Converting Scraps and Recycled Materials Into STEM Robots With Arduino

Location: Room Grand Hyatt Travis C/D

Explore and create Preregistration and additional fee required.

Registration code: WH334

Fee: $113 (After May 1, $123)
[Explore and create : Workshop]

Tuesday, June 27, 4:30–7:30 pm
Location: Room Grand Hyatt Travis C/D

Jeff Branson   Brian Huang   Derek Runberg  
Discover how to build a robotics platform using whatever students can find, like cardboard, recycled cans and a low-cost Arduino micro-controller. We'll also explain how to embed concepts of mathematics, motion, computational thinking and computer science into your robotics lessons.

Fee: $113 (After May 1, $123)
Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: PC, Mac
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Chrome or firefox web browser required.

Preferable if Arduino 1.6.x is installed. This can be installed at:

However, we will have a set of loaner computers available as well.

Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Programming and robotics
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments
Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Students : Innovative designer
Related exhibitors: SparkFun Electronics

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Robots are cool. In most classrooms, it is evident that engagement is high and the application of skills and knowledge in math and science are evident, but the entry costs are prohibitive and non-equitable. We’ve developed a series of activities utilizing recycled cardboard, and low-cost electronics to replicate the same experience done with higher end robotics platforms.

At the heart of this system is Arduino, a low-cost microcontroller. Arduino replaces the “brain” of the many commercially available robotics platforms such as VEX and LEGO. These are typically in the cost range of hundreds of dollars. With an Arduino-based platform, teachers can easily replicate many of the same activities for around $40 - $50. Combined with a simple motor driver and a couple small motors, teachers can instantly turn anything from a simple oatmeal box into a driving robot!

Understanding computers, programming, and code have become such fundamental parts of our everyday lives. Far too many individuals grow up without an understanding of how things work or the confidence to take things apart - whether it is to fix it or simply a curiosity to understand how it all works.

We leverage years of lessons plans, activities, and experiences from Seymour Papert and his work with Logo.


I. Introduction to Microcontrollers and code.
A. Simple digital control logic: blinking an LED, sequencing, patterns, loops
B. Simple sensor integration: measuring voltage drop across variable resistors
C. Driving a motor using an H-Bridge

II. Building a chassis and moving around

III. Dance-off and music video using VideoFX or VideoStar. Integrating choreography, music, dance, and code!

Supporting research

Albo-Canals, J., Heerink, M., Díaz-Boladeras, M., Padillo, V., Maristany, M., Barco, A., Angulo, C., Riccio, A., Brodsky, L., Dufresne, S., Heilbron, S., Milto, E., Choueiri, R., Hannon, D., & Rogers, C.B. (2013). Comparing Two Studies with LEGO Robotics-Based Activities in a Social Skills Training Program for Children with ASD.Paper presented at the IEEE RO-MAN: The 22nd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, Gyeongji, Korea.

O'Connell, B. (2013). The Development of the PaperBots Robotics Kit for Inexpensive Robotics Education Activities for Elementary Students. (Unpublished master's thesis). Tufts University, Medford.

O'Connell, B. The Development of the PaperBots Robotics Kit for Inexpensive Robotics Education Activities for Elementary Students. Master's thesis, Tufts University.



Jeff Branson, SparkFun Electronics

Brian Huang, HadaNou Collective / HackSchool

Brian Huang graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s of science degree in Electrical Engineering in 2000. He discovered a passion for teaching and working with kids while volunteering at the Science Museum of Minnesota. He also holds a masters in curriculum and instruction in Secondary Education from the University of Colorado. Brian has taught algebra, geometry, physics, physical science, and introduction to robotics at a high school in Colorado, and is the mentor and coach of FIRST Robotics team #3807 - the Blazerbots at Overland High School.

Derek Runberg, SparkFun Electronics

learning starts here

San Antonio

June 25-28, 2017

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