A Teaching Sequence Proposal Using Microcontrollers Programmed With BASIC

A Teaching Sequence Proposal Using Microcontrollers Programmed With BASIC

Thomas Francis Hartley (Independent Researcher, Australia)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3861-9.ch017
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This chapter presents three electronics-based projects at increasing levels of sophistication. Two of the projects use the PIC microcontroller-based MicroMite chip. One uses the new Raspberry Pi PICO microcontroller board. All three deliver base level units that monitor atmospheric pressure (Projects 1 and 2) and ambient light levels (Project 3). All three communicate bidirectionally with an app on an Android mobile phone via the popular and well supported Bluetooth protocols. In the final technical section of the chapter, the content of those Bluetooth communications are ‘pushed' onto a local IoT intranet design. The chapter closes with a brief summary of the STEAM initiatives in Australia plus a brief discussion of the importance of electronics in contemporary life which arguably justifies their inclusion in STEAM curricula content.
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In the current age, it is indisputable that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have permeated our lives and are ubiquitous in every aspect of our daily routine. Since the early 20th century, technology has been envisioned as and promised to be a perfect tool that will transform the way we interact with learning material, change the way we learn and make teaching sequences more interesting, immersive and successful. In the course of integrating technology with learning sequences there have been many successful stories, but this integration also ended in quite a few disappointments.

Students nowadays are “digital natives” and significantly familiar with many aspects of ICT. It is clearly important for this generation, to acquire the so-called 21st century skills (Geisinger, 2016).

Science, Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education affordances have been increasingly integrated in modern curricula, aiming to provide students with not only “core” knowledge from the various disciplines but also teach them problem solving skills, critical thinking, creativity, communication skills and in general digital and information literacy (Khine & Areepattamannil, 2019; Taylor, 2016; Xefteris, 2019).

The STEAM framework has been shown to be instrumental in reconceptualizing instructional strategies and models, focusing educators and students on “learning how to think and learning how to learn” (Ge, Ifenthaler, & Spector, 2015). The framework is targeted towards transdisciplinary and multimodal contexts of presenting learning material, combining different learning areas and uncovering hitherto “hidden” relationships among different disciplines (Hayman, 2017).

In this context, the introduction of programming activities in curricula is a promising and highly versatile tool that enables educators to formulate the sought-after transdisciplinary and highly engaging learning activities. There are many approaches and different formulations of courses using microcontrollers or micro PCs to engage students in project based activities under a STEAM framework, tackling different aspects and using one or more modalities such as educational robotics, Arduino, Raspberry Pi etc. (de Souza & Elisiario, 2019; Zhong & Liang, 2016).

In this chapter a teaching sequence is proposed, based on the use of microcontrollers that are programmed using ‘Basic’. The core materials of the presented projects include the new Raspberry Pi Pico board and the PIC microcontroller based MicroMite chip. The teaching sequence consists of three projects at increasing levels of sophistication. Projects 1 and 2 deliver an atmospheric pressure monitor and project 3 delivers an ambient light level monitor. All projects communicate bidirectionaly with an Android mobile app via a Bluetooth connection. In the final section, measurements are pushed onto a local IOT intranet. The teaching sequence aims at inducing a problem based learning activity, emphasizing on evaluation of results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

IoT: The internet of things (IoT) refers to a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that are able to collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention.

ICT: Or information and communications technology (or technologies), is the infrastructure and components that enable modern computing.

Raspberry Pi: A tiny and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming through fun, practical projects.

STEAM Education: An approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.

Micromite: The Micromite is a Microchip PIC32 microcontroller programmed with the free MMBasic firmware.

Veroboard: A brand of stripboard, a pre-formed circuit board material of copper strips on an insulating bonded paper board which was originated and developed in the early 1960s by the Electronics Department of Vero Precision Engineering Ltd (VPE). It was introduced as a general-purpose material for use in constructing electronic circuits - differing from purpose-designed printed circuit boards (PCBs) in that a variety of electronics circuits may be constructed using a standard wiring board.

Blockly: A client-side library for the programming language JavaScript for creating block-based visual programming languages (VPLs) and editors. A project of Google, it is free and open-source software released under the Apache License 2.0. It typically runs in a web browser, and visually resembles the language Scratch. It is also being implemented for the mobile operating systems Android and iOS, though not all of its browser-based features will be available on those platforms.

Computational Thinking (CT): A set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could also execute. It involves automation of processes, but also using computing to explore, analyze, and understand processes (natural and artificial).

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