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What To Cover In a Short "DIY Tech" Course?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the when-bedazzler-is-not-enough dept.

Education 256

edumacator writes "Our school is working hard to provide our students with relevant opportunities of study. We have a short 'seminar' period that meets three days a week for thirty minutes. I've chosen to teach a seminar on 'Home Grown Technology' even though I'm an English teacher and only an amateur techie. If you had thirty minutes, three days a week, for nine weeks, what would you teach a group of high school students? I'm considering the Wii-mote smartboard and multitouch displays, but I'm afraid I'm overreaching."

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A long-lasting technology (1, Insightful)

davebarnes (158106) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599239)

Morse Code.

Re:A long-lasting technology (4, Interesting)

j35ter (895427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599459)

show the kids how to build a PotatoGun (tm).
That should keep them interrested

Re:A long-lasting technology (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599831)

MightyMartian [] did my ass last night, bitch!

Re:A long-lasting technology (1)

cjzlducls (1643807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599577)

- -- ---- - - -- i think Morse code can be interesting...but not for that class of Morse Code would be a good idea..:)

Re:A long-lasting technology (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599627)

How about building a reprap? Constructing a machine that can build most of its own parts is a rather useful task. Doing so will cover electronics, mechanics and material science all in one go.

Re:A long-lasting technology (2, Funny)

elfprince13 (1521333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600041)

spark gap transmitter.

Re:A long-lasting technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29600067)

Morse Code is dead. Long live Morse Code.

But if you want to learn, this free course and an mp3-player is a great way to start:

Bomb making? (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599241)

See above.

Improvisation? (3, Interesting)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599723)

Instead of bomb making, take a lesson from bomb makers all over the world. Improvisation. Each week teach the students some basic principles, say, how electric motors or toasters or pulleys or whatever work. Then give them a range of materials out of which they can make their own device. As you go, choose items with which you can teach basic but important principles in physics and electronics. Later on in the course, do repairs on household appliances etc (pref low voltage or get an electrician on hand to take care of your public liability). Each lesson tell a short story about a cool but simple invention.

Man I would love to teach that course.

Re:Improvisation? (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600057)

THIS THIS THIS! For three weeks, teach principles, then have them put sh*t together. (Half the fun will be deconstruction a bunch of unwanted appliances *for class*!)

cocksucking (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599245)


Lego Mindstorms (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599259)

Lego Mindstorms [] would be a good, fun place to start.

Re:Lego Mindstorms (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599301)

Yeah, but if we're talking about a public high school's budget these days, you may as well being telling him to build a breeder reactor out of smoke detectors... Mindstorm is expensive and schools are el cheap-o about spending money. Hell, my mother who is a high school ap Spanish teacher just had to put up all the money for supplies to build a pinata to represent the school at an event sponsored by the Richmond Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which the Principal later tried to take credit for, but has yet to reimburse my mother for the expense, at least since the last I heard of it.

Re:Lego Mindstorms (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599713) a pinata to represent the school at an event sponsored by the Richmond Hispanic Chamber of Commerce...

Does the district have severe racial problems?

Re:Lego Mindstorms (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599815)

Gloucester mostly doesn't have other races... Richmond has a lot of problems which depending on how you want to look at it, may or may not be racially caused, but certainly are drawn on racial lines... that and because VCU kids suck.

Actually, I only heard of this Richmond Hispanic Chamber of Commerce deal last week... I didn't know there was such a thing until I went home to visit my parents over the weekend.

Re:Lego Mindstorms (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599963)

Actually, they're caused by statuary that sucks. (See: Ashe on Monument. I went to U of R when the whole fuss happened, and thought the proper solution was to toss the statue in the James and commission a decent one.)

Re:Lego Mindstorms (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600083)

FWIW I'm looking at having to fund and "interesting" science curriculum for my daughters class.

I already have a standing wave tube built out of polystyrene beads in a 6 foot long, 6 inch diameter plexi tube.
This would also be an awesome demo for the school kids for the OP.
I'm looking to build a tennis ball canon powered by dropping a bowling ball down a tube.
yeah, OP should expect to have to fund much of this himself.

Teach them something useful (4, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599275)

I'm considering the Wii-mote smartboard and multitouch displays, but I'm afraid I'm overreaching."

Not necessarily overreaching (I guess it depends on their prior experience), but those projects, while they have a definite "cool" factor, aren't particularly useful.

