Is your child a robotics or electronics enthusiast? Do you find your child showing an interest in how electronics work? If your answer is yes, then consider Arduino. Arduino is the ideal place for your child to start the journey into the world of electronics and robots.
What is Arduino?
Arduino is a company that provides an open-source platform for building digital and electronic objects. It is a tool that users employ to control electronics. It designs and produces both hardware and software products. “Arduino” is often used to refer to its products, not the company itself. It is a fantastic option for beginners to learn programming, coding, and electronic hardware and software.
- Arduino Hardware
Arduino hardware is the physical component consisting of various boards. The Arduino hardware products also include shields, carriers, kits, and other accessories.
- Arduino Boards
An Arduino board is essentially a printed circuit board. It reads inputs and turns them into an output. The inputs can be in the form of sensor devices for light, touch, temperature, infrared, or even digital information. The outputs are motors, solenoids, LCDs, LED lights, speakers, and other electronic devices.
Arduino boards come in different types. However, Arduino boards all share one thing in common: the microcontroller. These are small computers embedded in devices. They help enable users to read different inputs and control the outputs. The most favored board is the Arduino Uno board.
Some of the elements of the UNO board are:
- Power: Arduino boards need a source of power connection. The power source connects through either USB cables or barrel jacks. The USB cable also loads the code onto the board.
- Pins: The pins are the locations for connecting wires to construct a circuit. The Arduino has several labeled pins on the board for various functions. The pin types are GND, analog, digital, PWM, AREF, 5V, and 3.3 V.
- Power LED Indicator: The LED lights up whenever the Arduino connects to a power source.
- TX RX LED Indicator: These LEDs indicate transmission (TX) and reception (RX). They tell users when the Arduino is receiving or transmitting data.
- Reset Button: This feature allows any code loaded on the Arduino to restart.
- Main IC: The Integrated Circuit is the brainpower of the Arduino. It differs from board to board, so it is essential to know what kind of IC the board has before loading a new program from the Arduino software.
- Voltage Regulator: The voltage regulator will control the amount of voltage the Arduino board lets in.
- Arduino Shields
Arduino shields are circuit boards that provide extra capabilities to the board. These shields plug into the supplied Arduino pin headers. They control motors, connect to the internet, provide cellular or wireless connection, control LCD screens, etc.
- Arduino Software
The Arduino Software uses Integrated Development Environment or IDE. The Arduino IDE consists of a text editor for writing code, a text console, a message area, a toolbar with buttons, and a series of menus.
Through the Arduino IDE, users can code, compile and upload the code onto the microcontroller or board. To upload the code, you need to simply connect the board to a computer through a USB cable and upload it.
The Arduino code or program is called a ‘sketch.’ The code is basically a C and C++ derivative with Arduino-specific functions and design.
The Arduino software is easy to use, even for beginners. However, it is flexible enough for experienced users as well. It works on multiple platforms and runs on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh OSX operating systems.
Arduino for Kids
Why is Arduino the right choice for kids?
- Arduino is one of the most popular choices amongst users for electronics tools because it’s easy to use.
- The Arduino hardware is simple and affordable as well. Other microcontrollers are not as user-friendly as Arduino boards because they have complicated manuals with many technical terms.
- The IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is easy to work with, and the coding is not difficult to comprehend.
- Arduino is also open-source, meaning that there are plenty of other companies that provide alternative boards compatible with the Arduino IDE.
Arduino works with simplicity in mind. Which makes it the perfect STEM option for younger audiences. If you’re curious to learn more about how your child can learn to use Arduino, read on to find out more about Arduino for kids.
Arduino or Raspberry PI for Kids
Before your child starts on the Arduino journey, you may be wondering what other alternatives are there. Here, it may be helpful to mention the Raspberry Pi computer (microprocessor-based board).
The Raspberry Pi computer’s purpose was to promote programming. But later, it began to gain popularity among amateur builders and enthusiasts for developing various applications such as robotics and security systems. So what is the difference between these two options, and which is better for kids: Arduino or Raspberry Pi?
- An operating system is a must for the Raspberry Pi to work, unlike Arduino, which needs only firmware instructing the board about the tasks it needs to carry out.
- The clock speed of Raspberry Pi is only 1.2 GHz as compared to Arduino’s 16 MHz.
- Raspberry Pi needs more current than Arduino. So Pi needs a power adapter even though USB powers both.
- Raspberry Pi can suffer damages to hardware, software, or applications in the event of a power cut or interruption. But Arduino simply restarts without damage.
- Arduino is open-source, so users can create their own Arduino board using their hardware and software files. But Raspberry Pi is not open-source.
- Pi is ideal for complex electronic devices that can perform multiple functions. But Arduino is more suited for repetitive tasks.
In conclusion, the right choice is to pick a tool like Arduino for kids.
Arduino Kit for Kids
Arduino offers many different options for microcontrollers – Arduino Uno, Arduino Nano, Arduino Leonardo, and Arduino Nano Every, to name a few. Beyond that, Arduino’s open-source feature allows for many other Arduino clones.
For the best Arduino board for kids, users should opt for the most beginner-friendly option, the Arduino Uno R3. This microcontroller is available in all Arduino starter kits.
However, for kids to start their Arduino adventure, they will need the following basic items:
- Arduino board
- Wiring (breadboard and jumper wires)
- Laptop or computer with a USB port
- Reliable internet connection
The next step is to be ready with the tools for the process:
- Soldering iron (parental supervision is required)
- Cutters and pliers
- Cardboard or plastic
- A hot glue gun is the perfect glue tool for Arduino projects for kids. It helps to seal parts quickly and is easy to use on cardboard.
The next step is the most complicated: coding. Programming the code for your kid’s Arduino project will take the most effort in this entire process, but it is a requirement. Many sites provide coding services that will turn your concept into code.
Tip: The official Arduino Starter Kit for kids contains all the essentials required to create 15 projects.
Arduino Projects for Kids
Start slow and explore the platform and tools for the first few Arduino projects for kids. Begin with using breadboards to turn LEDs on and off with different sensors. A good option for an Arduino project for kids is an Arduino robot for kids.
Given below are some simple ideas for Arduino robots for kids:
- Electronic Dice
- LEDs – 7
- Resistors – 7 (330 ohms)
- Jumper wires – 11
- Tactile switch/ motion sensor – 1
- Arduino (or an Arduino clone)
- Jumper setup: plugin 7 of the 11 wires in digital plugs 2,4,5,6,7,8 of the breadboard
- Add resistors to the same column as the jumper wires. the resistor will need to connect the top gap to the bottom gap
- Put 3 LEDs with their positive leads inserted into the holes side-by-side, 1 LED with “positive” leads long enough to skip one hole on the breadboard, and 3 others with leads that skip two holes in between.
- Add a momentary switch. For the motion sensor used, jump it to the top and use a piece of wire to connect it to the bottom.
- Connect the switch to the 3 volt port with a 270-ohm resistor
- Code: Numerous codes are available online for such a project.
Keep in mind that this project idea is just one idea for an Arduino robot. There are hundreds of things you can create with these simple tools. The only limit here is imagination and your budget. You have all the information you require to explore the world of electronics with Arduino now. Use this knowledge to create your next big electronic project or robot with Arduino with your kids.