Presented by:

Andreas Gräfl

from Working group 'didaktik-aktuell' at University of Education Heidelberg (Germany)

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Microcontroller starter kit for Snap!/MircroBlocks IDE

Building your own projects with a microcontroller isn’t easy. There is a large variety of sensors and actuators to choose from. But not all of them work reliably in the Snap!/MircroBlocks IDE. In the past we’ve faced difficulties using some sensors and actuators in our academies.

So, the question is what sensors and actuators to use when it comes to controlling ICs with Snap!/MicroBlocks?

We are currently developing a kit that is supposed to fill this gap. Therefore, we are testing various sensors that are available on the market. For the use in a school related context, like we have in our academies, some sensors are more practical than others. Our priorities are not only how reliable the sensors and the actuators are, they must also be easy to use.

Programming, especially programming involving hardware, can be frustrating. Sensors don’t always work in the way you expect them to. Actuators also don’t act as you would like them to and sometimes nothing works at all and you have no idea why. For this reason, we offer more than just our kit. We are working on detailed instruction for every component we include. Starting from the setup of the project board. In the end we aim to provide schematics for every sensor and actuator included in the kit. We are also planning sample projects that combine the components in order to show how they interact with each other. Therefore, it is sometimes more useful to have three or four sensors of the same kind, rather than three different ones. Commercial kits often provide a lot of different components that’s why they are unpractical for our purpose.

Moreover, there are plenty of other things to keep in mind while designing a microcontroller starter kit: such as, cables, breadboards, buttons and resistors. There is of course also the financial aspect. The kit should provide everything that’s needed. But in order to keep the cost at a reasonable level we have to decide what’s important and what is not.

We are planning to package the kits in individual boxes so we can easily transport them. This also helps us to organize the components. Previously we’ve stored our components in the paper boxes that came with the delivery and so things got lost or forgotten easily. Organizing the electronics provides not only a useful starter kit, but we hope it also saves us time that we can then use on creating more content.

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