My 5th graders just completed their culminating computer programming and engineering challenge this week – to make smart plant pots that share soil moisture and light data. Teachers often forget to water their plants at our school and our Science teacher asked if we could do something to help. I tasked students to apply their new skills in programing with sensors to transform their Sparkfun Digital Sandbox into an electronic plant monitor that could warn people when the plant needs water or better sunlight. After three days of trial and iteration, we had a number of successful prototypes ready to employ at our school.
Many teams were even able to mock-up of cases, mounts and covers with LEGOs, paper labels and designs to make the devices easy for us adults to read and understand. Kids wrote their own programs in Ardublock, a visual drag-and-drop language extension for Arduino’s IDE. We plan to install their prototypes into plant pots around the school next week.
If you’re new to the tool, the Digital Sandbox is a great way to explore Arduino microcontroller projects with beginners. It’s basically an Arduino Uno board that comes pre-set with sensor inputs and LED outputs already installed. This way you can focus on teaching the computer programing before you later graduate to building your own circuits and breadboarding. It comes with a great little curriculum guide to get you started and even can take a few extensions like external outputs like servos and inputs like the soil sensor you see attached here.