Last week, we kicked off the InLab at St. Elizabeth Girls Academy with an exciting lesson on Arduino. A brief background on what the Arduino is and what it can do is sure to explain why it is so exciting.
Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. The board senses the environment by receiving inputs from several sensors and affects its surrounding by controlling lights, motors, buzzers and other components. How does it do that? Well, the Arduino is a circuit board with a chip on it called a microcontroller. The microcontroller can be programmed to do very many things, including turning an LED on with the touch of a button, providing soil pH levels through various instructions, moving a robotic toy car from one point to another and many many more.
In class, the participants were asked what cool gadgets or systems they would like to make with the Arduino and they had some pretty interesting ideas in mind. One student wanted to make a trap outside her bedroom door that would be activated by movement across a motion sensor and restrict her younger sister from getting into her room. Another student wanted a home security system that unlocked the doors when home owners approached the house but kept the doors closed when strangers approached the house. Another student thought of yet another interesting application of the Arduino. She wanted to make a gadget that would allow her to take screenshot of delicious food from the internet and turn it into the actual meal, without cooking it! The great thing about technology is it has evolved so much that people dare to dream of a life where Instagram food pictures can be served hot by the click of a button. Technology is not revolutionary, it is evolutionary. As new technology is introduced, it evolves and is continuously developed to be faster and more refined so as to remain relevant to people’s rapidly changing needs. It is the use of science in industry and engineering to invent useful things that will solve problems and entertain.
Children start interacting with technology at such an early age, playing games on phones and tablets, switching channels to their favourite TV show, observing how microwaves and ovens are operated, staring at traffic lights in car rides and in so many other ways. This interaction decreases the intimidation that many people experience when interacting with a new technology. They become more curious about it and ask questions to satisfy their curiosity. However a time comes when this curiosity fades the older they get. They undergo a lot more pressure to excel academically in school and forget how exciting it was to figure out how to change various settings on a phone. At the InLab, through the STEAM workshops, we seek to reignite this spark and curiosity they had in technology. The students go through the basics of programming, understanding software and hardware and implementing it in their schools, homes and communities. They get to make motion detectors and cool lighting systems, they get to learn about the multitude of gadgets and systems out there that are useful, relevant and out of this world…and it all starts with learning how to make an LED blink.