Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Teaching Computer Science–Moving atoms not pixels

On my first visit to the Lifelong Kindergarten Group and the MIT Media Lab, I notices a message on the windows. “Some people would rather move atoms than pixels.” That has stuck with my for years now. And it is quite true. Robots, game controllers, Internet of Things, and more are ways that computer science interacts with physical objects and not just pixels on a screen. These are ways that teachers can bring more students to more interesting (to the student) to get involved with computer science. But where to start?

Recently I posted curriculum resources that are especially good for teaching traditional computing courses. Well, cyber security is a bit new but anyway. Read that post at Welcome New Computer Science Teachers Today I want to provide some resources to bringing physical computing into the classroom.

Starting with a couple of devices that operate as “brains” for deeper involvement.

Raspberry Pi and the Micro:Bit are two of the most popular. Arduino and the Lego ev3 have been around for longer and are in wide use as well. One could get lost exploring all that LEGO Education has to offer. The Arduino Online Shop has a lot of resources as well.

Personally, I am a fan of both the Raspberry Pi and the Micro:Bit. Both the Micro:bit Educational Foundation and the Raspberry Pi Foundation have a lot of resources. Those are great places to start your exploration.

Ok, let’s talk hardware. While the sites for the Pi, Micro:Bit, Arduino, and Lego EV3 have a lot of links to resources there are more places to go depending on your interests.

Two of my favorites are AdaFruit Industries and Kitronik Ltd. They have devices that work with a lot of "brains." They have devices for all sorts of robotics or Internet of Things projects. I can spend hours looking through both getting idees for projects.

Also for the Internet of Things, I have bought a bunch of devices from Phidgets Education. I have been using these sensors and controls with Raspberry Pi in Python but Scratch, MakeCode, and Java are among other language choices. Speaking of MakeCode, that is an awesome platform for programming Micro:Bits.

I recently discovered Jacdac from Microsoft Research. Right now these devices only work with Micro:Bit but Raspberry Pi and a USB connection for laptops/desktops are projected for the future.

I could, and probably should do a post just about robots and robotics. But here are a few places to get started.

I promise a more comprehensive post of robotics soon.

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