Arduino in AP Physics

Friday, February 24, 2017 - By: Hannah R, Mackenzie ’18

Coding is being introduced into the BC curriculum in an effort to prepare students for jobs in the swiftly growing technology industry, but Ms. Olszewski is ahead of the game, introducing her AP Physics 1 (Grade 11) classes to coding through a unique exploration known as “The Arduino Project”.  

Ms. O explains: "The Arduino project is designed to introduce AP Physics students to electric circuits and computer programming, skills that they will build on if they continue in applied mathematics courses. The project is self-paced and designed to encourage students to research and work together in order to successfully complete all six of the challenges. The tasks take each student along a journey full of obstacles, frustration, and, of course, successes. The project is completed over the course of a couple of weeks and it has been a highlight for many students over the past few years."

Each of the challenges involved wiring and programming one or more LED lights to blink, flash, and turn on and off using a control board, wires, resistors, a button, and code written by the students. The tasks started simple, with Challenge A – a constantly blinking light – progressed to flashing in a railway-crossing pattern, and finally students had to figure out how to achieve eight LEDs flashing in a certain order for a specific length of time, turning off with the push of a button, and on again with another press.

As it was presented in a learn-by-doing approach rather than coding methods being taught, some students found the project daunting, particularly those who had not had previous experience with coding. But, with a little concentration, a little more time, and a lot of patience, everyone made significant advancements in his or her knowledge of coding and circuit work, completing all or most of the challenges. 

Hannah R, Mackenzie ’18 

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