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Overview

Description

In this 2 hour lab, students get to build their own 'game console', using a micro-controller (tiny computer). The process of building and debugging serves as a focal point for discussions on computer science, electrical engineering, and the physics that underlines both disciplines.

If you are new to programming or working with micro-controllers, do not fear. All the necessary instructions are provided, as well as a detailed parts list. With a few hours of tinkering yourself I believe anyone could master this content.

Target Age Group

Grades 9-12, although this project has been tested successfully with kids as young as grades 4-7. With younger students this lab becomes more of an exploration of basic circuits. 

Goal

To empower students to be tech makers, instead of just tech-consumers. This lab strives to increase students computer literacy, and confidence with electronics, while highlighting the connection between the many computers students use daily, to the circuit physics they've learnt in class.

Lesson Outline

Instructions for individual student use (pdf)

Lesson plan (ppt)

Program Code

Motivation 

Don't we all love playing video games? Whether we're using our phone or our x-box, all game systems are built the same concepts.

Background Information

Discuss basic computer science vocabulary. Highlight the link between game consoles and electrical physics.

Mini-lab activity

Practice building and exploring a bread-board

Build time!

Students work independently or in teams to build, test, and debug their own game console.

Extensions

There is lots of room in this lab for the students to go deeper with the material. Ideas for extensions include 

  • having the students tinker with the program code
  • having the students create their own program code
  • challenging the students to find a more efficient wire layout

Lab Details

Materials

For a detailed materials list, see here. All materials needed can be ordered from your local hobby electronics shop.

Cost: $12 per student (or 'kit')

This cost could be further reduced by not supplying batteries, battery packs, by ordering in bulk well ahead of time, or having students work in groups. 

Lab Time: 2 hours

This lab takes around 2 hours with a high school class. 

It is possible to complete this lab in 2 hours with a middle-school aged group if you cut much of the pre-discussion.

Program code

The program code is available here. This must be uploaded onto the MSP using an MSP Launchpad and Energia. Energia is a IDE that allows users to write arduino style C for TI products such as the MSP. If all of those words scare you, don't worry. Energia is just a program that will allow you to upload your code to the microcontroller.

How to upload the code:
  • Install and run Energia
  • Copy and paste in the provided code
  • Select tools/board and choose your MSP model
  • Mount the MSP to the launchpad
  • Connect the USB cable form the launchpad to your computer
  • In energia select 'upload'
If you are new to using the MSP430 I suggest this intro video.
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Jakob Manning,
Nov 24, 2014, 10:20 PM
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Jakob Manning,
Nov 24, 2014, 10:20 PM
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