Arduino? Oh yes!

LilyPad Arduino

This week, I spent a bit of time talking about Arduino. I talked with a dance professor about using LilyPad Arduino in costumes. I talked to a colleague about Mothership HackerMoms, a hackerspace dedicated to supporting mothers who make. Though I don’t know of any specific projects they have done or will do using Arduino, I can imagine several interesting uses in a mothers-focused makespace. I  excitedly chatted with a co-worker about the upcoming Maker Faire where I am sure Arduino will be well represented. And then, to top the week off, I read this exciting blog by a grad student at UTD, @amypickup on Twitter, whose graduate project involves teaching young girls about Arduino.

You know that I am a fan of making. I advocate for making both from my personal values, as a sewer and canner, and from my professional values, as I believe making is a fun and effective way to learn. So, how does Arduino play into my excitement for making? I’m glad you asked!

First, let me explain what Arduino is. Here is a good description, straight from the Arduino website: “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” Arduino is one kind of inexpensive microcontroller now available to the masses. Microcontrollers allow for physical computing, using programming to control physical events, without a high degree of difficulty. You can learn more about microcontrollers from this What’s A Microcontroller? guide and this Getting Started Guide from MAKE Magazine. Additionally, MAKE offers several pages on their website dedicated to Arduino.

Microcontrollers like Arduino have made programming accessible to people of all ages and computing abilities. We now see microcontrollers used in Young Makers Club, arts and crafts, and toys (like Legos!). But where we don’t see a lot of use (yet) is in education. What I think would help is some kind of website or database of course projects that make use of microcontrollers, and not just in computer science and engineering courses. Can we develop and share Arduino projects for English courses? How about History and Geography courses? Art courses? Please share any resources or ideas you have.

If you are ready to start working with your own Arduino, check out ‘s fantastic tutorials and Leah Buechley’s LilyPad Arduino tutorials. You can find tons of project ideas in MAKE Magazine and on Instructables.

I’ve been thinking about devices I would making using an Arduino. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Laundry Completion Notification – I am currently living in a somewhat awkward situation and I don’t like to have to go downstairs very often. I’d like to make a device that notifies me (using motion detection) when my laundry is done in the washer or dryer. Of course, I can always just set a timer on my phone…but where’s the fun in that?
  • Vaughnbot – When I finally have my son in California with me, this is one of the projects I want to complete. I would like to make a bot with my 3-year-old son, Vaughn. It could be a voice-activated robot, a “remote control” robot, or maybe a drawing robot.
  • Turn Signal Biking Jacket – I LOVE this idea of making a jacket that signals directional changes using a LilyPad Arduino. Safety + Fashion = WIN!

Are you in the Bay Area and interested in making and learning? You should attend this week’s Ed-Tech Meetup, Thursday night (May 10) at 7 pm at PariSoMa. I’ll be co-facilitating a hands-on tinkering space, where we will be challenging teams to solve problems using a variety of tools and supplies. There will also be spaces for design thinking, coding, and game-based learning. It should be great fun! RSVP here

And of course, don’t miss the upcoming Maker Faire in San Mateo!

Lilypads image from FlickrCC user Bekathwia, used with permissions of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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