Personally I would stick to teaching them more useful stuff... maybe basic repair of electric appliances, or if you want something more advanced and that has both the cool factor and would be useful (at least to some people), maybe this DIY book scanner. []

Re:Teach them something useful (3, Informative)

tloh (451585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599575)

How about starting off with the proper use of a multimeter? Just being able to find out the current/voltage/resistance conditions on various rigs have served me well in the past.

Re:Teach them something useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599589)

Two words HERF gun.
In the something useful category though I you could start by teaching them how to build a PC from components. It's a simple project, readily available spare parts are undoubtedly in your school IT offiece's bone yard and it provides that much needed illusion of accomplishment while dispelling any irational fears that computers are too complicated. You could probably milk it for 3 whole days if you explain what each part does.
After that MAKE has tones of cool embedded microcontroller projects on their website with kits on the CHEAP. My personal favorite the CNC mill Instructables has one too but you could probably slap the MAKE one together in a day when you demonstrate

Re:Teach them something useful (2, Insightful)

URL Scruggs (1230074) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599819)

I strongly disagree. I think too many people are put off electronics by the utilitarianism, maths and feeling like they need to know something before they start. I would suggest circuit-bending, the skills can be picked up along the way and there isn't really knowledge threshold for starting. I think it's far better to teach people the principles of reverse engineering and give them an idea that they can just do things. Take away the scariness of opening the lids on stuff and it could lead to all sorts of creativity, ingenuity and so on - broader skills than repairing toasters.

Agriculture (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599281)

Crop agriculture, farm equipment repair, and irrigation systems.

Kroger is NOT the future.

Re:Agriculture (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599379)

The way things are going, I'd throw in the construction and usage of spears, slings and bows.

That way you can steal other people's crops. Er, I mean, stop them stealing yours.

Pyrolysis of biomass. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599303)

Pyrolysis of wood or other biomass such as garbage into carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas for use as a fuel for vehicles or cooking.

Re:Pyrolysis of biomass. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599411)

2nd vote on this one- it's an easy experiment requiring only two garbage cans and a loop of copper tubing.

Go with basics (3, Insightful)

Hungus (585181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599321)

Go with basics: EM interference/signal crossover and Electrostatic Discharge. Each one can be taught in a 30 minutes session and would provide such a foundation to further lectures.

Re:Go with basics (3, Informative)

basementman (1475159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600065)

Because nothing says a good time like Electrostatic Discharge.

Designing and building (3, Insightful)

wronski (821189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599323)

I'm sure there will be many interesting suggestions, but to me it would be preferable to focus on building simpler devices which the students design themselves, rather than something fancier that forces them to simply follow a blueprint (because they won't have the time/expertise to design it from scratch). Of course, there will be a continuum between 'built from scratch' and 'paint by numbers'-type projects, with different levels of student involvement in its design, and you'll have to find your balance.

Engineering! Fun and applicable! (4, Insightful)

sh()gun (249305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599325)

I've always thought that teaching something that combined science, engineering, and Vo-Tek would be highly practical in high school.

How about Small Engines? You can buy a small lawnmower engine (and a manual) and teach them principles of mechanics and combustion while also levening parts of "how things work" as well as basic repair techniques. Eventually you put the thing back together and start it up. You can even show how to mess with it to trick it out or solve common problems.

Not only would this get kids interested in science and engineering, but it would be practical.

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599653)

>How about Small Engines?

Do you have small engines in America?

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (2, Informative)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599739)

Only on lawnmowers made in Japan.

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (4, Funny)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599903)

Sure. The V8 on my weed whacker is only 5.7 liters. It's tiny.

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (5, Insightful)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599657)

That's a damn good idea. Another one would be to teach nothing at all. Seriously.
There is sooooo much DYI tech that's been done floating around. Just expose them to it. HD video from the edge of space on a weather balloon. Multi-stage water-rockets which can go up 1km. Homebrew wifi antennas which can cover miles. Diesel-electric engines crammed into sedans. Ruben's tubes. Railguns.
Rather than teach, expose them. Show them what's been done. Challenge them to go beyond that. The point of DIY tech is it's...."do it YOURSELF!" It's not "have my teacher show me how to do it".
Seed their dreams, and let them figure the rest out.

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (1)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600033)

Provide links and you just made the lesson plan.

Re:Engineering! Fun and applicable! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599821)

How about Small Engines? You can buy a small lawnmower engine

You can buy a pile of barely-working RC engines for relatively cheap.
It's not a gas engine, but the principles are the same.

