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A look back at CTC Valencia Fair 2018

via Arduino Blog

On April 18th, a team from Arduino Education made it to the museum Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia to participate in the CTC Valencia Fair. A total of 1,200 students (out of 1,500 people in attendance) participated in the five-hour-long event where the students exhibited what they had been producing over the last couple of months.

CTC, the Creative Technologies in the Classroom initiative

CTC started as a project in the region of Castilla La Mancha in Spain. I was asked what kind of process could be implemented in order to bring teachers and school up to speed with new educational technologies. Back then, in 2012, I had been teaching students from many different disciplines, mostly at the university level: interaction design, medicine, engineering, product design, mathematics, multimedia, fine arts… I had also been working with upper secondary school teachers from Spain, Argentina, and Sweden in the creation of small curriculums introducing interactive technologies a part of more transversal teaching in subjects like science and design.

When asked by the people in charge at the regional centre for educators in Castilla La Mancha, I suggested a quick iterative design process that began with a collective survey to teachers in 25 schools and followed by a curriculum suggestion on topics that they considered relevant. The most complex aspect in this process was how to design interventions in the way of implementing this programme so that I could incorporate the teachers’ as well as the students’ opinions and debug the content as we went. CTC has over 25 different mid-size experiments designed to help a class get acquainted to work in a project-based learning methodology through an iterative process.

The first CTC fair brought together over 400 students from all over Castilla La Mancha that presented 100-plus projects. Almost five years later, we have witnessed yet another incredible fair with very nice results, only this time in Valencia.

What has changed

CTC now includes experiments with wireless technology, accelerometers, capacitive sensing, motors, lights, and other interesting tricks, thanks to using the Arduino 101 board that comes with BLE, an IMU, and some other goodies. Students are introduced to programming using Processing and the Arduino IDE. But not everything is coding, given our pedagogic approach, they learn how to work in groups, search for technical information, organize time, and present their results…

On the Arduino side, we have jumped from having a good old WordPress site to enable communication between the students, to a full-fledged platform that is being augmented with new materials and courses on a yearly basis. The content works for both the classic IDE and the more modern Create IDE. At the same time, we have implemented a hotline where teachers can ask questions directly to Arduino’s support specialists. Of course, there is a forum just for teachers to talk to one another and the Arduino forum still supporting them; but we have learned that teachers like one-to-one communication because each school is somehow different in terms of equipment, network facilities, classrooms and policies, and social environment–teachers, students, and their families.

We have learned about complex deployments; for example, in Valencia there is a special Linux distribution called Lliurex that we had to hack in order to get the IDE running properly. During a previous project in Andalucia, teachers had no administration password to the computers! Well, we did figure things out and got the project to work. So big kudos to our support team that had to get out the hacker hoodie and code a clever solution!

Also, for the CTC webinars we make on a bi-weekly basis, we have changed our online seminar backend to have a much more efficient one. Now our calls allow full interaction with the participants that can be invited to talk and share screens when needed instead of simply having a chat line back.

Valencia is cool, isn’t it?

We had a CTC fair at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a museum by Santiago Calatrava in the shape of a huge boat put upside-down. There are fountains surrounding the building, the weather was amazing (remember I am coming from Sweden, where we just had the worst winter in 10 years, so anything over 15°C is good at this point), the organizers from CEFIRE (the teacher organization in Valencia’s region) made a great preparation of the location, schools arrived on time, the show went fine-great-FABULOUS… so yes, Valencia is cool, and the so was the CTC fair.

On stage we could see almost 30 projects being presented by the students, while we conducted a two and a half-hour livecast for those interested in seeing the projects from anywhere in the world. We held 15 interviews, but unfortunately we couldn’t show everything happening, considering that there were a more than 150 projects on display!

The following video is a summary of livestream from the museum; for your benefit, we have chosen some highlights of the broadcast I conducted throughout the day.

The interviews were conducted in Spanish, which is another reason for the summary; but if you are interested in the actual interviews, check out the following video.

Some seriously nice projects

I cannot stop being surprised by the amount of creativity students show when making projects. Even if I attend an average of five events of this nature per year, I keep on finding projects that make an impression in me. Students are always challenging any pre-conceptions I might have about what could be done with something as simple as an Arduino board. The one thing teachers keep on saying again and again is that it was them, the students, that pushed the process forward, that once they got started with the course, it was hard not to get carried away by the students initiative. The role of the teachers is playing the realist, trying to make sure the projects come to an end. That said, here some of the things I saw while walking around in the fair.

