Arduino –an introduction to robotics

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I would like to give students the opportunity to learn about Robotics.  This is a fairly new area for me so to upskill I want to attend some professional development with MindLab in Auckland.  I’m also trying to contact Chris Hamling from RoboCup and hopefully with some outside help get a team of students to the RoboCup competition in September later this year.   

Arduino is an accessible and affordable robotic platform which has lots of online support,forums and active communities.  It is used in schools and  comes with a recommendation from MindLab as being suitable for entry level but with the capability of developing some complex programming.  As this was the first year we will be using robotics,I think the concept and prototype assignments will be a good fit as students will not need to have specific content knowledge but it will give them exposure to this type of programming.  


Professional development workshops are offered in April this year and I’m planning to get underway with using Arduino in class at the beginning of term three.    I’ve enrolled in an Arduino and Robotics course with Mindlab in Auckland in the April school holidays. Further professional development is available through the lecturers at MindLab and through the Robotics group Robocup. I have also been put in touch with the Deputy Principal at Aorere College in Auckland who are on a similar journey.  Introducing students to Robotics in term three will work in well with student’s prototype assignments.  

Arduino in a snapshot

We bought 10 Arduino kits from which was a fraction of the cost they would have been from a New Zealand company.  Each kit cost around US $ 24.00.  We also purchased 20 servo motors and 20 wheels so we could create 10 two wheeled robots.  New Era installed Arduino and Ardublock.  

I decided to use the Arduino just with the senior students for the first year.  The boys really took to using the electronic hardware and enjoyed being able to build something with their hands before then coding and programming.  


The combined Level 1,2 and 3 DTY did not take so well to Arduino.   The biggest success came from the combined level 2 and level 3 DTY class,all the boys participated and built their own recycled robots.  Level 2 students had to design a robot from recycled materials that could move forward and back.  Level 3 students had to develop an educational resource for junior students that might inspire them to take an interest in robotics.  

Ardublock (pictured on the right above) in combination with Arduino (picture on the left) gave students a visual entry to coding their robot.  It was a good follow on from Scratch and allowed students to drag and drop sections of code.  From Ardublock the script was then uploaded to Arduino Sketch.

Student’s arduino set up

One Year 13 student really took to this project and led much of the learning himself.  He researched how to solve programming problems online and together we asked Mohsen from MindLab for some expert help to get the LCD scanner working.  Here is a link to his final assessment which has his video link at the end.  Getting him to complete the documentation was a struggle but his hands on effort and application was at a merit level.  

Another Level 3 student got an Excellence with his Arduino robot prototype.   The image to the left is a picture of his robot build using Arduino sensors,the motherboard,engine and servos.   Here is a link to his work.  

I do think Arduino has been a successful introduction to our course as an entry level robotics programme.  Over the holidays I am planning to re-think how this course can be improved.


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