Introduction to Arduino
This lesson plan will introduce your students to physical computing: the process of building circuits and programming a microcontroller (an Arduino UNO®) to interact with them. The lesson is broken into seven activities that will walk your students through the basics of setting up the Arduino and interacting with circuit parts like LEDs, buttons, and resistors. This introductory material will help prepare your students for more advanced Arduino projects.
- Learn how to write and upload code to an Arduino
- Learn how to build a circuit on a breadboard
- Learn how to debug (troubleshoot) a circuit
- Learn to use Arduino functions for digital input and output
- Learn to use Arduino functions for analog input and output
Notes about using Arduino in the classroom:
- The list below shows all the individual parts each group of students will need to do this project. Depending on your budget and whether you plan to do more Arduino projects in the future, Arduino starter kits like the Elegoo UNO Super Starter Kit may be a worthwhile investment. They contain many of the parts you will need for this and other projects. If you decide to purchase starter kits, make sure you check this project's materials list for other parts you might still need to purchase separately. Note that since the Arduino project is open source, some starter kits contain third-party Arduino-compatible boards with equivalent functionality.
- You have several options when it comes to programming the Arduinos. Note that if you do not have administrator access to install programs on your classroom computers, you will need to contact your school's IT administrator. First, you can install the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) locally on classroom computers by following the instructions for your operating system on the Arduino software page. Alternatively, students can use the web-based editor, which offers cloud storage of programs so students can access them from different computers (this will require students to create an online account, and still requires installation of software that lets the computer interface with the Arduino via USB). If your classroom uses Chromebooks, see the Arduino Chrome App page for instructions.
To complete the activities in this lesson, each group of students will need following materials. If you plan on doing more Arduino projects with your class, you may wish to purchase Arduino starter kits like the Elegoo UNO Super Starter Kit, which contain additional parts that you can use for other projects. Note that since the Arduino project is open-source, some starter kits contain third-party Arduino boards with equivalent functionality.
- Arduino UNO or equivalent. Note that the Arduino platform is open source, so there are many third-party options available that have the same functionality and are compatible with the Arduino IDE.
- Computer with the Arduino IDE installed
- USB A-B cable, also called a printer cable. Note: If your computer only has USB-C ports, you will need a USB C (male) to A (female) adapter or a USB B-C cable.
- LEDs (2)
- 150Ω or 220Ω resistors (2). Note: Resistors are also available in kits that come with a variety of resistance values.
- Assorted jumper wires
- Push button (make sure the button is breadboard-compatible)
- 10kΩ resistor
- 10kΩ potentiometer
Background Information for TeachersThis section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.
The Arduino UNO (Figure 1) is a microcontroller board that is widely used in the hobbyist, maker, and educational communities. It allows people with no formal engineering training to get started with their own electronics and robotics projects. It is designed to make prototyping electronics projects easy. You can quickly take apart your project, build a new circuit, and upload a new program.
Figure 1. An Arduino UNO.
Unlike a computer with an operating system where you can install programs, browse the web, and play games, a microcontroller only runs one program at a time. Microcontrollers are frequently used to interface with hardware like sensors, lights, and motors, and are usually dedicated to a specific task. Microcontrollers are embedded in many of the devices and appliances that we use every day. Because of their physical interaction with hardware and their typically embedded nature, working with microcontrollers is sometimes referred to as physical computing or embedded computing.
This lesson will introduce your students to the basics of working with an Arduino: writing and uploading programs, building simple circuits, and interfacing with inputs and outputs like buttons and LEDs. This sets the stage for more advanced projects like building robots, drones, voice-controlled appliances, and more.