Physical Computing and the Maker Movement (WM223)

Explore and create Preregistration and additional fee required.

Fee: $59 (After May 1, $63)
[Explore and create : Workshop]

Monday, June 26, 2:30–4:00 pm
(specific location available in May)

Jeff Branson   Brian Huang   Derek Runberg  
Get an introduction to programming and electronics using Arduino, programming hardware that interacts with our surroundings, to enable physical computing. We'll share how the maker movement is turning students into producers instead of just consumers and demonstrate how this small, low-cost programmable device works.

Fee: $59 (After May 1, $63)
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: PC, Mac
Participant accounts, software and other materials: * Firefox or Chrome web browser
* Arduino (
* codebender browser extension (
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Constructivist learning/maker movement
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Students : Innovative designer
Students : Computational thinker

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participant outcomes:

Be able to integrate computing and computer science into a STEM/project-based classroom environment.
Be inspired about how they can easily connect hardware, software, and the physical surroundings.
Facilitate in authentic and personally meaningful projects for the classroom using Arduino and basic electronics.

Educational or infrastructure challenge/situation:

Arduino is low-cost and open source. This means that cost of entry is not cost prohibitive to introduce into the classroom.
In addition, because it is open source, there exists an entire support community around this technology. Forums on the Arduino website as well as community platforms like Stack Exchange exist as a resource for support and help on projects. Teachers don’t have to be experts in this in order to introduce it to their classrooms.

Technology intervention:

Arduino is a programming language that simplifies the interface with hardware. It allows students to control LEDs, read sensors, and manipulate programs with just a few lines of code. Arduino is freely available at
In addition, we will be leveraging, a cloud-based programming environment for Arduino. It is akin to Google Docs for programming robots and electronics.

Models employed:

Less Us, More Them (LUMT) & Project-Based Learning–The lessons and activities presented in this workshop will follow the guidelines of these two philosophies.

Lesson plans or instructional activities/strategies employed:

The entire activity we will use is located online at:
In addition, two hard copies of the activity are located here:

Evidence of success:

We have been teaching and leading a five-day Microcontrollers for Educators workshop each summer for the past four years. Examples of our professional development materials are stored on Schoology:


Instructor Led: (60 minutes)
I. Introduction to circuits, conductivity, and LEDs (20 minutes)
A. Construct a throwie–a coin cell battery wedged between the legs of an LED.
1. Explore and infer the behavior and characteristics of the LED and a “circuit.”
2. Identify how you can light up more than one LED. What happens when you mix colors?
B. Discuss Ohm’s law, current, voltage, and resistance. Introduce the use of a current-limiting resistor.
II. Introduction to microcontrollers (20 minutes)
A. Wiring up one LED to the microcontroller.
B. Overview of code, syntax, and key concepts.
C. Uploading the first example code.

III. Adding Sensors and Inputs (20 minutes)
A. Wiring up a light sensor and a voltage divider
B. Code, syntax, and key concepts of an if() statement.
C. Options \ Extensions \ troubleshooting

Self-guided Participant Time:
IV. Project Time (90 minutes)
A. Presentation of resources, help guides, and examples.
B. Orientation of guidelines and expectations.
C. Prompt:
1. Build a light sculpture that uses three to five LEDs. Test the “beauty” using a fixed source (like a coin cell battery).
2. Write code to sequence a pattern.
3. Plan and design a minimum of two different patterns.
4. Integrating a simple light sensor that switches the light sculpture between mode A and mode B.
V. Showcase (15 minutes)
VI. Debrief / Reflection (15 minutes)

Supporting research

Bajarin, Tim. "Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America's Future." Time. Time, 19 May 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

Projects and highlights of education based projects in Arduino (

Physical Computing at NYU - ITP

Crawford, Chris. The Art of Interactive Design: A Euphonious and Illuminating Guide to Building Successful Software. San Francisco: No Starch, 2002. Print.

Moran, Susan. "A 12-Year-Old’s Quest to Remake Education, One Arduino at a Time." Popular Science. Popular Science, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.



Jeff Branson, SparkFunElectronics

Brian Huang, SparkFun Electronics

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