Electronics and Arduino Interactive Workshop for Kids

Our life is full of electronics, even though we do not notice/see them. And for many Electronics is a scary word. It is a word full of misunderstandings and ignorance. And it shouldn’t.

A few decades ago, electronics was a stand-alone product. Nowadays, electronics are backed up by “micro-computers” within all our home appliances, cars, and daily-used objects … that’s why we believe it’s important to understand how they can interact with each other.

In our Electronics and Coding ABC, we wanted to demystify both.

And we used an online tool to simulate the electronics, the “micro-computer”, and the underlying code. This tool is TinkerCad. Anyone can create a lot of prototypes and simulate the outcome, without ever worrying about breaking anything.

We started to explain what an electronic circuit is, what are the basic components, and how they should be mounted altogether.

We also added push buttons, and potentiometers so that we could change the intensity of the LED. Again, all done in a simulation. With error messages when something is not right.

Once we understood, how the basic circuits were made, we started to introduce “breadboards”. No, this is not a bad word :) Breadboards are boards specially designed to ease the connection between electronic components (Connections are already made within the structure so that less wiring is needed). We also teach kids soldering at Vivita. We believe this is important knowledge too. But using a breadboard allows you to test if your circuit is working without any soldering so that you can still easily change a wire, or a component … And then would come the soldering time.

Once these 2 pieces of knowledge were introduced, we introduced micro-controller boards called “Arduino”. Since the Raspberry Pi revolution a decade ago (a real computer for 30$, allowing you to do small office tasks), companies have created even simpler boards (10$). These microcontrollers like Arduino are coded to only do 1 task/code. That’s it. And that’s where their strength is. Power ON, it just works almost instantaneously.

Companies have created multiple microcontroller boards which have different uses (connectivity, power control, sensors included … ), but one of the most famous brands is Arduino. They also come in multiple formats. In our simulation we used the famous Arduino UNO.

The real Arduino UNO on the top, and the “simulated” version on the bottom in TinkerCad

Arduino is great because you can connect multiple sensors and actuators to it (100s of them):

  • Sensors: luminosity, presence, humidity, flame, gas, steam, …
  • Actuators: Motors, LEDs, Servos, LCD Displays, electromagnets ….

And again, in TinkerCad, you can simulate many of them

Here comes again the basic LED circuit, now being controlled by an Arduino. Lights would switch ON and OFF automatically.

And that’s where coding comes in, to create the logic.

TinkerCad uses the same Block coding interface as Scratch (which is generally taught at school and is also strongly recommended by our Vivita mentors). But at the same time, it also shows the “real” code that it will generate to make the Arduino works (in “C++” language) so that one can code directly in the Arduino native language.

To conclude, most of our vivinauts started this workshop with the same code:

  • Light in Eyes = OFF
  • Apprehension = MAX
  • Questions = MANY

But believe me, they all finished with the same code:

  • Light in Eyes = MAX
  • Happiness to have conquered the beast = MAX
  • Next steps = YES
  • Can continue anytime at home = YES (Thank you TinkerCad)

Text and photos: Vivita Estonia
April 2023