Monday, December 31, 2012

Microcontrollers For Educators Workshop in Boulder

Just spent the weekend +SparkFun Electronics in Boulder Colorado for their Microcontrollers for Educators workshop.  Fun, fun!  Thanks a bunch to our instructors +Linz Craig & +Jeff Branson.

My Make2Learn class

I recently purchased 10 of their Inventor's Kits for my Make2Learn STEM elective class.  The kits include an Ardunio Uno board with lots of extras such as LEDs, a motor, resistors, etc.  It includes a GREAT instruction manual for setting up various circuits.  Great for a total beginner like me!

I started my class with the kits the week before the holidays.  Basically, we worked with the hardware, setting up the circuits then uploaded the code which is already written and can be downloaded at  We didn't get into the coding yet.  I spent some time over the summer reading Getting Started with Arduino but, of course, I forgot most of it.  I'm glad I was able to go to the Sparkfun workshop because it was a great introduction into coding with Arduino.

My students using Arduino

Basically, you can use the code they provide then show students how to make minor changes to it.  For example, to Blink Sketch blinks an LED for a second.  By changing two numbers in the code, you can change the blink rate.  So you can start easy and go as in depth as you like.

SparkFun's LilyPad E Sewing Kit

During the workshop, we also played with SparkFun's ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Board and the LilyPad E Sewing Kit. These kits, I think, are designed to get girls more interested in coding and electronics because it incorporates crafting.  The E Sewing kit uses conductive thread so you can create a circuit in clothing or purses, etc.  Very cute!

We also practiced soldering using SparkFun's Simon Says Soldering Kit.  When you are finished, you have a Simon Says game in which you push buttons to copy the sequence in which the buttons light up.  It's a great beginners kit for soldering because there are not too many parts, but just enough.

I'm not sure if I'll purchase the LilyPads or the Simon Says just because they seem to be consumables.  I like the Inventor's Kit because it is reusable (no soldering required because of the breadboard) which is great because I don't have a lot of money to be buying components.

SparkFun tour with Nate Seidle

The workshop was great fun and I would highly recommend it to beginners as well as for those with experience.  The instructors have a lot of knowledge and a passion for getting this information into the classroom.

One bonus, I was fortunate to meet SparkFun's founder, Nate Seidle, who stopped in with some friends to give them a tour.  I got to tag along on the tour.  It was interesting to see how SparkFun  is set up and to hear about how has grown from a basement business to what it is today.

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