Welcome to Introduction to Arduino, spring 2021 edition.
We’re going to learn how to make small objects perform magic. And we’re doing it with a hybrid teaching plan!
Check out the student gallery to see some prior projects.
Instructor: Robert Zacharias, email@example.com (minus the cation)
This practical course is designed to quickly take students from beginner to basic functional knowledge of the Arduino microcontroller in three 5-hour sessions. You can expect to learn:
- how to write and upload simple code for the Arduino to perform basic logic functions like reading a switch to change a motor's direction,
- how to integrate a variety of physical inputs including knobs, distance sensors, and light sensors,
- how to integrate a variety of physical outputs such as motors, lights, and speakers, and
- how to put all of these together to build simple self-contained low-cost low-power systems.
The course culminates in students producing and artful and/or functional interactive creation of their own design. Enrolled students have access to IDeATe’s well-equipped Physical Computing Laboratory on campus. Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff interested in learning new skills in an interdisciplinary environment are welcome. There are no technical prerequisites.
Hybrid learning model adjustments
This semester, the course is being offered under the IRR (in-person (rotation) + remote) modality. This means that if you are an in-person student, you might be asked to take the course remotely for one or two sessions, and be in-person for the remainder; the rotation schedule will depend on the number of students who would like to be in-person. (If 12 or fewer students would like in-person learning, they can all be accommodated in the Phys Comp Lab space at once.)
Normally the course consists of 15 total hours of in-person teaching and building. This semester, instead of having 15 synchronous hours, we’ll have about 8 synchronous hours, and about 7 asynchronous. All asynchronous lectures are loaded onto this course’s Canvas page.
All synchronous class sessions (see schedule below) will take place via Zoom; the course Canvas page has the link to join.
|Friday, Feb. 12th||11:40 a.m. to ~1 p.m.||1 hr.||course introduction|
|(intervening week)||whenever you’d like (asynchronous)||4 hrs.||programming and electronics|
|Friday, Feb. 19th||11:40 a.m. to ~3 p.m.||3 hrs.||questions from asynch lectures; project proposals due for review and feedback|
|(intervening week)||whenever you’d like (asynchronous)||3 hrs.||reading the world and responding to it|
|Friday, Feb. 26th||11:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.||5 hrs.||questions from asynch lectures; project development, presentation, and crit|
Special scheduling note: if you are planning to attend the B3 section in person, please be sure to be waiting outside of Hunt Library at 12:45pm on each day of the class. The library is closed during our class time and I need to let you in!
|Sunday, Feb. 28th||12:50 p.m. to ~3 p.m.||2 hrs.||course introduction|
|(intervening week)||whenever you’d like (asynchronous)||4 hrs.||programming and electronics (Canvas modules: “Physical Computing Lab space,” “Arduino board,” “Programming the Arduino,” “Electronics,” “Tying it together: reading inputs, driving outputs”)|
|Sunday, Mar. 7th||12:50 p.m. to ~4 p.m.||3 hrs.||questions from lectures; project proposals due for review and feedback|
|(intervening week)||whenever you’d like (asynchronous)||3 hrs.||Canvas module: “More inputs and outputs”|
|Sunday, Mar. 14th||12:50 p.m. to 5:40 p.m.||5 hrs.||questions from asynch lectures; project development, presentation, and crit|
Both A3 and B3 cover the same material at the same pace:
|class 1||synchronous||Housekeeping||Welcome, course structure, student and instructor expectations, academic integrity, lab access policy, etc.|
|Parts buffet||Assembling our course kits and taking a tour of what we'll be playing with|
|during intervening week||asynchronous||Overview lecture||Tour of the Arduino Uno and how to use the IDE to talk with it|
|Arduino programming: doable!||Elementary programming; blinking an LED|
|Elementary electronics: the necessaries||Schematics, circuits, Ohm's Law, solderless breadboards, practical wiring|
|Building interactivity||Reading a potentiometer and a button to change LED behaviors|
|class 2||synchronous||Follow up from asynch lectures||Open Q&A|
|Project proposals||Project proposals presented for instructor approval and signature|
|during intervening week||asynchronous||Ins and outs||Some different ways of getting data into, and action out of, the Arduino: sensors (photocell, switch, accelerometer, potentiometer) and outputs (servomotor, speaker)|
|Optional homework||Further development of project, testing, tinkering, exploring, etc.|
|class 3||synchronous||Follow-up from asynch lectures||Open Q&A|
|Project build||Work session|
This course meets only three times, and so it follows that attendance at all three sessions is mandatory. (Emergencies are excepted of course; please contact the instructor at your earliest convenience in that case.)
Every registered student gets a kit of parts to keep. Students may borrow non-consumable electronic materials such as specialized sensors, motors, etc., that are stored around the Physical Computing Lab, but they must return these to where they came from the end of the course. Students may not remove tools or equipment such as digital multimeters, power supplies, scissors, wrenches, etc., from the room at any time. Please don’t do this!
The instructor expects that students:
- Will arrive on time and ready to start
- Will work on class material for the duration of the course
- Will be patient with themselves as they learn a new skill set
- Will ask questions! Odds are very good that others in the room have the same question as you.