Probably the most impressive project I came across was a model of the Hogwart’s castle inspired by the Harry Potter movies. It took the students four months to build the entire project. It was a replica of the castle, so heavy that it needed four people to carry it around. It had dragons flying around one tower, the lights could be turned on and off… there was even a fountain with running water! The whole mode could be controlled via Bluetooth from an Android tablet. In total, the model took three months to construct, the students said, while making the electronics and software work took one month.

On the other side of the spectrum, I could play with a small arm wrestling toy made by a single student that took only 5 hours to build. You can check out the interview with the student in the above-posted videos. While the project seems to be simple, it is clear that the student had become quite knowledgeable in the craft of making projects, since he had figured everything for the project on his own without any external help.

One last project I would like to talk about was a small drawing machine comprised of mechanics from DVD drives that could replicate small drawings (less than 10x10cm big) using a pen. The students explained that it barely worked the night before, but that they finally figured out the calibration process minutes before leaving for the fair. The results, as you can see on the video interviews, are quite remarkable. They can export drawings using the open source program Inkscape in a format (G-code) their machine can understand, this allows them to trace any kind of vectorized drawing and reproduce it with their machine.

There were a lot more projects, take a look at the videos and pictures in this blog post. We will be presenting some others as part of the Arduino Livecast series in the the future. If you want to know more, just subscribe to Arduino’s YouTube channel and you will get weekly notifications on our videos.

Acknowledgements

The CTC Valencia project has been possible thanks to the generous contribution of EduCaixa, the on-site collaboration of the technical body at CEFIRE, the kind support of the regional government of Valencia – the Generalitat -, and the help of our old friend Ultralab.

From everyone involved in the project, big thanks to Ismael and Oscar, who believed in the project and pushed for it. Personally I want to thank Nerea who coordinated the project, and Roxana who was there making it happen from Arduino on a weekly basis; also Carla and Carlos who covered up when needed. Finally to Laura, who worked long evenings on top of everything else to make all of graphics needed for the fair.

At a more technical level, we have a new revision to the look and feel of the CTC project site coming, and it is looking awesome. Marcus, Gabrielle, Luca and everyone working with the UX in Arduino are creating one of the best-looking educational experiences ever. If not only the content is good, but if it feels good and looks good, then the experience will be excellent!

Do you want CTC in your world?

If you want to be part of the CTC initiative, visit Arduino Education’s website, subscribe to the Arduino Education Newsletter [at the bottom of that site], or send us a request for more information via email: ctc.101@arduino.cc.

[Photos by Pablo Ortuño]

1961 rotary phone gets a 2018 cellular upgrade

via Arduino Blog

While it’s hard to beat today’s mobile devices functionality-wise, if you need a phone built like a tank and designed for voice communication and voice communication only, you can’t go wrong with the Western Electric Model 500 rotary telephone. As maker “bicapitate” shows on Imgur, these models include a generous amount of space inside, enough room in fact for an Arduino Uno along with a tiny Adafruit FONA module for cellular capabilities.

While project details are slim, it appears that the Uno takes pulses from the rotary input, then makes calls via the FONA. A DC motor drives the bell to indicate a call is being made, and the original headset, possibly modified with a new speaker and mic, is used for audio. It now also includes a LiPo battery, allowing you to use this wherever convenient—while still slamming the headset down with authority!

YouTuber makes his own Overwatch laser turrets

via Arduino Blog

If you ever wanted to to see what Symmetra’s sentry turrets from Overwatch would look like in real life, now you can thanks to Mr. Volt. The YouTuber has produced a pair of them powered by a LiPo battery and controlled with an Arduino Mega, utilizing a relay shield to provide enough power to each laser.

In theory, the turrets can each be aimed with a servo motor and sense objects with an infrared range finder. The main control feature, however, is an arcade button that controls firing, along with a big red e-stop switch to cut things off as needed. 

After a couple weeks of tinkering, my first iteration of Symmetra’s turrets are alive! They may be 3D-printed instead of hard light constructs, but I still think they’re pretty cool. Each turret holds a 2W 445nm laser and RGB (Dotstar) LEDs. They’re controlled by an Arduino Mega and some relays.

You can see it demonstrated popping balloons at just after the 8:30 mark in the video below. Also, please be sure to use the necessary precautions when working with lasers. For his part, Mr. Volt decided to build his own FPV rig out of a welding helmet!

Arduino and Distrelec launch a new automation & robotics contest!

via Arduino Blog

How can you help advance Industry 4.0 using the Arduino ecosystem? From robots and predictive maintenance to remote control and data acquisition, we’ve teamed up Distrelec to launch a new Automation & Robotics Contest challenging our community to create innovative solutions that can make the industry faster, cheaper, more flexible, and efficient.

Participants are required to tap into our extensive range of IoT boards like the MKR1000 WiFi and MKR GSM 1400, libraries, and online platform to bring their ideas to life. Industrial automation projects could target energy management, remote monitoring, machine safety, or predictive maintenance, for example, using Arduino Create to set up, control, and connect your Arduino, Intel, and Arm-based devices. Robotics projects could include designs for surveillance drones, robotic arms, rovers, or autonomous transportation, leveraging feature-rich boards like the Mega and Due to prototype advanced systems. 

How to Enter

  • Create a free account on Arduino.cc (or log in if already a member).
  • Register for the contest by clicking “Register as a participant.”
  • Send your concept to the Arduino/Distrelec: Automation & Robotics Contest by June 29, 2018. The top 150 makers will receive a coupon for Distrelec online store. Moreover, there will be a series of micro contests, with weekly prizes handed out from Distrelec.
  • Design, build, and submit your project by September 16, 2018. Winning projects will be selected based on their originality, quality, creativity, and social impact. 

Prizes

Ready to get started? You can find more information on the contest here and browse Distrelec’s entire Arduino lineup on their website. To submit your ideas, please visit the Arduino Project Hub. And remember, projects must use an Arduino board in order to be eligible to win!

PID temperature control with Arduino

via Arduino Blog

If you want to keep something at a certain temperature, say a block of aluminum, you’ll need a thermocouple and some sort of heating element. While you could turn a heater on and off abruptly in a sequence appropriately known as “bang-bang,” a more refined method can be used called PID, or proportional-integral-derivative control. This takes into account how much the temperature is outside of a threshold, and also how it’s changing over time.

As shown in this example by Electronoobs, PID control can be accomplished using an Arduino Uno, along with a type K thermocouple and a MAX6675 module for sensing. The Arduino sketch reads the data and sends the proper amount power to a heating element via a MOSFET in order to maintain the desired temperature without excessive oscillations.

What I want, is the aluminum block below to have let’s say, exactly 100 degrees. I’ll control the real temperature using a K type thermocouple. To read the data I’ll use the MAX6675 breakout module and control the PID algorithm with and Arduino. Finally, to apply power we will make a small circuit using a MOSFET or maybe a TRIAC in case of high AC voltages. This will be a close loop. The thermocouple measures the real values, the Arduino creates the signal applied to the MOSFET and this transistor will control the power of a heating element inside of the aluminum block and once again the thermocouple will measure the value, that’s why it’s a close loop.

Be sure to check it out for an introduction to this powerful control scheme!

Thursday Night Live(cast) with your host David Cuartielles

via Arduino Blog

Why livecasting from Arduino Education

About a month ago we started livecasting from Arduino’s YouTube channel. This is something I had been willing to do for quite some time, but I never figured out the way to make room in my agenda to fit the planning required to make it happen. Technology has changed a lot over the last couple of years and it is relatively easy to start broadcasting from anywhere given there is an Internet connection. Not only has the tech for transmission evolved, there are also several options on where to send the video so that others can watch it whether live or in its recorded form later.

What we are excited about

We want to reach you when you’re commuting to/from school and have some time to chat about things that matter in the field of tech and education. We want to test LIVE experiments made by others and see whether we get the same results. We want to showcase projects from the Arduino community that are relevant for those involved in education. We want to give a voice to makers from all over the world that we meet when traveling (something I do often). We want to fail on air, and get help from the chat to fix things. We want to have a more inclusive audience. Livecasting is a quick and honest way to approach all of this, minimizing the impact in terms of the amount of resources needed to put it in place.

Our yearly livecasting plan

Even if the livecasts will be super LoFi in nature, it doesn’t mean we will not be thinking carefully about the content to be presented in them. We have prepared a (preliminary) agenda all the way to 2019. While the exact topics of the livecasts are open to change, we will keep a balance between technical casts, interviews, project presentations, and basic introductory sessions for those starting. We will air in English on Thursdays at 7pm CEST (CET) unless there’s a holiday, in which case we’ll try on an earlier day that same week. Some weeks we might transmit more than once, like e.g. if we find ourselves at a conference or event where there might be something meaningful to inform you about.

That said, follows an overview of the livecasts we have planned to make (along with those that have already taken place).

In the program you will see how some of the livecasts are actually sponsored by the eCraft2Learn EU research project. This is a project we have been working with for over a year, where our role is to provide teachers interested in Arduino related topics with introductory tutorials to the technology. We call those livecasts “teacher tutorials.”

List of Livecasts: past and (near) future

Teacher Tutorial 1: Introduction to Arduino and the popular Arduino Uno board. (Please note that the audio was not good in this transmission, we have learned a lot since then.) 

