As many of you will notice, BlueStamp Engineering students often choose to use the Arduino in their projects. It has a friendly programming environment, an integrated console which is great for debugging, and there is a huge community to support it. However our students often find that the limitations of the Arduino Uno’s ATmega328 chip to be a problem when tackling complex goals.
The Arduino Team, after immense anticipation, has released the Arduino Due. It’s based on a much more powerful Atmel SAM3x8E chip, giving it more memory, a faster clock rate, and tons more peripherals! I’m certain some of our students will find limitations with the Due, but not without trying!
Raspberry Pi is a killer new computing solution. The goal of the ‘Pi’ is to get a linux-based computer in a tiny size at the lowest possible cost in order to draw more young people to programming. They have certainly met their design goals, with the board being slightly larger than a credit card and costing as little as $25. The only challenge to meet now is waiting through the dreaded backorder.
BlueStamp Engineering is always on the lookout for new platforms that our students may want to use in the development of their projects. In order to give it a shot, Dave got some hardware and set out to make a simple project. He used it to observe the state of his dog’s kennel door, and publish the status on a webpage hosted by an Apache server right on the Pi. As his Element14 article details, there are many reasons that the Pi will work great for educational purposes, however the simpler tasks like the kennel monitor will have competition from devices like the netduino. If the Pi doesn’t make it into BSE’s project book this year, it will at least be a platform option for students wishing to define their own projects!
We feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of BlueStamp’s inaugural year in Houston. It was the perfect program for our tech savvy son the summer before his senior year in high school. BlueStamp allowed Clay to merge two of his great interests — computers and engineering. He was truly excited to go to BlueStamp everyday during the program. He learned many new skills that challenged his mind while also allowing him to work with his hands. Clay built two very cool projects that he loves to show off. He even enjoys showing off the massive tangle of wires he removed when his puzzle box didn’t go quite right the first time. Clay gained skills and confidence that will serve him well in the future during his summer with BlueStamp.
Adding to the exceptional experience BlueStamp offers is the leadership. Dave and Robin are so accessible to their students and parents at all times. Along with the great Houston staff and frequent guest speakers, they taught things from soldering to keys to being successful in all aspects of your life. BlueStamp is the complete package!
Last weekend we were proud to have a double booth at NYC’s 2012 Maker Faire! Several of our students came to show their projects, engage with fellow makers, and learn what it is like to discuss a design they worked on. Another great way to get practical experience with engineering! We will certainly be returning next year…
Dave recently wrote an article that may help budding designers pick the best approach for navigating the sea of development platforms. He loves the experience of cracking open a new design platform and seeing what it can do, and how it can be used. However there are so many out there! What about the individual options are the best for attacking a project? How can one ensure that the experience will be the best possible, preventing an immediate hate of the platform? Dave writes about all of this on Element14′s news section…
“Thanks to the NYC Maker Faire this weekend, there has been a lot of discussion of new project ideas becoming a reality. With the wide array of different development platforms that are coming out for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, and even complete computing solutions, there is always a system out there to be explored. It can be intimidating to approach such a wide array of possibilities, so what is it that makes for the best first projects?…”
We are in the midst of planning the BlueStamp Engineering Makerfaire booth, and were excited to hear from Colleen about how well Nick is doing with exhibiting his great work! Thank you Colleen!
“I have never seen [Nick] so fired up to show off what he has done. The first day of school was yesterday and he proudly brought it to show a variety of teachers. He has had to troubleshoot problems several times already, but it never takes long. The head of the school is looking to promote what Nick has accomplished through school media publications, and Nick has even had one college offer to fly him up to visit the engineering program this year. Your program has given him the confidence to tackle new projects and seek out new goals. Wow!”
One of the harder things about teaching kids to be adults is how to ween them off of the protection that adults provide. In my most recent E14 article, I talk about the ways I’ve seen high schools censor the internet. While there’s no ‘best’ solution for everyone, I believe taking a risk-averse approach can do more harm than good:
The technical fields have a problem in the training of the next generation of students: internet censorship. It represents a hesitation in the move from information being something that can be controlled to the free passing of ideas, and it places education in direct conflict with the demands of industry.
On Wednesday 6/27 both AM and PM classes at BlueStamp: NYC had the chance to hear Sophie Kravitz come speak about her projects, her experiences, and her journey to becoming an engineer and a maker.
The students got to see an oximiter that was used to create a way to hear and feel your own heartbeat, test out a cell phone usage detector, and a mouse proximity detector. They had plenty of questions for how she gets her ideas, what it is that she does, and what it is like to be a female in the engineering field. See for yourself in the video!
Robin and I have been very busy preparing for BSE 2012 in both NYC and Houston. It was when we began to plan programming for next summer that I realized the successes of our 2011 students only begin to scratch the surface of what BSE can teach. The effect of a student’s first 6 weeks is remarkable: they learn how their project works, how to identify the best approach, and how to take a project beyond paper/models and into the real world. They gain the vocabulary, troubleshooting skills, and the basic understanding to allow them to begin seeing the world as an engineer. They can read a project description and understand what the separate components require (e.g. firmware, electronics, mechanical design).
With this knowledge in their back pocket, we can then expand the lessons that a second year student will be able to learn. Where a student already learned how to create a schematic in EAGLE, he or she can now move on to creating a custom PCB and have it made by a boardhouse. A student that learned how to create mechanical drawings last year can now be asked to incorporate standard dimensioning practices that can be understood by any machine shop for quoting of a large job. We will also have returning students do more planning to sharpen their management skills – budgeting, scheduling, and part ordering is something that they can understand thanks to the project they have already completed. There are so many more possibilities!
Now that we are planning for students returning for a second year, I cannot wait to see what we will have students do when they come back for their third year! Maybe the complete development of a kit product ready for production, similar to those offered by Adafruit or MightyOhm?