This blog has no other purpose than to encourage passing on some of our knowledge to the next generation. 


Every summer my grandson and I get together for a week to "do electronics" as he calls it.  Robots are always involved.  This year his younger sister was old enough to join.


Day 1:  They arrived late in the evening.  I had a scrolling sign up at the front door welcoming them which used the Arduino MKR1000 and MKR RGB shield that I received from element14.  This was a great hit and would be put to good use in the next day's lesson.


Day 2:  Today's lesson was LEDs and how they are used.  My grandson already considers himself an expert on LEDs but review is good and it was also a good introduction for my granddaughter.  I like real schematics (none of that Fritzing rubbish) and personally find them easier to read.  Might as well get them used to the real thing before someone tells them it is hard.

LED Schematic Lesson

They really seemed to enjoy drawing the schematics, especially my granddaughter.  Then we built the circuits.  First with a colored LED they chose and then with an RGB.  That lead to a discussion of the LED matrix and then putting together scrolling text on the Arduino.  They each made their own scrolling sign. That was enough for one day, but later my granddaughter went downstairs and drew a summary of the day's activities

Summary of the first day

Pretty good for someone who hasn't started grade school yet.   She left out the current limiting resistor but then I have done that myself.


Day 3: Today, motors.  My grandson wanted to add a LED so I added that on.

Motor Lesson

Doh!  Grandad forgot the current limiting resistor!  We put cardboard fan blades on a motor and made it spin with a battery.  We also experimented with gears and pulleys - I could have put a bit more effort into that.

Gears and Pulleys

Later in the day we played with a little RC toy robot with button batteries and talked about the mechanism, motors and remote control.

Toy Robot

I was surprised at how well it worked and the batteries were still good when they left.  I wanted to take it apart but the kids wouldn't let me.  I need to buy one for myself and maybe build something at larger scale someday.


Day 4:  Today we learned about Scratch on the Raspberry Pi.  You wouldn't think kids would be interested in coordinate systems but we kept it simple and conceptual.

Cooardinate systems and Scratch

My granddaughter likes drawing cats but lost interest in actually programming them.  But my 8 year old grandson is getting pretty good with Scratch.  I need to allocate more time with him on that.  That afternoon we went to the beach.



Day 5:  Today we did 3D printing.  No schematics today but we talked about how the 3D printer worked with motors, belts and pulleys.  My grandson had been thinking about the 3D printer before he even arrived and had an "invention" he wanted to print - a Lego block with pins on each side instead of the usual pins on one side and sockets on the other.  There may already be such a thing but we went ahead and invented it anyway.  I drew the block in Fusion 360.  It seemed to me the easiest way to print it was to print two 4x4 pieces at half height and then glue them together so that is what we did.

Double sided Lego

And it worked!  Although I am sure it could be improved.  That afternoon we went to the Living Computer Museum located in Seattle near where I live.  It is well worth a visit with plenty of informative and educational hands on exhibits.

Living Computer Museum


Day 6:  We ate pancakes for breakfast and then made the trip back to their home.


I asked what we should do different next time - the answer:  More Robots!