The first time I ever heard of Arduinos was at the National Art Education Association's 2018 conference in Seattle. It was there that I attended a session on paper circuits and realized the potential of interactive art. One of the session leaders sensed my interest and told me, "if you want to take this further, you should look into Arduinos."
A chance e-mail earlier this month from our school division informed us that Saskcode was offering PD surrounding Arduinos at zero cost to school divisions. I could not have been more lucky as I had thought I'd have to teach myself using online tutorials. Off Ms. Fishley and I went today to attend an introductory session on how to program Arduinos. It is mind boggling what a little bit of software, coding, and components are capable of creating. In the Arduino level 1 workshop we barely scratched the surface, but managed to program speakers, blinking LEDs, and a motor. I stayed for the Arduino level 2 workshop in the afternoon and learned about Lilypads (wearable Arduino Unos) and programmed a remote control car. This year Saskcode is funded by a grant they received from the federal government; they provide programming for K-12 teachers and loan classroom kits out to teachers once they've been trained for one month at a time. The presenters even had a slide about STEAM in their introduction, and noted that one of the key initiatives is to get girls and non-Euro Canadians interested in technology - they noted that current research illustrates that by grade 3, girls do not see themselves in tech fields and noted this needs to change as the tech field is dominated by white, middle-aged, men. Diversity is needed in the tech field to spark creativity and innovation.
All in all it was a fascinating, brain-growing neurons, kind of a day. I learned that e-bay has Arduinos for a fraction of Amazon's cost, and that creating my own classroom kit is within my budget.
Sarah Gerrard teaches Visual Arts 9-12 at Warman High School. She recently received a grant from the Prairie Spirit Schools Foundation to infuse her courses with STEAM.