The Nebula Blog

Microcontrollers in the Classroom

education Jul 11, 2021

Incorporating microcontrollers into the classroom can be a great way to enrich your students' learning experience—with potential for a lot more.

As with many things, microcontrollers have gotten better with time. For relatively not too much, it's easy to equip a classroom with 5G-connected controllers that can work just about anywhere. For a lesser amount, wifi-enabled boards can be used around a school to complete tasks. Boards that run by themselves or connect through USB come at the smallest price tag, while still offering a wide array of possibilities.

In the classroom

Microcontrollers that are used only in the classroom are a perfect way to get started incorporating boards into lessons. The Arduino Uno is one of our favorites.

Arduino is an open-source project, meaning that its materials are all public; this makes researching, designing, and developing lessons for your students a lot easier.

The Arduino Uno does need to be programmed, which can be done on either through a desktop IDE(integrated development environment) or an online IDE. The online IDE really shines for schools since it can be used on any computer, even Chromebooks!

One constraint with the Arduino Uno is that it's not easy to turn it into a power supply—so if you need to supply voltages or currents that vary over time, need to be changed quickly you might find some issues. Boards like Analog Devices' ADALM1000 are great alternatives that can do just this. This board is an impressive piece of hardware, and allows for some more in-depth analysis of circuit behaviors and functions.

→ For the Arduino Uno, we recommend the Nebula Education Introduction to Electrical Engineering Kit.

→ For the Analog Devices ADALM1000, we recommend the ADALM1000 from Digi-Key Electronics.

Around School

Sometimes collecting accurate data outside of the classroom can be a struggle, especially if that data needs to be collected inside of a school building. Measuring air quality, pedestrian traffic, and other such projects can become much easier, though!

Wifi-enabled boards allow you to remotely monitor their outputs while on the same wifi-network. The Raspberry Pi is a great tool to do just this.

While it's not technically a microcontroller(it's a microprocessor), the Raspberry Pi can be used to accomplish some really amazing things. For one, on-board vision processing is possible with Raspberry Pi—so connecting a camera and reading data becomes a much simpler task.

Alternatively, a wifi-enabled ESP32 board can be a lower-cost alternative used in a number of similar applications.

→ For the Raspberry Pi, we reccomend the Raspberry Pi 4 which can be bought from a Raspberry Pi authorized distributor.

→ For the wifi-enabled ESP32, we recommend the ESP32-DEVKITC-32UE from Digi-Key Electronics.

In the field

Finally, for classwork that requires measurements outside of the classroom and school(and, subsequently, away from a wifi-network) 5G enabled boards can be used.
These boards, such as a 5G-enabled ESP32 with a SIM card can be extremely powerful tools for introducing machine learning to students of any age.
→ For the 5G-enabled ESP32, we recommend the LILYGO T-SIM7000G.

There are a number of different boards, as well as applications of each board. Choosing the right board for your classroom can be the first step to opening up a world of possibilities for students.

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