We just finished our 4 week Arduino class with Debra Ansell. The Arduino microcontroller is a compact yet powerful tool that can be programmed to control electronic circuits in creative projects ranging from quad copters, home-built segways and light-up clothing to robots, led cubes, and flamethrowing jack-o-lanterns.  The possibilities are infinite.  The Arduino hardware is relatively inexpensive and the software to program the Arduino is free, making it a very accessible tool  for creating and experimenting with electronics.

The Exploratory's four week class provided an introduction to building electronic circuits on a breadboard and programming an Arduino Uno to control them.  We learned to use a graphical programming language called Ardublock that makes programming the Arduino as simple as drag-and-drop.

Over the four weeks, we constructed all sorts of circuits which integrated an Arduino with diverse types of hardware.  We learned about basic circuits with batteries, resistors and LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), and built up to more complicated projects  that used components like push buttons, piezo buzzers, servos and ultrasonic sensors.  Some of our projects included:

  • Having LEDs flash in different patterns we could control
  • Making a miniature buzzer play a song whenever we pressed a push button.
  • Using an ultrasonic sensor to detect distances
  • Changing the color of an LED depending on the distance detected by the ultrasonic sensor
  • Controlling the motion of a servo motor

For our penultimate project, we combined what we'd learned in the previous classes to build a Theremin - a musical instrument which changes pitch when you wave your hand at different distances in front of it.  Class participants were able to customize the range of musical notes and responsiveness of their Theremins using the knowledge of Ardublock they'd developed over the four weeks.   One participant said she'd keep her Theremin in front of her bedroom door so that it would make a noise to alert her whenever her brother tried to sneak in!

We hope that all the class participants will continue to employ their Arduino skills in creative electronic projects.  The only limits will be their imagination!

Look for more invention, innovation and coding classes this fall - coming soon.