January 31, 2012 AT 1:23 pm

An answer to your question! #5 “How do I teach Arduino to Industrial Designers?”


G.Bozovic asks:

Your blog post comes really at the right time!

I work in a kind of “”joint venture”" between a technical school and a design school, we make projects in collaboration between engineers and designers. I myself am an engineer. We are currently in the process of setting up a pilot Arduino course for designers, as they really lack skills in what could be a very useful tool for their projects.

Now, we’ll be teaching these to Media and Interaction desginers, which does not scare me, since they know the basics of coding, and also tinkering with electronics, for some of them. However, we’ll also be teaching this course to industrial designers, who will come with almost no previous knowledge applicable to the Arduino.

I was thinking about starting the course with some hands-on tutorials, making and improving upon some of the example circuits that you can make with the Adafruit experimentation kit for arduino, and then moving towards accompanying the students on a couple of simple projects of their own. My goal would be for them not to become electrical engineers, but at least to have a better grasp of what is possible to do.

Do you have any advice about teaching arduino to people with no previous experience with similar platforms? Did you encounter problems you weren’t expecting, doing that?

Thanks in advance for any advice, it would be great!

I honestly think that you are right on target with designing the course around the Adafruit experimentation kit. It provides enough electronics and prototyping capability to really get you started in the right direction. Once you have had a chance to familiarize yourself with the included “Experimenter’s Guide,” it shouldn’t be very difficult to tailor the included labs to meet your curricular needs.

Another good resource, and one I happen to keep on my nightstand, is the “Arduino Cookbook” by Michael Margolis. Inside are some very good labs, with detailed explaniations that would also make for a good basis for your course.

To answer your question about teaching people with no previous experience with Arduino and similar platforms:

I taught a robotics class for two semesters that was geared toward the introduction and utilization of the Arduino. The students taking the class really had a wide range of skill sets, although often without any programming background. What I discovered was that starting the students off with the simplest task possible, say flashing an LED, was so captivating and engaging that they had no hesitation moving to higher level tasks. This really highlights one of the awesome things about the Arduino platform, in just how friendly it is to both novices and seasoned programmers. What it lacks in some areas, it certainly makes up in its ability to inspire and facilitate project development.

When we did encounter problems, it was mainly on the hardware side. You would be surprised at how difficult it can be to explain to someone how a breadboard works! But with a kit like Adafruit’s, you are starting off with a good base of components and lab possibilities that I don’t think you will have a problem with your designers!

Cheers and good luck with your course!

Next up is B. Smith with a question about teaching which books to use to supplement a programming class based around Arduino.

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3 Comments

  1. This fall I taught a class to middle schoolers teaching how to use the Arduino. The class was a success and I have released the PDF for free at http://www.introtoarduino.com (If you want a printed copy it is available at Amazon.)

    All of the kids except one had never programmed before and by the end of the course (6 class sessions), they were coming up with their own projects!!

  2. I’m an adjunct professor at design schools, teaching Arduino and other physical computing to designers. The advice above is spot on, but one key thing to keep in mind is that designers are creatively motivated, so I find it’s best to teach these introductory skills through creative projects, letting them find the best technical solution for a creative goal. I’d be happy to share my syllabi, just shoot me an email – becky@sternlab.org.

  3. Thanks to all of you for your answers, it provides good pointers! Becky, I’ll be sure to send you an e-mail shortly.

    Perhaps it could be useful, both to Adafruit and to the educators out there, to have a exchange platform hosted about education in microcontrollers?

    I believe it’s a rather new field, that’s interesting to many people, many of whom must be re-inventing solutions to problems others have had before, as we’re speaking.

    Any thoughts about that?

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