary course. And don't forget to have a look at the "measurement" experiments. Not everything on my pages is rudimentary ;)

Hi all,

Promised in teh beginning to post some ideas and also keep you all posted on how i do this in the classroom... Well, here goes...

Last week was my first lessen, i didn't completely devote all the hours for that week to it but just to let them knwo what we were going todo.

  • showed them the inventors kit
  • told them they would have to look for an interesting goal (like a small robot)
  • told them they had to maintain a blog with all the links, ideas, pictures, video's and progress they would make
  • showed them the first pages of the manual we use with some of the basic stuff in it...

their curiosity was visible :-)

Today i explained some basics of electricity (current (I), resistance (Ohm), power (P expressed in Watt) and so on... I made some exercices with the formulas and then i gave them their kits.

  • showed them the manual and how to assemble
  • connect to the computer
  • upload first sketch with blinking led

Everytime I'm going to give them an hour of theoretics and some small exercices and then they can use that info for some new things to use for their robot... This seems to work for me, and them...

I'm having fun!