The educational market lacks an entry level programming tutorial module. Deathstar Engineering worked to create a product that simply and effectively teaches multiple microcontroller platforms to coding beginners. Our product is the Microcrontroller Education Device, or M.E.D. The M.E.D is a compact and portable learning module that teaches students an introduction on how to code using Arduino, BeagleBone, and Raspberry Pi micro-controller platforms.
The product includes a storage box, three micro-controllers, all wiring necessities, a stationary helicopter equipped with LED lights, an electric motor, a buzzer, a panel of inputs and a portable usb drive that holds instructions and programs needed.
Deathstar Engineering created this product in four different phases:
Aug 2014-Dec 2014: Phase I: Design Inputs
Dec 2014- Mar 2014: Phase II: Design Outputs
Mar 2014- May 2014: Phase III: Verification and Validation
Mar 2014 Phase IV: Manufacturing
Phase I consisted of design concept selection. This selection was based on a list of basic functions the design needed to perform.
- Must be usable with three different microcontrollers
- Must be usable for students grades 3 and up
- Must be easily used in a classroom setting
- Must successfully introduce coding basics for users
Based on the criteria a concept was developed consisting of a platform that holds a visual mascot that can be interactive with the microcontrollers. The three microcontrollers chosen were Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone, and the Arduino. The mascot chosen was a helicopter due to the flexibility in output implementations. A desk sized design was chosen to make it easy to use in a classroom setting. Based on these ideas a visual representation for the concept was created and built the proof of concept.
Proof of Concept
Our proof of concept looks very similar to our final product, but less refined in function. The helicopter was still a component of the set up, but only one microcontroller was included on the board, and one output, the motor. At the proof of concept stage the electrical was still visible on the board, DeathStar engineering opted to place electrical inside the device for final production. The students, grades 4 and 9, demonstrated interest in the product and proved through quiz questions that they did in fact learn some basics about coding.
M.E.D Proof of Concept
Phase II consisted of design refinement. After testing with the proof of concept design corrections were made based on the feedback we received upon testing. We set to include additional storage for components. We added a few different outputs to allow for more lessons and interactions for the students. We also opted to enclose the electrical to make it a safer learning tool for school settings and to keep the lessons strictly coding.
The helicopter was built based on this drawing.
The storage equiped base was built based on this drawing.
The electrical wiring is represented by this schematic.
These are the transistorized circuits controlling all of the outputs allowing an external power supply to power all of the outputs.
These are the transistorized circuits allowing the microcontrollers to control all of the outputs, powered by an external power supply.
The major components of the design are marked in the final design drawing.
- Inputs: Potentiometers, switch, button.
- Outputs: Motor, LED lights, buzzer
- Interface: pre-wired connectors with interface ports
The instructions are a big part of the design as a whole. These instructions are what make this product an effective learning tool. Using interactive instruction platforms through Google forms and Scratch for Arduino allowed the team to reach a larger range of students.
Scratch for Arduino instruction and code platform.
You can access the instruction platform by clicking here.
You can access the scratch for Arduino instructions by clicking here.
Phase III consisted of testing. This process was done by taking the product to elementary, middle, and high schools in Fernley, NV. During this testing Deathstar Engineering verified that the product met criteria set in Phase I. To do this we gave the M.E.D to the students and let them complete lessons that included quiz like comprehension test questions.
Testing was very successful and providing much needed information on the performance of the product.
To create the M.E.D a laser cutter, table saw, 3D printer, soldering tools, and the manufacturing lab at UNR were used. The helicopter was created from 1/4 in aluminum that was cut, drilled, and bent to shape. The propellers for the helicopter were created using the 3D printer provided by Delamare Library. The kit’s boxed platform was created from 1/2 in plywood and 1/4 in blue acrylic. A table saw was used to cut the plywood to shape and a laser cutter to cut and personalize the acrylic. In order to complete all wiring needed for the kit soldering tools were used and prefab smaller electrical boxes to hold all wiring together.
Overall the M.E.D was a success. It met almost all requirements and demonstrated all functions needed to be successful.
Product Resulting specifications:
- Adequately demonstrated coding for ages 9 and up using interactive instructions and various questions through modules.
- Easy to set up for instructors , 10 min max set up time.
- Interfaces with three different microcontrollers: BeagleBone, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino.
- Total cost around $120.00 excluding the Microcontrollers.
If the product was to be produced again the following changes would take place:
- Improved coding platform to include all learning types.
- Include introductory safe circuits introduction lesson
- Larger variety of inputs and outputs to program
Meet the Team
DeathStar Engineering is a team of 5 senior Mechanical Engineering students at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Cody Geil-Crader, Chandler McCunn, Zac Hudacko, Pedro Chavez, and Tyler Maggert respectively.
Cody Geil-Crader: Cody is a bit like the old wizard in the 3rd Chronicles of Narnia movie: he seems eccentric, difficult to understand, and sometimes downright unpleasant. But with a little bit of time one learns that he is actually misunderstood, and that he is a kind person with plenty to offer.
Cody plans to take some time off after graduation to enjoy life before looking for work in Reno.
Chandler McCunn: Chandler has enjoyed and appreciated her journey at UNR pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree with a minor in Business Administration. She plans to stay in the Reno area with a local company, Speed of Air, to apply her knowledge to help them improve upon internal combustion engines.
Zac Hudacko: Zac is a senior mechanical engineering student from Carson City, Nevada. Zac’s hobbies include music production and cars. He plans on finding a comfortable, engaging job in the automotive industry that allows him to pursue his hobbies.
Pedro Chavez: Pedro is graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He is the first in his family to graduate from college. After graduating Pedro will try to work in the Reno and Carson area, as well as coaching youth soccer teams and mentoring high school students to continue in STEM programs.
Tyler Maggert: Tyler has enjoyed his time at UNR pursuing his Mechanical Engineering degree with a minor in Electrical Engineering and plans to stay in the Reno area to start his career.
DeathStar Engineering would like to express our gratitude to the following people for making our project
- Tony Berendsen with the UNR manufacturing shop for helping with fabrication work
- Tech Wranglers at the UNR Delamare Library for assistance with Laser cutter and 3D printer
- Chris Reede for mentoring us through our project
- Steven King for guiding through documentation and professionalism during project