We are creating a collection of sensor kits for science classrooms. Each kit will be accompanied by web-based interactive lessons that incorporate live sensor data. These interactive lessons will guide students through using the sensors and exploring scientific concepts.
In addition to these lessons, each kit will have a teacher's guide. We will provide full support and documentation for teachers. We will also provide connections between the lessons and the Next Generation Science Standards. We think technology should help teachers, not replace them.
We believe students should learn from hands-on real-world experiences. We also believe students should become comfortable with data, scientific processes, and mathematical representations of the world. Sensors are ideal for combining these two goals: they bridge the gap between the physical world and mathematical world.
Ultimately we want to build an entire ecosystem of hardware, software, and content for teaching math and science. We want to support citizen science, open data, and data literacy. We want to build a community of people who are excited about this kind of teaching. This project is a first step and we'd be happy to have your support.
For this Kickstarter project we plan to design, create, test, and distribute a collection of kits for science classrooms. Each kit will be accompanied by two or three multi-section interactive lessons and a teacher's guide.
Project implementation details
Each kit uses an Arduino microcontroller, an electronic board that connects to your computer using a USB cable. The Arduino is used by hobbyists, artists, and educators around the world. We'd like to bring them into more science classrooms.
Each kit also includes a Grove shield, a board that stacks on top of the Arduino and allows devices to connect to the Arduino using small cables. This platform was introduced by Seeed Studio, an open source hardware company. No soldering or electrical skill is required; you simply plug each device into the Arduino. (Note: you can obtain lots of other shields for the Arduino for other purposes.)
The Arduino communicates with our web-based lessons using a browser plugin. This browser plugin works with Mac OSX and Windows using Chome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
The lessons do not require any programming knowledge, but we do provide optional tools for Arduino programming. This includes a web-based Arduino code editor that lets you send code to an Arduino directly from a web browser. Students and teachers can save and share code without having to worry about downloading files or installing software and drivers (aside from the browser plugin).
Every kit will include a Grove shield (as described above) and a laser-cut base plate for your Arduino. Together these protect the Arduino circuitry. The kits require an Arduino (not included).
Physics cart timing kit
This kit provides two IR reflective sensors that can be used measure the velocity and acceleration of a cart on a track. We provide parts for the cart while you provide a length of 2x4 lumber and a section of electrical conduit (not included, but can be bought at a hardware store for under $10).
Wireless egg drop
This kit provides an accelerometer attached to a small (Digispark) microcontroller and radio transmitter, powered by a 9V battery. It sends live acceleration data to an Arduino that passes the data to a computer. This wireless egg drop hardware fits into a small plastic container (provided). The device can also be used on a cart, pendulum, or other moving system.
This kit features a 3-axis compass accompanied by a lesson that lets students plot 2D maps of magnetic fields. The kit also includes sensors for measuring current and voltage, plus parts for building a simple DIY motor and simple DIY electromagnet.
Test-tube color/clarity sensor and temperature probe
This kit combines an RGB color sensor with a white LED to measure the color and clarity of water in a test-tube. This can be used to quantify chemical reactions or environmental water quality (e.g. turbidity and algae color). As a bonus, this kit includes a waterproof temperature probe.
Plant watering system
This kit provides parts to build an automated plant watering system: a pump, soil moisture sensor, water level sensor, buzzer, relay, and 12V power supply. An Arduino can be programmed to turn on pump when the soil moisture is too low and turn on the buzzer when the water supply is low. You must provide your own plants, soil, pots, and Arduino.
Wind and solar kit
This kit includes a wind turbine kit, solar panel, and a current sensor. Students can get live feedback on the performance of their wind and solar projects. They can design different blade configurations and experiment with different solar panel positioning. The wind turbine hardware is produced by Kid Wind.
DIY project kit
This kit includes a variety of Grove devices that can be used for building various projects: a light sensor, temperature sensor, tilt switch, sound sensor, potentiometer, push button, LED, relay, screw terminal, and prototyping board. Like the other kits, it includes a Grove shield, Grove connecting cables, and laser-cut base plate.
Who we are
Peter Sand and Elliott Dicus have been working on this project for over a year. Peter has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Elliott has a B.S. in Computer Science. We have had help from Marc, a math teacher in Minneapolis, Heather, a biology graduate student in Albuquerque, and many others.
We have formed a nonprofit, ManyLabs, Inc., to further the goal of bringing low-cost hands-on math and science education into as many schools as possible. The ManyLabs office is located in San Francisco, California.
We have working prototypes for each kit. The browser plugin is implemented and functional. Our lesson authoring tools are implemented and functional. We have already created a half-dozen interactive lessons that work with these kits.
While our Kickstarter campaign is under way, we will talk to Seeed Studio about new electronic parts required for these kits. We will also continue to test and refine the custom laser-cut components. After the Kickstarter is complete, we will order the electronic parts and laser-cut parts.
The bulk of our work will be developing interactive lessons to go with each kit. This will begin during the Kickstarter campaign and continue for about two months. As we develop the lessons, we will seek out teachers and students to review the materials.
$7500: We will provide free public access to our sensor plotting tool. This gives you live plots (time series, histograms, and scatter plots) of data from one or more sensors connected to an Arduino. It has built-in support for dozens of different sensor types. You can save, share, and download your data. (You will still need a full-access account to access the complete set of interactive science-subject-specific lesson content.)
$10,000: We will add new lessons and new kits. We've reached this level and added the kits. Details below!
$15,000: We will create a citizen science data sharing platform. This will have a public API so that people can upload data from sensors anywhere in the world. We have a prototype of this system, but need to spend time improving it before it's ready for public use.
$20,000: We will create authoring tools for interactive lessons. These tools will allow anyone to build lessons that incorporate live sensor data using a collection of building blocks. You'll be able to incorporate sensor plotting, graphics, quizzes, data sets, mathematics, and videos without any programming. (Simulations and complex interactions will require some programming.) We already have a working prototype of the authoring system, but it needs a lot of work before it's ready for the public.
Note: Our first priority is still the kits and lessons to accompany the kits. We'll ship the kits before we work on the data tools and authoring tools.
Stretch goal kits
We've added the following kits since we've reached our $10k stretch goal. These kits are available at the $220 reward level, which includes an Arduino and one of the kits above. Note that the $600 level does not include these kits. They are included at the $1000 level.
Extended physics kit
This includes an instrumented pendulum, instrumented pulley, a sonar sensor, and a force probe. The kit comes with an Arduino, USB cable, and one of the $75-level kits (the cart kit would be a good choice).
Weather sensor kit
This includes the following sensors: temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, light, wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall. The kit comes with an Arduino, USB cable, and one of the $75-level kits.
Environmental sensor kit
This includes the following sensors: temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, light, sound, CO, and NO2. The kit comes with an Arduino, USB cable, and one of the $75-level kits.
Plant growing box
This includes a temperature-controlled fan, humidity sensor, lamp, timer, and OLED display. The kit comes with an Arduino, USB cable, and the plant watering kit from the $75 reward level.
Risks and challenges
One major challenge will be ensuring that all of the lesson content is useable and useful for students. We will have each lesson reviewed by multiple science teachers. We will collect feedback from both teachers and students about how we can improve the lessons.
Another major challenge will be obtaining all of the hardware. We already have talked to suppliers for all of the parts, but we may nonetheless face delays if parts are not available in the desired quantity.
We do not expect challenges with manufacturing. All of the circuit boards are manufactured by third parties. Our own manufacturing is limited to laser cutting; we have 10 years of experience with that process.
We do not expect packaging or shipping the rewards to be a major challenge. We have already distributed hundreds of sensor kits.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (44 days)