Here’s an explanation of the Arduino from a non-geek. Actual geeks, please cover your ears.
One of the great things about being a volunteer leader working with kids is that you learn new things, try things you’d never have tried before. With my Girl Scout troops, I’ve done high ropes courses, 35 feet off the ground, including once just three months after having a baby; I’ve done backpack camping; slept in a yurt.
I never thought I’d be learning and explaining the Arduino but such is the joy of lifelong learning.As the co-leader of the Hacker Scouts - Near West, so far I’ve gotten refreshers on kinetic energy, sound waves and lots of practice tearing duct tape for kids.
What’s the Arduino then? It’s a microcontroller. That doesn’t help, does it?
I’ve come to the conclusion that what makes the Arduino so hard to explain is that it can do so many things and it disappears into whatever project someone’s built. You see the project and think, “Cool,” but you don’t notice the Arudino. Basically, and Arduino is this small circuit board doo-hickey that includes a computer chip and some places where you can connect things to it. You program the Arduino by connecting it to a computer and then you send that programming, or instructions to the Arduino.
Some teens and adults recently took at CGCC class in Arduino at Workshop 88, a Hacker Space in suburban Glen Ellyn. They did the classic first Arudino project, which is to program it to make an LED light flash.
So, to summarize, the purpose of the Arduino is take a simple task, like plugging in a light bulb, and make it really complicated and convoluted. You could use an Arudino to program some motors that you could connect to a robotic vehicle, for example. You could create a message in lights, controlled by Arduino.I should just show some cool projects that people make with them, here are some links.
20 Unbelievable Arduino Projects
(try to keep your kids from seeing the flame throwing pumpkin!)
In addition, you can combine multiple Arduinos in one project. Many of the things you can do with an Arduino, you could also do with Lego’s NEXT, however, price is a huge factor. NEXT is about $280.00, and while it’s a great product and easy to use, that’s a big investment. An Arduino is just $30.00 and you program it with free, open source software. As a bonus, that software comes in mac, pc and Linux versions.
Here’s a video at MAKEzine that answers, “What’s an Arduino?”