Educators always ask me if I teach Arduino or Raspberry Pi in the Lab and my answer is "Yes, but..."
When I arrived in The IDEA Lab, there were 60 Arduino kits there so I felt obligated to use them. Autodesk's Project Ignite has tutorials that teach (in a virtual setting) how to use the Arduino to make an LED blink, make a servo motor go back and forth, and so on. Once students have walked through these tutorials, I am happy to give them a full-on Arduino kit and let them do the same exercises in the real world.
Until I found the Cube-SAT project, though, I didn't have a use for Arduino and couldn't put the little guy into a Design Thinking project.
Cube SAT is a satellite that is a 10 cm cube. NASA launches them into space via rockets and the International Space Station. These satellites can do any worthy cause and NASA will launch yours for you free of charge (except for that research paper you have to write to qualify for the program). So far, most of them have been launched into space to see what they can do in space. Universities all over the world are involved in this project -- and so are our 8th graders.
Our 8th grade team wanted to track the Great Pacific Garbage Patch from space. To do that, they needed to research what kind of orbit they need, and how high that orbit should be. They needed the right kind of space-worthy camera and a mechanism to get the pictures back to Earth. They taught themselves about the hardware and software of Arduino, as well as 3D printing so they could create this prototype. One team member learned how to use Easel carving app so the plexiglass part of the prototype could be carved in our Carvey machine. Pretty cool!
Future City Moving Part
This year's Future City project, however, brought one of our teams a "problem" that they could solve with a servo motor and Arduino. Team "Colony One" built their future city on Mars and needed an airlock for a residential dome. I asked them if they could think of any prior learning that would help them solve the problem and (thank you, guys) they remembered the servo motor lesson.
Although there was no place to camouflage the Arduino and servo, they look futuristic enough to look cool in their Mars Colony model.
And, BTW, this team's Mars model won 3rd place in the So. Cal. Regional Future City Competition.