A good place for a few ideas.. (1)

Shinu (1196897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599327)

can probably be found in those "Things every man should know" articles, which should have a few tech-related items.

obviously (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599333)

how to suck cock.

Linux installation (3, Insightful)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599347)

rather useful skill... develops a desire to learn more about computers.

Re:Linux installation (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599421)

Make sure they use Gentoo too.

Re:Linux installation (2, Funny)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599485)

The class will be over in 9 months, but they'll still be compiling..

Re:Linux installation (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599695)

Have you been in a coma for the last 5 years? Its all about works out of the box now, the infrastructure is utterly irrelevant apart from a small minority. Its all about what your imagination can build on top of it now and how quickly you can get it on app store.

Re:Linux installation (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599889)

Some, like Gentoo, let you go through a lengthy, arduous (but very powerful and customizable) installation process.

microcontroller projects (3, Informative)

longtailedhermit (1544819) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599357)

i would spend at least a couple of weeks having them build and program some microcontroller projects.
here's a place to start: []

Arduino is a physical computing platform based on a simple open hardware design for a single-board microcontroller, with embedded I/O support and a standard programming language. The Arduino programming language is based on Wiring and is essentially C/C++ (several simple transformations are performed before passing to avr-gcc). The goal of the Arduino project is to make tools available that are accessible, low-cost, low capital investment, flexible and easy-to-use for artists and hobbyists. Particularly those who might not otherwise have access to more sophisticated controllers that require more complicated tools.

Teach 'em something useful (4, Interesting)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599361)

Like clicking on a link in an unsolicited email is a BAD idea.
I took a course in 10th grade, it was some simple electricity course, Electrical safety, series and parallel circuits. resistors and capacitors. The final project was to build a simple electric motor. Including winding the armature and coil by hand.

I found this course much more useful in real life than just about anything else I have ever learned.

Re:Teach 'em something useful (5, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599597)

I was going to put a vote in for some kind of electronics project as well. I am finding that more and more of my friends (college age +) who have great DIY spirits (car and motorcycle tinkering, learning computers in depth, even sewing) look at electronics as some sort of black box of magic that they can't/shouldn't tamper with. My own roomate was looking for a pair of LED blinkers to install on his motorcycle, when I recommended he make some himself using bought/scavenged materials he got nervous at first. When I started drawing some circuit diagrams for him and told him I would help he got excited.

My point is, electricity, in and of itself, is nothing to be feared/worshiped if properly understood. Teaching kids to hack away at some electronics could greatly improve their understanding of some of the most common items we use everyday.

As for a suggestion, I would tell you to have each of them go home and get their parents/grandparents to donate an old walkman to them for a project. Then have them disassemble it and use the components to make some kind of mobile toy (hence using something with a motor) that they can take home and show off. Of course, this requires soldering, but it still could be great fun for them. I personally have built two Symets (little bouncy pseudo robot things) from old Discman's and had a great time doing it.

That's my two cents.

Me too (2, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29600035)

Electronics. people don't know jack about electricity. could start as simple as static electricity and giving shocks to people. you could make a van-dagraph from junk.. old soap bottles with paper clips make nice capacitors. then work towards a simple circuit from scratch--- a motor might be a nice idea but a generator / motor would be better-- ties into the 'green' movement; they could power an LED from their hand-made generator and a simple prop placed on it.

Could mess with solar, but the cells cost and are ez to break.

I've seen plenty of "educational" kits out there for doing solar and mini wind generators-- both are jokes but get the point across. The kids are expensive and a WASTE of money because it takes the learning out of it-- those things are no better than assembling a model of something. Actually, assembling a model of something-- as dumb as it is-- does teach motor skills, patience, attention to detail, and spacial relations. My brother is a shop teacher and kids these days have a hard time doing a half decent job assembling simple plastic models -- in high school!

Re:Teach 'em something useful (2, Insightful)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599649)

It's a do it yourself tech course in high school... It's not supposed to be useful, it's supposed to be fascinating and hopefully get a few students more interested in pursuing further. Leave the computer basics to a computer class (or hopefully their parents...). However, the basic electricity course you described looks like it would be dead on. I can't think how often I'd need to hand wind an electric motor ;)

You need to figure that you're teaching a high school class. You might have one or two students that are capable and motivated enough to get into complicated hacking and the rest that just want to get through the class. *Your* challenge is to come up with something that the majority of the class can accomplish while still allowing those handful of students to push further. I'd also argue that DIY Tech should have a stronger electronics background - most highschoolers wouldn't know how to use a multimeter... Digging into programming microcontrollers will be a stretch for a lot of your students at that grade (though admittedly I don't know what programming interfaces the devices mentioned use... If it's straightforward enough, go for it).

