For the past week or so, my DTech students have been working on their arduino projects. Arduino has been awesome. Last year we acquired 18 official arduino starter kits from Amazon. These kits are great because they come with a bunch of different electronic components, the microcontroller (called an uno), a breadboard, and a projects book. Along with the arduinos, the students are using chromebooks to upload and power the boards. For several years, arduinos and chromebooks did not mix. In the last year or so, however, several browser based programs have popped up online that now make it possible to use the cheap computers with the boards. We are using a web app calledcodebender to create and manipulate the sketch code used by the arduino boards. So far, it has worked perfectly.
It has been really interesting (from a pedagogical perspective) watching the students work. They come into the class, grab their arduino boards and computers, and get right to their projects. Instead of lecturing them about how electronics work, they are learning by mucking about with the kits. When they need to learn a new concept, they do it because they need to. Everything is contextualized by their progress in the project book. Students are only on the first couple of projects, but already they have started to experiment (unprompted by me) by combining different projects in surprising ways. Eventually the students will need to create their own project outside of the book and document it here or on instructables.
These students are not getting course credit and are essentially giving up half of their lunch to be in DTech this year. The arduino work shows that learning can truly be intrinsic.