Students can expect the instructor to:
- Arrive prepared to teach
- Maintain a positive learning environment where ignorance isn’t an embarrassment
- Provide meaningful feedback and constructive criticism
A word on academic integrity
In the open-source hardware and software world, a great deal of work is built upon the freely shared contributions of others. You are welcome to (and expected to!) incorporate into your work at least some code, circuit designs, plans, cutfiles, fabrication methods, etc., from a public source you find. That said, take care to appropriately attribute authorship and sources, and even inspirations if you so choose. If you make something you think others may find interesting or useful, consider sharing it through a community platform. A wholesale copy of existing work is not acceptable for your final project, but a modification or adaptation probably is. Speak with the instructor if you have any questions.
Note on pacing and expectations
We’re fitting lots of learning into a very small amount of time. The purpose of the course is not to do a warp-speed introduction to all things microcontroller, but rather to give students the foundation necessary to further elaborate their own skills in whatever direction they choose. The course structure is light on lecture and heavy on hands-on learning and practice.
Housekeeping and Arduino (synchronous)
Discussion of the class, hybrid learning, and expectations. Followed by an introduction to, and contextualization of, the Arduino microcontroller:
- Brief history of the Arduino
- What is a microcontroller?
- A smattering of project examples
- What the Arduino can and can’t do
- A quick tour around the Uno
- Brief introduction to every item in the course kit
- Complete list of kit contents
Hello blinky world
- Navigating the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE)
- Writing a blinking sketch from scratch
- Using built-in help in the IDE
- Downloading firmware to the Arduino
- Blinking the LED
- Bad code won’t break your Arduino but bad wiring can! Even worse: really bad wiring can cook your computer’s motherboard.
- Current, voltage, resistance, Ohm’s Law, and practical ways to avoid damaging yourself or your board
- Reading resistor codes
- Maintain sufficient resistance between power and ground
- Basic schematic symbols (trace, node, resistor, LED, switch, etc.)
- Reading a simple schematic, and following the current
- Floating inputs don’t tell you much
- Using a breadboard
- Voltage dividers resistor/photoresistor, resistor/LED.
- Using a multimeter to measure voltage, resistance, and continuity
- Soldering basics (shown on the document camera)
Responding to the world
- Reading a value (a button push or potentiometer position)
- Telling the Arduino to do something with this information (like switching an LED)
- Seeing the result of this on the computer via the serial monitor
- Wiring up an LED with current limiting resistor.
- Modifying behaviors to do more interesting things
Ins and Outs
- Wiring up buttons and switches (pull-down or pull-up resistors)
- The cleverness of pulse width modulation (PWM) and
- Reading a potentiometer, infrared proximity sensor, photointerruptor
- Reading a photocell
- Reading an IR proximity sensor
- Driving a hobby servo with the Servo library
- Adding libraries for broader functionality
- Reading a digital input (ultrasonic ranger) through the NewPing library
- Powering the Arduino:
- through the USB cable
- via the
VINpin from an external power source such as 9V battery
- with 5V supplied into the
The purpose of this course is to give you a structured opportunity to learn something you want to learn. You will define your final project goals and expectations, in consultation with the instructor. By the afternoon of the second class, you will have a proposal consisting of a couple sentences and a hand-drawn sketch. We’ll discuss your ideas one-on-one before you leave the second class. The third class is a build time, and in the last hour you’ll show your work for a critique by your classmates, the instructor, and yourself.
- At a minimum, your project must at least:
- Be driven or meaningfully affected by data that comes in from the world
- Interpret the incoming data
- Act on the data by changing some physical output(s)
- Use an Arduino to do this!
- A stronger project might:
- Read multiple input data streams
- Produce multiple different physical outputs
- Have “state” or “history,” e.g. doing something twice in a row does not necessarily produce an identical outcome
- Involve the use of a sensor and/or output device of particular interest to the student
- Be especially well-made physically, electronically, and/or in software
- Reflect creative use of the available resources towards an interesting or meaningful end
- Play a game with itself or a user (or users)
- Solve a real-world problem big or small
- Amuse, delight, excite, or surprise
A word on fruit height
Scoping a creative project can be very challenging. For the purpose of this class, it would be inappropriate for a student to make a remote health monitor that collects electrocardiography data, analyzes the heart trace for arrhythmia, and transmits results to a server. That’s high-hanging fruit: it would be an appropriate goal for a team of experienced builders of embedded systems, but not for a beginner.
It would also be inappropriate for a student to submit for their final project a button that turns a light on and off, because that’s obviously low-hanging fruit.
The goal for the final project is to aim for a challenging, but reasonably achievable, outcome: middle-height fruit.
Enrolled students get a kit that offers a good starting point for learning physical computing inputs and outputs.
With only three classes, perfect attendance is mandatory (and worth half of the course grade). Students earn the other half of their grade based on their participation, effort, creativity, and learning gain, as demonstrated during class time and through their final project. Emphasis is on creative exploration rather than polished and flawless execution.
Grading is pass/fail.