Re:Teach 'em something useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599711)

So your day job is winding wire? I get what you're saying, but how was that class "useful in real life" to you?

Re:Teach 'em something useful (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599995)

Stuff like that transfers to other projects. Same principles, different application: wind your own pickups for an electric guitar. Play around and learn how to vary wire thickness, number of coils, and even magnet type for a hotter or mellower sound, etc.

Re:Teach 'em something useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599881)

I agree with teaching some basic electrical safety. I had a basic electronics course in high school and it helped me figure out how a lot of things work. The safety part is important however. The teacher I had literally went to the hardware store bought plugs, wire, sockets, light switches, and light bulbs and told us to build our own light that plugged into 120V wall outlet. No instruction was given about how to go about this or safety precautions to take. We were told to simply "Google it" if we needed help. At least 3 different people(including the instructor) managed to get pretty good shocks before the teacher decided this might be unsafe and switched over to a new project.

So yea, teach electronics but do it with batteries instead of the wall outlet.

The Basics (2)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599367)

I'm currently in high school, taking a handful or tech courses so I have a good idea on what the population wants.

First, one real to abide by, please: Make the work more about giving them what they NEED to know; as opposed to just giving them some busy-work (Put in some projects and hands-on labs).

Since programming isn't it for everyone, I'd go a hardware direction. First teach them what the components in a computer are, and take a few sessions to explain what they do (Power ratings, manufacturers, ect.)
Once they know the basics well, try to get your hands on a few old computers. In my experience, every school has at least a handful of old desktops, laptops, and a few CRT's laying around waiting to be disposed of (Or in this case, tampered with ;D)
Put the individuals in groups and let them attempt to dissemble and re-assemble the machines. If you still have some time left, maybe go into gadgets and consoles? That's sure to be a hit.


Re:The Basics (2, Informative)

Hungus (585181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599443)

Right have a bunch of common people play with CRTs... Thats always a good way to start (a lawsuit). How about not letting them play with things that can easily kill them to start with. And it is not just the high voltage side that can reach out and grab out, the low voltage side of CRTs can potentially do more damage than the high side.

Re:The Basics (1)

Hungus (585181) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599989)

GP (aka clueless poster) says untrained people should "tamper" and "attempt to dissemble and re-assemble" CRTs.

  I say thats dumb because it can kill people and some idiot mod thinks I am trolling?

Sorry Mod but CRTs can knock you for a loop and potentially kill someone if handled incorrectly. There is a reason why there is specific training for discharging both the high and low voltage sides of a CRT. Why you wear a static discharge strap on th e hand with the tool and you work one handed until the unit is discharged. Its so it doesn't go across your heart and stop it from beating. So go take your accusations of trolling and go get a clue.

OK time for a serious responce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599391)

What level is the School High school, Junior College? what is the tech Background of the students? How relevant to Life do you want the class to be?
If the class is High school level I would Start with Basic home networking and computer repair. with that as a base you can move in to DIY network devices For Example my 12 year old daughter and I built a home surveillance system over 6 weekends. 12 wifi cam covering the entire property all recorded on a 72 hour loop on a server in the basement.

I did something similar with 8th graders (5, Interesting)

EMB Numbers (934125) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599429)

I did something similar with 8th graders. Use short physical projects to keep them engaged. Have each student build a tower out of a single sheet of copier paper and tape. The tallest free standing tower wins. Build boats out of measured amounts of aluminum foil. The boat that holds the most marbles before sinking wins. Build water rockets out if 1L plastic bottles. Build bridges out of tooth picks, paper, and glue. The bridge that holds the most weight before failing wins.

Each of the projects can be completed in 2-3 half hour sessions with almost no material cost. These projects teach basic physics and engineering in a fun and competitive way. You can even repeat the same projects later in the term so that the second rounds of towers are designed with knowledge gained in the first round, etc.

Digital Electronics. (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599433)

First I'd teach some basics: Ohm's law, serial/parallel circuits, etc. Then using a transistor as a switch to turn LEDs and/or relays on and off. Then build up some AND and OR gates, followed by some address decoding and control logic. Throw in some parallel port I/O stuff in as well.

