October 3, 2023

Arduino Science Projects and Physical Computing

Use Arduino to combine circuits and programming for a range of cutting-edge physical computing science projects.

Arduino Science Projects And Physical Computing

Use Arduino to Add Coding to Electronics Projects

The Arduino UNO is a microcontroller board that makes it easy for students to get started with physical computing. Unlike programming or coding projects that involve writing programs that run on a computer, physical computing (also called embedded computing) involves adding programming to circuit-based projects, like electronics and robotics. A microcontroller makes it easy to prototype circuits and programs. Often used to connect with sensors, lights, and motors, a microcontroller only runs one program at a time and is usually used to program a specific function or behavior, like turning an LED on or off or changing color or brightness based on set parameters or sensor-based data. Many of the devices and appliances we use everyday have embedded microcontrollers.

The How to Use an Arduino is available as a tutorial to help students get started working with Arduino.

Arduino Science Projects!

Featured Arduino Projects

  1. Build an infinity mirror: after building an infinity mirror using LEDs and mirrors, add an Arduino to program the color of the LEDs used in this mesmerizing “endless tunnel” optical illusion.
  2. Design a heart monitor: design, build, and program a custom heart rate monitor that fits individual needs. Students will use the engineering design process to determine the best approach to making this device based on the intended use and design criteria. (For other wearables electronics projects, see 8 Wearables Science Projects.)
  3. Make a wearable air quality monitor: use sewn circuits, a TinyLily mini processor board, and Ardunio programming to design a wearable air quality sensor to monitor and alert when particle pollution in the air is dangerously high. (For a guided activity, see Make a wearable air quality sensor.)
  4. Build a smart home device with voice control: explore the use of speech recognition technology in smart home and AI devices by building a voice-controlled lamp.
  5. Explore altitude control with a mini drone: after building the basic DIY popsicle stick mini drone, add a simple circuit and an Arduino to investigate altitude control. (For a series of activities you can do with the basic mini drone, see Drone Science with a DIY Popsicle Stick Drone. The DIY Mini Drone Kit has the parts needed to build the basic mini drone. Additional parts are required to integrate Arduino and test features in the subsequent projects.)
  6. Program a self-driving car: explore the cutting-edge science behind autonomous vehicles by combining a BlueBot robotics project with Arduino programming. (For additional projects you can do with the BlueBot kit, including several that use Arduino, see 10 Robotics Projects with the BlueBot Kit.)
  7. Train people to belly breathe: build a breathing monitor that can help train people to engage in healthy belly (diaphragmatic) breathing.
  8. Create a model artificial pancreas: set up a model artificial pancreas to explore what is involved in the feedback loop required to keep blood glucose within a healthy range in people with insulin-dependent diabetes.
  9. Grow plants in microgravity with a clinostat: build a clinostat and compare plant growth in regular gravity and simulated microgravity. Because a clinostat rotates continuously, plants can’t easily tell which way is “down.” How does this affect their growth?
  10. Build a Model Mass Driver: build a mass driver (also called an electromagnetic catapult, space gun, or coil gun) and experiment to see how it can be used to launch objects at high speeds. This approach could be used, for example, to launch heavy materials into space for building a space station.

View all Physical Computing Projects that use Arduino

How to Do Your First Arduino Project!

For students getting started with Arduino, the How to Use an Arduino tutorial provides a series of videos that teach the fundamentals of working with Arduino, starting with the basic “setup” (the video shown above) and progressing step-by-step through additional things to connect, try, and troubleshoot. For example, the second video guides students in setting up the circuit and writing a program to blink an external LED.

The Arduino tutorial introduces students to writing and uploading programs, building simple circuits, and interfacing with inputs and outputs like buttons and LEDs. After working through the basics, students can progress to using Arduino in projects like the ones highlighted above.

(Educators: The Introduction to Arduino lesson plan is available for introducing Arduino in a classroom or group setting. This lesson will teach your students the basics of working with an Arduino: writing and uploading programs, building simple circuits, and interfacing with inputs and outputs like buttons and LEDs. This sets the stage for more advanced projects like building robots, drones, voice-controlled appliances, and more.)

Arduino-based Physical Computing in Action

The following STEM videos demonstrate some of the projects highlighted above:

Related Resources

For additional resources to explore computer science, electronics, and maker projects, see the following:

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