REVOBots Week 2: Gotta Switch up The (Teaching) Plan

This week we talked about sensors. The amount of light on the LDR changes the brightness of the LED

Class two videos: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Guide: TSK2

REVOBOts continues to be a fun class to teach.  We had another great turnout, considering that it is candidates weekend, which is always on of the buisiest times of the year.  I would say there were at least 20-25 people, which is about 2/3 of the class.

The topic this week was sensors.  Sensors are handy things, and we talked about resistive sensors (LDRs or photoresistors, thermistors), photodiodes, switches, and digital sensors.

My feedback was again mixed.  Some people enjoyed hearing about the broader material that we did not immediately use, and really liked seeing the datasheets, while some people thought it was too in depth or not valuable.  Next time I should definitely check out the datasheets before I pull them up; one of the sheets had all sorts of useful stuff on it, while the other one was lacking the very graph that I wanted to show everyone!

One area I need to improve on is retention.  I made an almost-joke last time that I am just throwing mud at a wall and seeing what sticks; this is becoming all too true, and the wall is starting to look more like a teflon pan in terms of stickiness.  It seems like people are getting a lot of information about the things they have, like these sensors or parts I am handing out, but they don’t know how to combine them.  I guess it is hard for me to anticipate some of these problems because I expect them to have some modicum of electronics knowledge, or sense from the required freshmen classes.  I guess Brian Storey and Brad Minch are having the same problems with I am, as far as balancing the “coolness” and “breadth” vs. teaching people electronics basics.  People also had a lot of questions about the “arduino language” that is used for programming these devices, and that is something I have not covered as much because as freshmen, they all have done quite a bit of matlab coding.  I see now that I should always provide code examples.

In this light I am going to tweak next weeks curriculum a little bit.  It was supposed to be in depth on different communication protocols, but instead I will only cover the usbsimple library, which is used instead of the serial library on the secret knowledge $5 arduino.  This is because the TSK arduino does not have an FTDI chip, and therefore has no serial output.  Instead, it uses VUSB to talk to the computer, and a python program on the other end to displat the data in the command line.  It might be nice to spice it up a little and have some kind of bar graph or canvas drawing instead of a command line thing, but that will depend on the free time I have between now and next saturday.

By concentrating on the USBsimple library, I will be able to also go through some of the more useful core arduino functions and libraries, like servo.h and map().  I will think of some examples, and then some in class exercises, and try to shrink my talking time to 45 min instead of an hour++ as it has been the last couple times.  To increase engagement and concentration integrity, I will have them work in groups and then present their project.  I don’t know if I will enforce pair programming but that is another way I might be able to increase concentration, because one person will be busy dictating and the other typing, which prevents either of them from checking their email or making memes.

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