Re:Digital Electronics. (3, Interesting)

geekboybt (866398) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599549)

This. Then move up to stuff like a 555 timer and a counter, which are incredibly cheap (on the order of a few bucks at most per set). Finally, if the budget allows, move up to an Arduino.

Re:Digital Electronics. (2, Interesting)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599715)

I would put a couple of these together. How about get them to control a simple electrical device (lamp, motor, laser) from a PC? At a very simple level, this would include basic electronics, the transistor switch project, some programming, and wiring up a parallel port adapter. This is a nice introduction to robotics and physical computing.

One 30minute project. (2, Interesting)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599445)

Ask them to prove where Celcius and Farenheit meet. After they struggle, give them the equation as a hint. F= 9/5C+32

Re:One 30minute project. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599515)

The idea is that you want them to come back the next day.

Re:One 30minute project. (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599593)

its a very easy and satisfying solution (I wont use the P word)......

Home Networking 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599447)

I would do a series on creating a basic home network, where you cover the basics of setting up a wireless network for their home:

1. Configuring and installing an off-the-shelf wireless access point.
      a. Password protect your network (Basic explanation and good/bad about WEP, WPA, etc.)
      b. MAC address filter
2. Configuring laptop to connect automatically to wireless network.
      a. How to connect to network that doesn't broadcast SSID.
      b. Profiles
3. Printing wirelessly
4. Accessing a shared storage device on the network.
      a. Copying files to/from networked storage.
      b. Mapping network drives. (Windows)
      c. Backing up to networked storage.

If that doesn't take up most of the time, you could also teach them basic troubleshooting [] techniques.

Re:Home Networking 101 (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599947)

5. Wardriving.

How Not to Be Seen (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599461)

Oh wait.. It's been done. []

Camera Self Timer. (3, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599481)

Seriously, how many photos of hot young girls in the mirror or even worse that look like they're trying to point the camera at themselves.

Do the world a favor, show them that most cameras have a self timer. Heck my Canon has an awesome feature where it'll crank off up to 10 photos after a custom timer delay. Plenty of time to 'get into position'.

Perfect, but a carreer killer (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599499)

"How to Make Noise and Break Things"

Thermite: intro class

Potato Gun: that will take about a month.

Tannerite (look it up)

Black Powder

Muzzle loading canon

All of these things could be a wonderful teaching tool for all sorts of physics and chemistry.

And social science when everyone else freaks while your kids stare with rapt attention.

And then for Political Science when your ass gets arrested to doing things that are perfectly legal.

Fire (1)

daveywest (937112) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599507)

If the school will let you burn things, try building alcohol burning camp stoves. They don't take long, and different styles can be compared/tested against each other in scientific method experiments.

Instructables. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599523)

If you are looking for "home grown technology", Instructables [] is pretty much your wet dream.

Basics first (2, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599531)

You got 27 half-hour sessions. At least three of these should be spent on basics if the students haven't already had them, such as soldering & desoldering, basic principles of electrical/electronics (including reading diagrams) and using a multimeter... one that measures capacitance, frequency and temperature if you can afford it.

And basic safety, of course.

From there it's really a matter of what, exactly, you want your students to take away from your class.

The multitouch display is neat but the bulk of it is programming; do your students have any programming experience? Do you have time to teach them?

Homebrew robotics can be pretty straightforward and inexpensive. A few stepper motor drivers (Allegro used to give free samples of their 5804 controller...), some stepper motors of course (Easily salvaged from dead scanners/printers), a spare PC power supply, an old PC with a parallel port and adequate amounts of wire can make a pretty versatile robot platform.

If you want something more digital, microcontroller projects might be a bit of an initial investment but are also pretty cheap in the long run. Build robotic platforms, embedded data loggers, "smart" appliances, etc.

$20 worth of properly rated relays and isolation components will turn a PC into a crude home automation system. Add in photo sensors, temperature sensors (thermistor + ADC chip), motion sensors, etc for a more complete system.

Keep is simple, keep it cheap, keep it interesting.

cover basic electronics skills (1)

beckett (27524) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599537)

You don't have to go overboard and etch your own circuit boards, but learning to solder really goes a long way. you can talk about cold solder joints, RoHS and the future of equipment failure. It would be great to show how to splice and insulate wires properly, how to replace a frayed cord on an appliance (huge money saver), and the basic safety tips about working on household current. teach them to read a wiring schematic while you're at it, and show them how to use a multimeter properly.

if you have 9 weeks and three sessions a week, could do 9 small projects, and maybe assemble a Arduino clone on a breadboard by week 2, which would provide a spark for other homegrown ideas by week 9.

