Learn Water Purification Techniques With This STEM Learning Kit

We see a lot of great STEM education projects. These projects have a way of turning into something much larger. How many commercial devices and machines are built on Raspberry Pi’s and Arduinos? [Ryan Beltrán] is using common materials to teach people how to clean water. This particular kit demonstrates a water purification process called electro-coagulation.

When current is passed through two electrodes suspended in water it changes the surface charge on the suspended solids. This causes the solids, metals, and oils to clump together which makes them considerably easier to treat and clean.

The kit consists of a jar, electrodes, some 3D printed parts, and a pre-flashed Arduino. There’s also salts and filters to finalize the purification process. Students can start the experiment right away and if they’re inspired they’ll have all the tools to try more advanced techniques.

Often STEM kits lean heavily to robotics or computer science, but there are so many vast and interesting fields out there with problems that need to be solved.

InstaBeat Started Out Of Spite

[Tom] teaches electronics with this small programmable MP3 player, but it didn’t get its start as a teaching tool.

As all parents are sometimes required to do, [Tom] was acting as chauffeur for his daughter and his friends. When he played the Beatles one of his passengers informed him that she was completely devoid of taste and didn’t like them at all. So he decided what the world needed was a Beatles appliance. This way all the ignorant plebs could educate themselves at the push of a button.

The machine is based around some SEED studio parts and a simple PCB. It was able to hold all 12 original albums and even announced their titles in a generated voice. Since the kit is easy to put together it was quickly re-purposed as a teaching aid. They get to learn the laser cutter and do some through-hole soldering.

He has plans to turn it into a more formal how-to workshop that anyone can duplicate.He’d also like to make a small software suite for playing with text-to-speech and hacking the speaker into other roles such as a multi meter.

The Ifs Make Learning To Code Child’s Play

Anyone who has done the slightest bit of programming knows about the “Hello, World!” program. It’s the archetypal program that one enters to get a feel for a new language or a new architecture; if you can get a machine to print “Hello, World!” back to you, the rest is just details. But what about teaching kids to program? How does one get toddlers thinking in logical, procedural ways? More particularly, what’s a “Hello, World!” program look like for the pre-literate set?

Those are the sort of questions that led to The Ifs by [Makeroni Labs]. The Ifs are educational toys for teaching kids as young as three the basics of coding. Each If is a colorful plastic cube with a cartoon face and a “personality” that reflects what the block does – some blocks have actuators, some have sensors. The blocks are programmed by placing magnetic tabs on the top representing conditions and actions. A kid might choose to program a block to detect when it’s being shaken, or when the lights come on, and then respond by playing a sound or vibrating. The blocks can communicate with each other too, so that when the condition for one block is satisfied, something happens on another block.

The Ifs look like a lot of fun, and they’re a great jumpstart on the logical thinking skills needed for coders and non-coders alike. We’re not alone in thinking this is a pretty keen project – the judges for this year’s Hackaday Prize selected The Ifs as one of the twenty finalists. Will it win? We’ll find out next week at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference. If you won’t be in Pasadena with us, make sure you tune in to the livestream to watch the announcement.

Review: OSEPP STEM Kit 1, A Beginner’s All-in-One Board Found In The Discount Aisle

As the name implies, the OSEP STEM board is an embedded project board primarily aimed at education. You use jumper wires to connect components and a visual block coding language to make it go.

I have fond memories of kits from companies like Radio Shack that had dozens of parts on a board, with spring terminals to connect them with jumper wires. Advertised with clickbait titles like “200 in 1”, you’d get a book showing how to wire the parts to make a radio, or an alarm, or a light blinker, or whatever.

The STEM Kit 1 is sort of a modern arduino-powered version of these kits. The board hosts a stand-alone Arduino UNO clone (included with the kit) and also has a host of things you might want to hook to it. Things like the speakers and stepper motors have drivers on board so you can easily drive them from the arduino. You get a bunch of jumper wires to make the connections, too. Most things that need to be connected to something permanently (like ground) are prewired on the PCB. The other connections use a single pin. You can see this arrangement with the three rotary pots which have a single pin next to the label (“POT1”, etc.).

