We have all, at some point, wondered how the traffic signal knows exactly when to switch colours and manage the flow of thousands of vehicles at a hundred different locations in the city. The bright glow of festive lights has always managed to excite children and adults alike and create an atmosphere of warmth. But seldom have we delved into the intricacies of these phenomena and thus left our questions and those of youngsters, unanswered.
In an attempt to help kids gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the cost-effective lighting we use today, we at Mango Education conducted a workshop for the age group 10-15 years on basic Arduino programming for operating LEDs and buzzers, using real-life examples to simplify learning and make it engaging. For those starting out on programming, Arduino is a great tool as, unlike other programming devices, it requires only a USB cable to complement the software and the board (aka microcontroller). You don’t have to be an expert on electronics or know each component by name or design to work with Arduino. All you need to do is drag and drop the right commands and if you’ve plugged your board in with the instruments in place, your command will be perfectly executed!
The aim of this workshop was to spark curiosity and nurture innovativeness in the minds of children in an area that is often thought to be subject specific. The session began with an orientation on the invention and evolution of the light bulb. This was followed by an explanation of the working of an Arduino board along with instructions on the functioning of the software.
Working with peers not only brings in the second perspective but also supports peer learning, teamwork, and openness to others’ ideas.
The first step in the process was learning how to construct a basic circuit using the given equipment. The components of a circuit are analogous to human anatomy – every organ has its own vital role to play for the body to function effectively. Hence, it is important to realize the significance of each component in the working of a circuit. Once this was established, the next step was to explore how the circuit could be made to work using a program which basically involved understanding the logic behind the approach and the procedure.
The educators Mariselvan and Arumugham demonstrated the process of programming and then encouraged the kids to try and recreate it using a virtual diagram. They were taught how to program the Arduino board using a laptop and control the LED with just a couple of simple buttons. The aim was to ensure that they understand the concept better and ease through programming by practically applying it at a basic level. By personally working with the apparatus they were able to identify specificities such as the exact manner of connecting the wires, a positioning of the resistor and the bulb, and how close proximity of wires lead to a short circuit. Each child was made to present his or her observations and was given sufficient time to assimilate the knowledge. It was interesting to note that the kids remained persistent in their efforts to make the LED glow and were fascinated by the expeditiousness of a laptop in successfully carrying out the activity.
The workshop was intriguing, informative and impactful. It introduced the youngsters to an innovative method of taking complex structures and transforming them into enjoyable as well as educative experiences. Reflecting on this session, a number of questions arise. How passionately are we attempting to establish the interdisciplinary bond? How aware are we of the challenge between plain execution and a logical, methodical one? How can we work towards making education more application-oriented?