Re:cover basic electronics skills (1)

beckett (27524) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599585)

Also, depending on what kind of students you have, with kids never assume you're overreaching. In the reality of the overcrowded classroom, teachers frequently set the bar far too low. Give them assignments that are open ended, and always offer constructive criticism and show how they could make their project even better.

90 minutes per week? (1)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599563)

What amount of time do you expect the students to put in outside of class? 30 minutes three times a week is not enough to much, unfortunately. It will take 10 minutes for them to start concentrating, and if you need lab materials, that leaves about 15 minutes of combined teach/work time before they'll be leaving.

The Spectrum: from hardware to software.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599567)

Week 1: Bring in hardware that they can touch, and physically identify components on. PC, mobile phone, monitors, different connector types. (i.e. hardware you don't need, and aren't going to require ground straps for the students...)

Week 2: Show them the software side. Show them BIOS, what an OS is, drivers for hardware, services.... Programs utilizing said hardware: Games for graphics, Audio suite for audio, etc.

Week 3: Server-side, vs. client-side relationship. Show them how a web server works, and why not all browsers visually render the same site code, exactly the same ( unless coded to counteract that ).

I'll leave the rest up to you, but your options are wide open. Main point to all this, is put them in a hands on environment, thinking differently about technology.

Internet North America Outage (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599603)

Anyone having connection problems?

See Intenet Traffic Report [] .


DIY Tech? (5, Insightful)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599609)

This sounds a little broad. Are you looking at it from a hacker scene? Electronics and Mechanical building? Electrical, mechanical, and chemical technology?

Most of the projects posted on would be a good starting point. While the wii is cool, it only touches on a small number of technologies. I would recommend having a final project in mind, and developing the skills required to finish that final project. For example,

1.) Basic electronics (How to solder). Use a kit from ladyada or If you get a small enough kit, a beginner can solder a kit in less than 10 minutes. ( might be fun). Addon: How to use a voltmeter
2.) Basic programming (Create a simple program on the PC).
3.) Basic woodworking: How to use a drill, saw, and other tools Safely.
4.) Basic Plastic/Metal working: Create a professionally looking project enclosure. (Look at the proper glues, cutting methods, tricks for a decent enclosure)
5.) Basic Chemistry: Creating a mold, possibly making gears for # 6
6.) Basic Mechanical: Creating a gearbox
7.) Basic Plumbing/hydrolics/pneumatics: How to get water/air from point A to point B
8.) ...

The best programs will have an end project in mind, such as a small car or an elaborate prank. Each step will be directly related to the final product, giving the students a purpose and motivation to do well.

Re:DIY Tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599969)

What is the difference between AC & DC? Why doesnt everything run on AC? Why doesnt everything run on DC?
What is a Volt, an Ampere, a Watt? Will 1500mA of 9VDC stop my heart? How about 10A of 120VAC?
What's the difference between series and parallel?
What is a transducer? (hint: you probably have 3 in your pocket)
What is a transformer? A resistor, a capacitor, a diode, a relay, a coil? And for god's sake what is a transistor?
Demonstrate all of Newtons laws.
Demonstrate all simple machines -- Ramp, Lever, Pulley, etc.
Eplain how a refrigeration system (Air Conditioner) works.
Spend a day on Boolean Logic (AND, OR, NAND, etc) and Binary.
"Take stuff apart and put it back together." Critique the engineering design -- what did they get right? What wrong? Any "aha" moments?

Now use the above knowledge to do something fun and cool, like build a robot or basically anything in any issue of Make Magazine.

how about.. (1)

cjzlducls (1643807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599615)

how about you ask the students what they wanna learn? because these days, oh man high school students are beyond our imagination!

Re:how about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599729)

this is a great idea, have each student come up with a subject that they want to learn about, and fit 1 subject per 30 min period.this way everyone learns something from the class.

For the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599633)

Anything but "how to make a LED flash with an arduino"

DC Motors (1)

rrhal (88665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599667)

Build a basic DC motor - copper windings, permanent magnets, bend up tin for brushes. Then after you've messed with the tech for a little while build a brushless DC motor. Build a little dynamometer and compare mechanical power out to electrical power in.

Useful advice (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599697)

Do not insert soldering iron into eye.

