A couple of months ago we were approached by Stacey Leake (if you don’t know her, you should - she’s the awesome lady in charge of the Makerspace at Lincoln High School) to help her showcase their new space and all of the tools and gadgets they currently have available for students to use. We decided this would be a unique opportunity to teach the students not only what Lincoln has to offer, but also teach them some new skills while showing them what Digi-Key and STEM have to offer.
Now, we all know how tiring (and frankly boring) power points can become in a quick hurry. So, what better way to really engage the students than having them complete some hands-on projects while teaching them about a subject? Instead of doing a single session on one microcontroller, we decided to split the kids into three basic groups: 3D Printing, Programming Basics, and Soldering.
3D printing is such a diverse skill and comes in handy in a variety of scenarios. Have a broken bracket that needs to be replaced? How about a custom-made enclosure for a current project? Or maybe even just a cookie cutter or decorations? The possibilities are only limited by the size of the print bed and the user’s creativity. In this session Kyle demonstrated 3D modeling and showed the students a few websites that provide free 3D models for download. He also got a few of the printers up and running so students could see them in action.
The programming basics covered the Micro:bit, Circuit Playground Express (CPX), and Raspberry Pi development boards. The Micro:bit and CPX are extremely easy to get started with. They both have multiple sensors, the CPX has neopixels, and the Micro:bit has an LED display, plus much more. One other cool thing? You can learn how to use both of these and program them without even having the physical device. They both have free online simulators that show how the code will function. Kevin showed the students a few example projects, along with the programming interfaces for all of the boards. One student was in awe of the neopixels Kevin was displaying, and even more excited when he learned that he could use his Micro:bit to control them.
During the soldering portion, the students each assembled their very own circuit which included a custom “Prowler” themed circuit board, an RGB cycling LED, a switch, and a battery. A high majority of the students had never soldered before, so I heard a lot of “I can’t do this”, “I’m doing this wrong I know it”, etc. To their surprise, they all did it, and not a single one burned themselves (or anyone else), which I count as a win.
Overall the students were excited about the Maker Space they have at their disposal, and quite a few even started throwing out ideas of projects they could make . To sweeten the deal, each student received a 3D printed Prowler Paw keychain and they got to keep their Prowler Paw circuit board. Kyle, Kevin, and myself (Ashley) were honored to be able to come into the school and help light the creative spark in some of the students. It is so very rewarding to hear their ideas and open their minds to the endless possibilities of the STEM world.