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katefarina.com blog

Things I'm working on and thinking about

Over the past few days, I’ve had the privilege of teaching groups of adults how to use both the Arduino and Gemma. I worked one-on-one, in a large group, and a small group. There were some really striking common denominators, whether I used the kits that I created or commercially available Arduino kits.

  1. Breadboards are a huge problem. Physically, they are small, meaning the holes are really close together. Those of us who are used to using them really take for granted how tricky it can be to remember how to arrange wires and resistors. It’s also pretty difficult to explain these arrangements. Anticipating this, I blew up some images of breadboards and laminated some old-school style manipulatives. But that didn’t help much when it came to laying the simplest circuit out on the breadboard. In my next iteration, I’ll be doing away with the breadboard totally. I might re-title this project “Thinking Outside the Breadboard.”
  2. ALL the components are small. I never really thought about it, but Arduinos and their accessories are designed for people with slender, nimble fingers and awesome eyesight. The major gripe from all users was the tiny size of the buttons, pots, pins, etc. If it’s true that everyone benefits from Universal Design, maybe we should rethink the design of these ridiculously small components (at least for beginners).
  3. The code wasn’t as challenging as I thought it might be. Simply walking new users through a blink sketch wasn’t too bad. With a little prompting, they were able to figure out how to manipulate some variables and make simple changes. I had been really concerned about asking older folks to use computers, but so far, no really issues with that end of things.
  4. Adults would much rather have one major project to work on and finish rather than a series of little demonstrations, which is what I had structured. I need to find ways to integrate these simple sketches into realized projects for a bigger impact. I’m actually thinking of developing two example projects: one with e-textiles and one more gender neutral (possibly a more sophisticated version of the soil moisture sensor?)
  5. In doing research with older adults, it’s important for me to reassure them that I truly want their honest feedback. It seems like older people are more likely to want to give praise or validation rather than critique.