Arduino Microcontrollers in the Classroom: teaching how to phrase effective science questions and how to answer them with original data

Arduino microcontrollers in the classroom: teaching how to phrase effective science questions and how to answer them with original data. Prof. Tony Dinsmore, UMass Physics This workshop will develop course modules that address a challenge in the science curriculum: how do we teach basic problem-solving and curiosity-based research skills in a classroom setting? The standard science curriculum teaches concepts and theory quite well but leaves rather little opportunity for students to take the lead in designing and implementing their own investigations. The workshop will use the Arduino, an inexpensive microcontroller that is simple to set up. A huge range of student-led projects are possible, taking advantage of the recent explosion of inexpensive, small-scale sensors that are available on-line for costs ranging from about $1-20. As part of the workshop, we will work with Arduinos and a few basic sensors. The workshop will focus on developing an iterative process by which students define their own science question, set up a device (controlled by the Arduino) to collect data, and then answer the question. We will go through these steps during the workshop. I will also share my approach, based on a new course for first-year physics majors at UMass that takes students through these steps. For many students, such a course provides a first experience working with the hardware-software interface, designing algorithms, and programming. For workshop attendees -- and for the students that we are planning for -- no prior experience with computing or hardware is needed. Attendees are encouraged to bring a laptop computer. If time permits, you might wish to install the "Arduino IDE" controlling software, located at If you cannot bring a laptop computer, you will have access to one at the workshop.
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