I’m a sucker for a sale, so when I saw a local store had OSEPP’s STEM board for about $30, I had to pick one up. The suggested price for these boards is $150, but most of the time I see them listed for about $100. At the deeply discounted price I couldn’t resist checking it out.

So does an embedded many-in-one project kit like this one live up to that legacy? I spent some time with the board. Bottom line, if you can find a deal on the price I think it’s worth it. At full price, perhaps not. Join me after the break as I walk through what the OSEPP has to offer.

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Clean Water Technologies Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, September 4th at noon Pacific for the Clean Water Technologies Hack Chat with Ryan Beltrán!

Access to clean water is something that’s all too easy to take for granted. When the tap is turned, delivering water that won’t sicken or kill you when you drink it, we generally stop worrying. But for millions around the world, getting clean water is a daily struggle, with disease and death often being the penalty for drinking from a compromised source. Thankfully, a wide range of water technologies is available to help secure access to clean water. Most are expensive, though, especially at the scale needed to supply even a small village.

Seeing a need to think smaller, Ryan started MakeWater.org, a non-profit program that seeks to give anyone the power to make clean water through electrocoagulation, or the use of electric charge to precipitate contaminants from water. There’s more to MakeWater than electrocoagulation kits, though. By partnering with STEM students and their teachers, MakeWater seeks to crowdsource improvements to the technology, incorporating student design changes into the next version of the kit. They also hope to inspire students to develop the skills they need to tackle real-world problems and make a difference in the lives of millions.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, September 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Parallax Update Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, August 28th at noon Pacific for the Parallax Update Hack Chat with Chip and Ken Gracey!

For a lot of us, our first exposure to the world of microcontrollers was through the offerings of Parallax, Inc. Perhaps you were interested in doing something small and light, and hoping to leverage your programming skills from an IBM-PC or an Apple ][, you chanced upon the magic of the BASIC Stamp. Or maybe you had a teacher who built a robotics class around a Boe-Bot, or you joined a FIRST Robotics team that used some Parallax sensors.

Whatever your relationship with Parallax products is, there’s no doubting that they were at the forefront of the hobbyist microcontroller revolution. Nor can you doubt that Parallax is about a lot more than BASIC Stamps these days. Its popular multicore Propeller chip has been gaining a passionate following since its 2006 introduction and has found its way into tons of projects, many of which we’ve featured on Hackaday. And now, its long-awaited successor, the Propeller 2, is almost ready to hit the market.

The Gracey brothers have been the men behind Parallax from the beginning, with Chip designing all the products and Ken running the business. They’ll be joining us on the Hack Chat to catch us up on everything new at Parallax, and to give us the lowdown on the P2. Be sure to stop be with your Parallax questions, or just to say hi.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, August 28 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Expert Says Don’t Teach Kids To Code

I was a little surprised to see a news report about Andreas Schleicher, the director of education and skills at OECD — the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Speaking at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Paris, Schleicher thinks that teaching kids to code is a waste of time. In particular, he seems to think that by the time a child today grows up, coding will be obsolete.

I can’t help but think that he might be a little confused. Coding isn’t going away anytime soon. It could, of course, become an even deeper specialty, and thus less generally applicable. But the comments he’s made seem to imply that soon we will just tell smart computers what we want and they will just do that. Somewhat like computers work on Star Trek.

What is more likely is that most people will be able to find specific applications that can do what they want without traditional coding. But someone still has to write something for the foreseeable future. What’s more, if you’ve ever tried to tease requirements out of an end user, you know that you can’t just blurt out anything you want to a computer and expect it to make sense. It isn’t the computer’s fault. People — especially untrained people — don’t always make sense or communicate unambiguously.

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