This lab-based course introduces students to electronics and robotics through the lenses of science, engineering, art, programming, and design. Beginning with a study of circuits and the electrical components that comprise them, students build circuits that contain resistors, batteries, diodes, light-emitting diodes, capacitors, inductors, relays, fuses, transistors, and chips. Labs are augmented by videos, readings, and lectures that explain how these components function and are made. For example, students learn about the efficacy of different chemicals in batteries as well as how silicon doping works in a transistor. The class looks at different production techniques, such as through hole and surface mount circuit boards. Students also learn math-based theory, including how to calculate the time constant in an RC circuit. Once students have learned how to count in binary, add in binary, manipulate binary data with logical functions, and generate truth tables, they build full adder circuits with relays. In conjunction with this exercise, chips are introduced as a substitute for the mechanical adder. The class looks at the rapid development of transistors, Moore’s Law, and how this has affected society. A discussion of basic logic chips ultimately leads to microcontroller chips and opens the door for students to learn physical computing in the context of robotics. Using microcontroller boards, students use C++ to manipulate LEDs, LCD, motors, and sensors. These skills allow them to embark on a robotic toy deconstruction project that includes rebuilding these toys with the students’ own microcontrollers, sensors, and outputs. After tackling a unit on robot ethics, students engage in a final project in which they build a large-scale robot such as a Mars rover.
Prerequisites: 11th and 12th graders who have completed Biology I and Chemistry I, and Physics I. Physics I may be taken concurrently.