Why You Should Be Using Arduino in Your Classroom

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Why You Should Be Using Arduino in Your Classroom

This post comes from NICERC Curriculum Development Specialist Tommy Gober

Here at NICERC we’re always looking to refresh and grow our curriculum offerings to teachers.

This fall, we launched the Cyber Literacy with Arduino content for teachers. The content remains largely unchanged from the popular and successful Cyber Literacy content we’ve always offered, but this remake uses the Arduino microcontroller platform instead of the BASIC Stamp. The Arduino has been used in hobbyist and education circles for years, picking up steam since 2007-2008.

While the circuits that interact with the microcontrollers are largely the same, the key difference is the programming language. Whereas the BASIC Stamp uses the PBASIC programming language, the Arduino uses a C-style language called Processing. The great thing about Processing is it can serve as an excellent introduction to other programming languages because it is C-based. C and C++ programming are the world’s most widely used programming languages; however, the learning curve can seem quite steep to the uninitiated. As a teacher, if you already have a background in C or C++, you already understand the value of C programming.

If you are already familiar with PBASIC and all the microcontroller activities used in Cyber Literacy, you already have a leg-up on learning with the Arduino. The circuits and activities are all the same, so the only difference is the language. You probably even remember what each program should do logically,  and it’s just a matter of expressing that same logic in a new form with the Arduino.

The Arduino has been wildly popular with hobbyists because of the power of C programming, the ability to easily interface with the microcontroller when building circuits, and a few other features other microcontrollers like the BASIC Stamp don’t offer. The primary feature the Arduino has is the addition of an Analog-to-Digital converter. This device, built into the Arduino’s main chip, allows individuals to measure the voltage of a circuit connected to the “analog” pins. You see, we live in an analog world, but it is full of digital technology. In order to span that gap, digital devices must measure, or sample, continuously changing analog values. The Arduino opens the door to this conversation of how our analog voices can be transmitted digitally in the cyber realm. Another feature the Arduino provides is a much faster clock speed. This provides faster operations so circuits can be more responsive with quicker input and output.

We’re excited to have the Arduino join the NICERC lineup of technology platforms for use in cyber classrooms around the country. We love seeing the growth in programming skillsets as more and more students learn C-style programming and leverage its powerful syntax. The BASIC Stamp is still an excellent starting point, but after mastering the BASIC Stamp, be sure to grow into the Arduino. You’ll be glad you did!

NICERC’s curricula is currently implemented in all 50 states and builds K-12 aptitude in STEM, computer science, and cyber curricula. For more information, visit www.nicerc.org.