LUSK – An atmosphere of concentration and expectation fills Mr. Martinez’s industrial arts room as middle school students settle down with laptops and small circuit boards known as arduino boards. The arduino boards sense the environment by receiving inputs from many sensors, and affects its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. They are plugged into the laptops where seventh and eight grade students use open-source and free software to practice coding and circuits.
The students build the schematics on the laptop first. They utilize block coding for the program but all have also learned scratch. They can convert the blocks into the scratch so they can see the individual coding set up and commands.
For this particular project, once they have their circuit of lights set up they ask the program to run the sequence. If it will work then they can convert the schematic into an actual wiring diagram that the students will learn how to read. Students then connect the arduino board to the laptop via USB. This provides the programing and power link. Students then connect the wires, highest and grounds based on the wiring diagram, hook up the power and try out their new skills.
If everything is set up properly the students would see their lights go off in succession. As each group achieves this they high five and wave Martinez down to look at what they have created. When a board doesn’t work as expected some ask Martinez for help but rarely do the students need it, they often problem solve on their own or with a peer to come up with the solution. Once they have accomplished the first step they are asked to reduce the relay time until the lights run in a row and up and down without much time in between.
This time, the students change the timing within the scratch instead of using the blocks of coding themselves. As they work out the timing and sequencing the students laugh and smile. What these students are doing is not only fun but has a myriad of applications. As Martinez points out, as the students become more proficient they will work on programing of functional electrical circuits and systems in the classroom and with real life applications.