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Where to start electronics with middle school students?
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Where to start electronics with middle school students?

by delandoroberto on Tue Mar 02, 2021 5:15 pm

I teach 6-8th grade students and have some flexibility in my schedule to bring in some electronics, but I'm not sure where to go.

My district offers $1000 grants that I can apply for to get gear, in this case, Adafruit gear.

They've been coding in CodeCombat and Ozaria, but we're at the point where they're losing interest because they don't have any tangible results beyond moving things around on a screen. I believe some kits that incorporate Python with physical gear they can control will inspire them.

Ideally this gear would be reusable so I can extend its use over multiple classes.

Much obliged for your input,

RS

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Re: Where to start electronics with middle school students?

by millercommamatt on Tue Mar 02, 2021 5:41 pm

Do you have set learning objectives?

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Re: Where to start electronics with middle school students?

by blnkjns on Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:45 am

I would advise not to go into starter kits, but to grab inspiring stuff:
Work from M4 boards like the Feather, M4 Express or Itsy Bitsy M4.
Get a bunch of sensors from Adafruit with Stemma connectors. Gravity, GPS, Humidity/temperature, Magnetic field. MIDI-hat is also cool. Joystick modules.
Displays is tough, grab a bunch of these:
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1002
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1430
https://www.adafruit.com/product/1487
They are rather expensive, but way easier for students to use than the large 64x32 matrices, and I find designing a game for 8x8 pixels to be a really nice challenge in the classroom.
We also have a bunch of PyBadges LC in the class, nice for game coding, yet still a fully functional M4 Arduino-like board.

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Re: Where to start electronics with middle school students?

by adafruit_support_mike on Wed Mar 03, 2021 11:01 pm

Turtle graphics are a nice two-layer project: the 'turtle' is a robot with a pen, and you program it to draw patterns.

The commands that tell the robot to move are a simple form of programming, but building the robot, making it move in a controlled way, and developing an interface to accept the drawing commands are all general programming.

Better yet, they're all open-ended projects. Making a robot move is easy, but getting it to move accurately and repeatably is much more complicated. There's lots of room for head-to-head testing to see whose 'bot can draw a pattern best. Even something simple like trying to draw a circle and measuring the distance from the starting point to the ending point provides a lot of challenge.

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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.