MAKE (3, Insightful)

anglophobe_0 (1383785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599733)

I would think a lot of the stuff from MAKE! Magazine would be useful.

Principles of troubleshooting and then... (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599741)

Check out the book, "The Complete Problem Solver" by Arnold ( [] ) . Then use these methods for troubleshooting technical problems that abound locally, in order to teach principles. Take easy problems, and reward students for finding and reporting on useful examples of their learning during the week. This way you can find a variety of problems in different technical areas and keep them interested. Advanced methods of this sort are in, "The New Rational Manager" by Kepner and Tregoe and, "The Thinker's Toolkit" by Jones.

Basic Electricity is a good topic to work with, as is, "Caveman Chemistry" by Dunn ( [] ) . Remember, technology is not just about computers and electronics; it is a way of thinking. US Army Combat Engineering courses have pretty good low tech instruction (as do some Boy Scout courses) and basic Geometry/Trig problems in doing things like finding the height of a tree/cliff/building or basic astronomy principles all contribute. I'd suggest treating it more like a lab than a lecture. Good luck.

Small tesla coil (3, Interesting)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599745)

I'm making one right now with a buddy. Parts will cost you about $75 after you find your neon sign transformer.

Start out with the transformer. Right there is a lesson in power/watts/amps etc right off the bat.

HV caps are expensive, so make some leyden jars.

Hook up your coils and caps and you've got some sparks.

Then you can move on to inductance and resonance and tune the thing.

Add a rotary spark gap, terry filter, power conditioner etc as they learn more.

Get a couple neon bulbs, build a corona motor, etc.

I've got some experience in electronics, but in the past few days my knowledge is really starting to solidify.

Plus giant sparks are fun, everyone will dig it.

Ham radio (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599755)

How about the original home grown tech, ham radio? Simple projects abound and the technician license is easy to teach and pass.

Teach them the best troubleshooting advice ever. (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599809)

Teach them how to use GOOGLE and other online search tools to help them solve their problems. Got an error message? Don't bitch about it! Write it down and google it. Teach basic trouble shooting DIY tips. Future IT professionals will thank you for this.

Project Management (2, Interesting)

mistermocha (670194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599811)

I would encourage you to teach the students about project management. Put them into groups of three, tell them to come up with a concept of a project, and develop a plan to bring it to fruition. Have them search for resources among peers. Encourage them to form relationships with other groups so that projects can support each other. Teach them about managing resources - time, money, talent, etc.

Let them figure out the specific details of their projects and approach subject matter from a higher level - skills in leadership, teamwork, resource planning, and organization. This will encourage them to make their own decisions about what they want to do, which leaves detailed subject matter open to the students' interests and strengths. You could also take it a step further and see if you can get the hours in place towards PMP certification. This way, the education *directly* applies to a potential career after high school is over.

Musical Equipment (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599857)

Everyone I knew back in high school who as into electronics was into it for one reason: Fixing guitar amps, guitar wiring, effects pedals, etc. In high school I built a solid-body electric guitar for a project and then did a demonstration through a tube amp cobbled together by a dude who is now married to my little sister. My guitar is beautiful... that amp, not so much... BUT it worked very well.

Maybe make a PA and a speaker cab, wire some pickups or something, etc... you're bound to have a few kids in class who play, and if they don't already know how to fix their own shit, you can bet that they'll thank you forever when they're able to -- repair work isn't cheap, but the materials aren't that bad if you know how to do a little soldering and follow a schematic.

Robots and things are cool to us, but this is something that's both cool, kinda geeky, and which the students will actually see practical value in.

mindstorms!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599859)

do the lego stuff!
there are many schools where it is now in the courses for certain subjects!
it also can be used with many diff prog languages and also DIRECTLY uses the stuff from NI, labview i think. which is an industrial product.

also easy to prototype add-on boards

Game console modding (1)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599921)

Pick up an original Xbox, walk them through a softmod and a Linux install, teach them to make USB adapters for the mouse and keyboard.'ve taught them about computer internals, BIOSes, operating systems, and how to solder, and they thought it was all about video games.

Open Source Hardware (2, Informative)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599933)

You can get some pretty cool projects going quickly and easily with an Arduino [] . Combine that with Processing [] and you can do almost anything...

