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How to invest in middle school tech survey course products?
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.

How to invest in middle school tech survey course products?

by VDub46 on Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:21 pm

I have a very unique challenge that I need some expert advice approaching. As a result of some media exposure we were given last year with a 3D printing-related project, I have had some amazing equipment placed in my middle school STEAM lab to teach budding innovators to reach their own particular flavors of awesomeness. The new stuff is awesome, but goes way beyond my knowledge base and I'm crawling through the learning process on much of it. I have a couple nice 3D printers, a Dobot Magician, a Farmbot, TETRIX robot kits, and 2 sewing/embroidery machines. We have about 15 individual computer stations in the room as well as lots of open floor space.

In addition to the big equipment, I've also been given a budget to add in even more options for small scale electronics applications. This is where you folks come in. I want to give my students the ability to work on a variety of small group projects that would harness the power of Adafruit's unique product offerings that can -- but don't have to -- utilize the equipment listed above. I have a startup budget of $1000-$1500 to invest in Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, Circuit Playground, etc. (with a consumables budget in the future), but I'm at a point of information overload on what would be a sensible investment in small scale projects in circuitry, electronics, programming, e-textiles, and the like. I don't have a ton of money, but this small amount, invested wisely, could lead to a lot bigger investment in time, curriculum, and project offerings in the future. I just don't want to throw money away on something that is unlikely to pay off in my setting.

In other words, if you folks had your choice of what to put in front of groups of 2-4 middle school kids at a time that would give them a wide variety of creative high tech STEAM applications, where would you start? I'd like to have some projects that go home with the kids when possible, but will hold onto the more expensive stuff, of course.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate any feedback you might have.

VDub46
 
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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by LindseyOwn on Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:53 am

Howdy! I'd go with a few Floras, and maybe consider exploring ATTiny85s... Not an adafruit-specific product, but they're very inexpensive, so more likely that kids could ultimately keep their projects. I don't think adafruit sells an ATTiny programmer yet, but their big competitor does. :-)

In terms of components, we've had a lot of fun with microservos and addressable LED strips lately. The less-dense LED strips are easier for novice solder-ers to work with... like 60 LEDs/m rather than 144. Both of those can be powered with a 3-pack of 1.5V AAs, or a 4-pack of 1.2V rechargeable AAs. Add some jumper wires and a bunch of mini-breadboards, and you can get some really fun projects going!

This is pretty much exactly the summer camp I'll be running this summer, plus I just had three middle schoolers do Arduino/Flora addressable LED projects last week. The libraries available for those are really excellent and easy to use. I've been doing most of the microservo programming myself and giving them to younger kids - 2nd graders - to build with, but I'm hoping to get the 5th graders programming the ATTinys soon. I'm in year 3 of running a PS-8th grade makerspace, so let me know if I can offer any more experience!

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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by VDub46 on Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:03 pm

That's incredibly helpful info. Thanks so much!

VDub46
 
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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by adafruit_support_bill on Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:19 pm

Some good advice there from LindseyOwn. Though I'd like to point out that our ATTIny85 based Gemma and Trinket do not require an external programmer. They have USB support in the firmware and can be programmed directly via the Arduino IDE:
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1222
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1501
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1500

We also have updated versions of the Gemma and Trinket based on the M0 processor. These are even easier to use and can be programmed directly in CircuitPython as well as with the Arduino IDE:
https://www.adafruit.com/product/3500
https://www.adafruit.com/product/3501

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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by danhalbert on Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:21 pm

We do sell an ATTiny programmer: https://www.adafruit.com/product/46

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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by LindseyOwn on Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:38 pm

You're so welcome, VDub. :-)

I'll have to check out that tinyISP programmer! ATTinys appear to be the growing hotness among schools trying to move towards open-source ultra-cheap robotics opportunities... I just picked up a Trinket, which approaches the low cost of a loose ATTiny, but haven't had a chance to play with it yet. I should have bought the 5V, though, since our addressable LED strips are all 5V... I'm slowly learning what all I need to pay attention to when I'm making component purchases. :-)

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Re: How to invest in middle school tech survey course produc

by estranged on Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:39 am

One thing to watch out with on the regular Trinket is the lack of a serial port. For kids and debugging, having access to a serial port would probably help out a whole lot. For an extra $2 you might look at the Trinket M0, which is a much more powerful chip, and has a serial port support. (Along with circtuit python support as mentioned above). Plus it has an on-board RGB LED which is easy to play with right away before you get into soldering and peripherals.

https://www.adafruit.com/product/3500

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