Coding and Design Briefs

Two items in the STEMLabs materials, the Arduino Getting Started kit and the Hummingbird Classroom set, offer a number of opportunities for adding a coding/programming component to your Design Brief.  Both kits allow students to connect sensors and actuators or LED's to a computer-linked board and then develop a program that tells the component how to react to sensor input.  For example, a student might connect a motor (actuator) and a light sensor to a Hummingbird board.  The next step would be to develop a program that instructs the motor to, upon receiving a signal from the sensor (room has become darker, or lighter) turn on, rotate in a certain direction at a certain speed for a certain length of time.  An example design brief that would incorporate this device might concern building a machine that dispenses a treat (a door opens, powered by the motor) when someone enters a room and turns the lights on.  The extensive variety of sensors and actuators provided in the kits allow for the construction of a wide variety of devices and machines.

The boards are different in the sense that the Hummingbird is really not much more than a "smart" interface board which must be connected to a computer to work while the Arduino board is a microcontroller, and once a program has been uploaded to the board can operate independently.  A nice feature of the Hummingbird is that on the back of each Hummingbird board, there is an Arduino board (Arduinos are also available separately from a number of vendors).  The Hummingbird board can be programmed using Visual Programmer or Scratch.  The Arduino board uses a variety of C/C++.

Hummingbird board front (top) and back (bottom.)  The bottom image shows the Arduino board now part of all Hummingbird Duo boards.

Student in Dr. Ron Zacharski's Computer Science class taking readings from Temp/Humidity/Elev. sensor she built and programmed.

The Hummingbird site,, provides a number of video tutorials and instructional material on using the board.  The site also provides a download for the Visual Programmer language (free) and a link to the Scratch site.

There are a large number of Arduino teaching/learning resources.  The primary site is the Arduino site,  You can download (free) the Arduino environment (IDE) from the site.  One source for tutorials is the Sparkfun site,  This link will take you to almost 100 Arduino tutorials on that site: