Creating Authentic Learning Experiences through #Programming and @Arduino

Authentic Learning Experiences through Programming

The most challenging task of trying to teach code in a way that is authentic to students' interests and lives is being able to show code coding is authentic to my own interests.

I don’t come to code through a love of tech. I have a poetry degree and never caught the robot bug in my youth. I built model planes and used hot pins to simulate battle damage. My electronics kits are still in mint condition.

In this episode of Beyond the Hour of Code I share some of the projects I am currently working on to develop my own skills and confidence.

The Projects:

Lilypad Arduino

Notorious LED upgrade:

This project has been 2 years in the making and right now I am trying to integrate a sound detector to make the Neopixel ring interactive. Recently I did update the code to make the LEDs less bright. It is a challenge filming the puppet with the light in his chest, the light spoils the white balance.

Galaxy Backpack:

This is a new build, I want to have it for bike safety as well as a demonstration piece for coding and wearables. I have been chasing down some odd troubleshooting issues and it looks like I might need to replace the Lilypad board I am using.

Testing LEDs on Galaxy Backpack

LED House Project:

This is a multigrade project that began with the question “Why aren’t I using a train board to teach electricity and circuits?” In this project, the kids create cardboard houses and we wire them together in larger and larger batches. I am hoping we will have to construct several different power grids along the way. I have posted some of the projects on my Inquiry and Innovation circuits page.

This project will be controlled with BBCMicrobit boards and be programmed with Microsoft’s website. The block-based code and the provided wiring diagrams make it easy for kids to read the screen and find the information they need to become successful.


This is an idea I have been thinking about for a while. My car is really basic, almost no gauges. I know my car has data I can’t see. My plan is to construct and On-Board Diagnostic device so I can access the data my car is creating. I have the first parts in the mail to me now and I will update you as I figure this out.

What are you up to? What do you dream of or wonder about? Let's wonder together and figure stuff out. Drop me a note in the comments.

About the author, Sam

Sam is Makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, the nicest little school on Los Angeles' West Side. In the classroom since '02 Sam has taught grades PreK-12. Every lesson is a writing lesson.