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Getting kids started with the internet of things (IoT)

Me with my son, Robyn as I guide him how to program the Arduino board and make the LED bulbs light. (Photo courtesy of DevConPH)

Me with my son, Robyn as I guide him how to program the Arduino board and make the LED bulbs light. (Photo courtesy of DevConPH)

Many say that kids these days are quite far advanced compared when our generation were at their age. True! With electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers getting more affordable each day, kids would choose to play with these gadgets rather than interacting with their friends on physical games and activities. The interest of kids in building just about anything, from structures made out of blocks to robots, is pretty much high these days. We can attribute that to the popularity of games such as Minecraft and Growtopia. Being a father to an 8-year old kid, I can attest that these seem to be the “in” thing now.

The contents of my basic Arduino board package: an Arduino board, a breadboard, some jumper cables, resistors and LED bulbs.

The contents of my basic Arduino board package: an Arduino board, a breadboard, some jumper cables, resistors and LED bulbs.

Last summer, I bought myself an Arduino to get myself prepped to deep drive to the Internet of Things (IoT). The Arduino is an open source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs (from add-ons such as a light sensor, touch button, etc.) and turn it into an output (like activating a motor, turning on an LED bulb, or displaying something on an LCD screen). Its IDE (Integrated Development Environment) supports the C and C++ programming languages using special rules to organize code.

Last Saturday, July 9th I decided to attend the Arduino Code Camp organized by Developers Connect (DevConPH), Globe Labs and Jumpsparc at the Valero Telepark. The free whole day workshop aims to enable participants to use the Arduino board as a platform to program robots. Since my son is just home that weekend (and the previous day was a no class day due to bad weather), I tagged him along to the seminar-workshop. For the very first time, my son, Robyn saw how an Arduino works after feeding it with some codes. Though he is not new to coding, (as he was part of the pioneer batch of MozKids [Mozilla Kids] who underwent Webmaker Training in HTML development last year) his experience of feeding an actual device with some programming code amazes him very much.

My setup for the blinking LED activity.

My setup for the blinking LED activity.

Using a breadboard (a board used to make an experimental model of an electric circuit), some jumper cables, a resistor and an LED bulb, I let my son enter the sample code in the Arduino IDE. The result: anSOS blinking LED bulb!

Towards the end of the workshop, participants were able to control a DC Motor with the use of an Arduino board. The possibilities of building something powered by an Arduinoare endless. As for me and my son, our weekends will not just be limited to bonding while playing football or strolling in a mall; we can now start building awesome things while playing with an Arduino board.