How to Learn (1)

Fear13ss (917494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599961)

In a short time frame like that I believe a lot of the topics suggested above require more time then you'll have. My suggestions, which falls right into yours, is to teach them how to learn. While it seems like it's implied, very few people in society these days have the ability to learn on their own. In the DIY community this is extremely easy, given the plethora of how-to's and guides out there. I would say your first topic should be effective search techniques, part of learning is weeding out all the bad information and knowing where to find it. I myself believe the concept of "Teaching" is a dying art, as the true goal of it is to promote "Learning" which can be done any place at any time. Unleash the power of the Internet and the global community and maybe they'll go far. "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." Some good resources for the job,,,, and From those, one could amass the knowledge our ancestors only dreamed of. Hope that helps and good luck.

At the risk of being serious... (1, Redundant)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29599965)

1. Basic customer service skills. I'm assuming you will also be teaching some about fixing stuff. Get your victim's/customer's/friend's name, and use it. Pay attention to what they say. Rephrase your responses until the understand. Try to leave them with a solution that not only works, but that they can see works, and can see if it fails. Stand behind your work. Be focused on your customer first, and then do the techie stuff.

2. Ethics. Same scenario as above. Don't go snooping around their hard drive looking for music and warez.

I come at this as a service tech, so I'm usually making stuff for people to use. Sometimes they have no idea what it is, just that it does whatever they need.

Of course, since you're more into the DIY stuff;

3. Safety. Glasses, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, safe work area, flammable precautions, etc. Oh, and tool safety, like how not to stab yourself with a screwdriver, and how to use a table saw (which the short version is, as if it will reach out and steal your fingers, cause it will).

All the other stuff is way more fun, so feel free to leave my suggestions until the last day of school.

I'm probably about 70% off-topic. Sorry bout that.

Crawl before you can walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599977)

To preface my answer: if you are asking what things you need to found a country, most people are telling you courts, money and laws, and I am saying something more like "air".

Cover some things that are the very basics. I am thinking of things like what is a bit, byte, hertz, watt, ohm, and so on (tailored to what you will be doing over the course). Also cover the SI prefixes and note the difference between 2^10 and 10^3. I would not, however, spend more than an hour (and even then, that may be too long) on it. Have them do a small quiz or worksheet (etc.) on it - whatever fits your teaching style. And then maybe have it be a single question on later tests, quizzes and what not to make sure they remember.
They need this because they need to understand the language of what you are talking about. The Slashdot page about poor computer salesmen underscored this when people related tales about being sold something like a piece of memory with a 2GHz capacity. Granted, this is a bit boring, but they cannot be as engaged in your class if they do not understand what you are saying.

Screw Projects, focus on skills! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29599999)

Show them how to use basic geek tools to build drug paraphernalia. They'll already know they're not cool (if they're taking this course) and will be leaning towards drugs as a crutch. You'll just be giving them life skills while helping them help themselves.

Been there, done that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29600005)

I would teach them how to use a screwdriver, an old toothbrush, and clean a computer!
Along the way, they would learn chemistry, phyrics electronics and quality assurance.
result would be you could use the compters to build internet labs.

(although the MAKE! Magazine is an increadubly good idea!)

How about teaching them how to do it themselves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29600015)

I think a course about learning how to do handle semi-technical projects in general would useful.

Cover things like:

        * How to define the scope of the project
        * How to identify the goals or requirements of
            the project _before_ getting started
        * How to estimate time to project completion
        * How and where to search for information when
            they get stuck on something
        * Basic application of scientific method for
            testing their project

I think this would be sort of a "project management" course but with entry-level hands-on and technical experience. I think the challenge would be to keep it from becoming to dry and boring, but hopefully that's where the hands-on aspect would help. I think the key would be to make all of the above relevant to a project of their choosing.

Opening things up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29600081)

The only thing that I an really say is teaching them when to be afraid of opening things and when not to be afraid of opening things. I spent 3 months with the dreaded disc read errors on my PS2 before my brother could convince me to open the damned thing up and that I wouldn't break it or get hurt. Manufacturers do a damned good job of scaring the ignorant into not opening products for fear of electric shock, and the average user can easily fix simple things themselves.

Homebrew PC + Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29600099)

If you have a few hundred dollars to throw at it, get components off of Newegg to build a low-budget PC. As an alternative, see if the school has a working machine that can be broken down to component-level and rebuild that...the parts don't have to be new.

Spend the time explaining the in-and-outs of each component, and get it all running in a case, with assistance from students.

Install Linux to instill the intrinsic value of "free" (as in beer) software and you'd have done them a great favor.

My $.02.

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