I am proud to be a part of an exciting program that is being put on by Portland State University and their MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) program. The program is called Digital Design Lab (D2L) and focuses on bringing Computer Science and Engineering to students who are interested in the topics but have little to no experience working within a programming environment or electrical circuits. They completed the first session of two, of what they call their Core groups. This first session focused on programming using Scratch and then integrated basic electronics, and then finally culminated in the use of Arduino to create some pretty cool projects. I was brought on as the lead instructor for the second Core group and made some changes to the curriculum based around the foundations of this site.
Students will be first introduced to text based programming using Processing to create some basic interactions with the computer and then will move into basic electronics and hardware. Arduino is introduced on the second day once a basic understanding of electricity and components are realized. The end goal for the workshop is for students to create interactive projects that use both Arduino and Processing to interact with one another and then document their work using Fritzing. of this site. Students are going to experience both the Processing IDE and the Arduino IDE in a simultaneous manner, treating them more as a singular entity rather than different packages.
It is a exciting prospect of what this workshop and what it means for the future of digital design for students at the high school level as well as pushing it to younger ages. With the growing interest in the Internet of Things the relationship between Processing and Arduino is going to be at the forefront as a tool for students and inventors alike.
There are a number of things that I am going to be playing with as far as the learning sequence. The first of these being how to teach syntax. Usually syntax is a pretty big stumbling block for students who are new to text based programming. To reduce the frustration students will experience Processing first. This will accomplish two things; the first being the removal of the variable of hardware. I have found that when teaching students programming within Arduino, half the time it is a hardware issue and not code syntax. The second, and most powerful reason is immediate success. There is a much higher success rate and wow factor to a basic shape drawing "Hello World" in Processing than a blinking LED in Arduino.
I will be posting periodic updates as I learn through teaching this class, please check back for failures, flops, successes and uber awesome wins!
You can check out the Digital Design Lab website and scheduling sequence here: