Hi all, it’s time to return to the mines and start delving for more fun and educational Arduino stuff!
In June, I was approached by a company called Seeed Studio. They have a nifty product called the Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino, and it has a very good premise. It is a custom built Arduino that has 10 sensors provided on the same printed circuit board, and you can do 12 projects with this set right out of the box. If you don’t want to take the sensor parts off the motherboard, you don’t need to. In that case, you don’t even have to use wiring, much less solder on contacts.
Seeed Studio asked me to post this text from them:
About Seeed Studio Seeed is the IoT hardware enabler providing services over 10 years that empower makers to realize their projects and products. Seeed offers a wide array of hardware platforms and sensor modules ready to be integrated with existing IoT platforms and one-stop PCB fabrication and PCB assembly service. Seeed Studio provides a wide selection of electronic parts including Arduino Raspberry Pi and many different development board platforms Especially the Grove System helps engineers and makers to avoid jumper wires problems. Seeed Studio has developed more than 280 Grove modules covering a wide range of applications that can fulfill a variety of needs.
This is how the box looks:
In fact, you don’t even have to take it out of the box to use it. The box has containers at each end, with six connector wires to the left and a Micro USB to the right end. You can just take the USB wire and plug it into a power source, or your computer, and you have six demos available to show right then and there. That’s a massive improvement over a basic Arduino, which doesn’t do anything until you have set up the IDE and transferred the first program, usually Blink, to the device to see a LED go on and off.
Not so with Grove. When you plug it in, the tiny display wakes up, and starts to show light intensity as measured by the light sensor. Cover it up with your hand, and you can see the values go down. Then, when you do a long press on the button on the bottom left, you can use the potentiometer right next to it to choose another demo. A short press will start the selected demo. This video shows how it works.
So, there are already two big plusses to this device. It comes preloaded with an interesting demo, and it doesn’t have to be wired at all to work. Usually when I bring an Arduino to the classroom to show it to people who have never seen a live SoC (system-on-a-chip) they are less than impressed. First, Blink isn’t that interesting as a demo and second, to do anything beyond that, you need at least jumper wires, and most often, a breadboard. Tinkering with them is nobody’s favorite for a first peek into the fascinating worlds you can build with an Arduino.
The sensors and components on the board are:
- OLED Display
- 3 Axis Accelerometer
- Air pressure sensor
With that bunch of sensors and components, you can really get going. All of the parts are given defined pins, so if you don’t go and disassemble this fine piece of manufacturing, all you need to do in your code is to use the predefined pins in your code. But if you choose to rip it apart for some reason, that’s possible too. Then you can still use the connectors that come with the package and still won’t have to resort to breadboarding or soldering.
As the system comes with a Wiki page that has all the code, you can also switch between the device and the Wiki, and show your students what part of the code does what on the device. It uses the standard Arduino IDE and is therefore fully compatible with whatever you have already. And of course you can start writing you own code on top of what Grove gives you in this package. Given that the price of this thing is only 19.90 USD, I don’t think I can come up with a better price-performance ratio for anything that can get you started in Arduino.
All in all, I think Seeed Studio has a winner here. I can take this package to the classroom, plug it in, and use the docucam to show all the different features of Arduino and sensors. This way, I can set it up fast and clean, and I don’t have to fiddle with any wiring at all. Then, when the students understand the basics of Arduinoing, I can bring in the breadboards and Arduinos and jumper wires, and they are already somewhat knowledgeable of how things work in Arduinoland.
My recommendation to STEM teachers, no matter what the level you are teaching in, to have a serious look at this well-designed, and extremely functional, package. I am considering a rather large purchase of these to facilitate fast and easy entry into Arduino’s wonderful world.