Like many other hackerspaces, Diyode has been running arduino workshops as part of our community outreach. Typically, we’ve started with an intro to the concept, built a simple button/led circuit on a breadboard, then coded it up. People with a natural aptitude for this kind of stuff do okay with that, but we’ve seen a lot of people losing interest when it takes an hour or more before they see their first light blink.
People are fickle beasts, and when there’s a struggle to get to the first milestone, they tend to get frustrated quickly. Many are picking up a resistor for the first time, or are intimidated by the breadboard and its hidden pathways. Others get something built, find it doesn’t work, but don’t know if the problem is hardware or software. These things are all daunting to beginners.
We came to the conclusion a while ago that for the sake of keeping people, especially kids, enthusiastic, they should get their feet wet with code first. Once they are comfortable with that, then tackle the hardware. To provide the shortest possible route to the first moment of glory, we developed a new arduino shield built specifically for the process of teaching arduino code. By initially bypassing the electronics theory and postponing the breadboarding stage, it takes much of the frustration out of the learning process. Those things can come later, once they’ve already got a pocket full of victories.
The Diyode Code Shield has:
Inputs: switch, button, potentiometer, rotary encoder, thermistor, photocell, and hall effect sensor.
Outputs: Piezo buzzer, servo motor, RGB LED, Yellow LED, and a relay with screw terminals.
Over the next month we’ll be developing a curriculum and sample code for the board. We’ll also be refining the board layout, and looking to source the circuit boards in larger quantities. My personal goal is to be spreading the gospel of Arduino to schools, cub scout groups and community centres though out the city, leaving an arduino and a code shield in the hands of each kid who was first to meet a specific challenge.
If you’d be interested in the board, leave a comment below, and I’ll keep you updated as things progress.