Hacking STEM 1:  A water quality sensor experiment, where we took one of the Microsoft Hacking STEM projects and replicated it. The building process went fine, but the sensor gave us some trouble because of some alligator clips.

Sensors Q&A 1: We are always receiving questions about how different sensors work. Here we devoted one session to test different temperature sensors… ah, and we threw an Arduino Uno into the frozen sea and proved it works (after drying up).

Live from Hackergarage GDL, Mexico: We interviewed a series of people from the Mexican maker scene. People from all over the country came to Guadalajara for an event and we managed to squeeze in a series of live interviews.

Live from Hacedores CDMX, Mexico: We went to Mexico City and interviewed the founder of the Hacedores MakerSpace, Antonio Quirarte, who could also be considered one of the founding parents of the Mexican make scene. We had a great talk and he showed some of the educational projects they have been working with for some time. Are you into weather stations? Then this is your podcast!

Teacher Tutorial 2: Learn about Arduino’s classic IDE and how it differs from the new online Create IDE. We also found out about the Microsoft OneDrive issue with the classic IDE (bug that will be solved in the next release).

April 18th (between 10AM and 12AM CEST) – Live from CTC Valencia Faire: We will be transmitting live from the museum Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, showing projects made by students participating in the CTC initiative.

April 19th – CTC Projects 1: We will dissect a CTC project made by students and try to replicate it, to some extent, with whatever materials we have in our office.

April 26th – Microsoft Hacking STEM Project 2: Yet another project from the Microsoft Hacking STEM collection.

May 3rd -Teacher Tutorial 3: Learn how to extend Arduino’s classic IDE, add libraries, use other cores, etc.

May 10th – CTC Projects 2

May 17th – Real World Applications: Let’s look at a project where Arduino is being used in the wild to see how it could inspire our students to think more about this kind of design cases.

May 24th – Teacher Tutorial 4: Electronics and electricity basis

May 31st – CTC Projects 3

June 7th – Microsoft Hacking STEM Project 3

June 14th – Summer Projects: What can you do with Arduino this summer?

There is a full agenda, although it may be a bit too much to include in this blog post. We will update you with more details in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

The equipment

As you could imagine, there are different techniques for livecasts. Since we are looking at a consistent experience over the programs, we have settled on using gamer computers (because of the graphics card), together with a couple of webcams, an external mixer board, and a good ambient mic. We have an extra HDD to record the programs should the bandwidth be so bad that we need to lower the quality beyond our own standards and a Zoom recorder because sound is sometimes troublesome. The software of choice is OBS that can push the stream directly into YouTube and uses the graphics card for real-time compression of the video, which is very helpful. This is the reason why we had to fall for MS Windows (those that know me know I’m a Linux guy), as OBS doesn’t support some of the extra features of the graphics card in the Linux operating system.

In the studio, we have a stationary gaming PC with two screens; when on the road, I have a gamer laptop of similar characteristics. The other difference is that the stationary has a control panel made with an Arduino Leonardo operating as MIDI device, which sends keystrokes to OBS via an interfacing program. These are used to change between scenes, switch cameras, add overlays, etc. For the portable station, I got a control panel from El Gato that takes a lot less space.

What has (and hasn’t) worked so far
At the time of writing I’ve made six livecasts with different degrees of success. I have no problem admitting that we (I) are still learning how to prepare the system, switch scenes, and even select the content and write scripts. During our first transmission, the audio ended up having a terrible echo that we couldn’t figure out how to filter. For the second one, the sensors didn’t work even after a full day of preparations. In the third, there were times when I was talking about something but the screen was showing something unrelated. That day I came in the studio and someone had taken one of the monitors to use it in a lab experiment so I had to improvise and had no monitor to check whether I was doing it right or wrong.

So far we have learned a lot, yet we still consider the livecasts to be in beta. We are having fun making them and will continue to do so. Also, we are nurturing a new chat community using Discord where people interact live during the programs making suggestions, adding links, and competenting the show. If you want to join the conversation, use the following link and join us on your computer or smartphone via the Discord app.

Finally, do not forget subscribing to the Arduino YouTube channel. If we see a good response from the community, we will start making a lot more video content. Don’t discard seeing some other relevant members from the crew coming online, I will do my best to convince them!

Other livecasts you can follow

We didn’t invent livecasting, obviously, and there are other streams you can subscribe to if you want to learn more about the maker culture. Personally, I have to recommend two Spanish channels. First, La Hora Maker, run by Cesar, with whom I collaborate on making live Q&A sessions. Cesar is probably the most knowledgeable person in the maker culture in Spanish language. The other relevant channel is Programar Facil from Luis, where you will find a lot of sessions about projects made with Arduino and various programming techniques.