December 9

Norwood High Students Try Electronics

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The task - A venue entry system

From mid August through to the end of October I had the pleasure of helping a class of year 9 students at Norwood Morialta High School to learn electronics concepts using Arduino Electronic kits. They were participating in the UNISA-Connect STEM Innovation Experience 2020 project called Carnival Capers and were tasked to create an Arduino based Royal Show Entry System.  The system was required to:

  • Count patrons entering the venue
  • Count patrons leaving the venue
  • Provide audible and visual indications of patrons entering and leaving.

Students were required to set up the system, demonstrate it and fix any issues during the assessment of the system. In addition to these requirements, the class came up with several other requirements for their system:

  • Visual light display for entry and exit
  • An RFID reader to know whether the patron is an adult, child or senior
  • A display showing the number of patrons inside the venue
  • Audio output for entry and exit
  • Motion sensors to detect entry and exit

What the students did

Over the first month or so of lessons, the students worked in small groups getting components of their system to work including simple LEDs, 8x8 displays, 16x2 displays, push buttons, RFID card reading and writing and using break-beam sensors.  I was impressed with their willingness to 'have a go' even though for some of them electronics was really not that interesting. Some of the students showed a real flair for constructing the circuits, testing the system and updating the programs. Their eventual system included three separate parts:

  • A console used to add the number of adult, child and senior tickets to a single RFID card.
  • The entry gate transmitters which transmit an IR beam which when broken, could be detected by the receivers. Two were used so that the system could tell which direction the patron was going (entering or leaving). 
  • The entry gate console which would read the RFID card, display how many patrons could enter and update the number as people entered the venue. By detecting breaks in the IR beams from the entry gate transmitters, the system could update the number of people entering and leaving the venue and display this. Audio was used to indicate a valid entry/exit, or an invalid entry made without scanning the RFID card.

Photos

The photos below show the team that attended the system assessment at UNISA, the circuits for the entry gate system, the enclosures used for each part of the system and some candid shots from the assessment.

Slider

Assembly and Testing

As part of the design, the students helped construct a console to hold the electronic components.  This hid the electronics and provided a better user interface for the gate operator. By constructing a box to hold the break beam IR transmitters, they could align these with the receivers more easily. The students tested the range and accuracy of the break beam IR sensors to get the maximum and ideal width apart for these components.

Assessment

I am proud to say that the students performed extremely well on the assessment day, ranking fourth overall in the challenge, and first for the Venue Entry System. The day was not without challenges because in transport some of the wires in the circuit became disconnected, and the students successfully diagnosed and fixed the issue.

What I learned

Before helping these students, I had nearly 30 years software engineering experience, but almost no experience with hardware design apart from a couple of workshops I helped run with the IEEE South Australian Women In Engineering Group in country schools.  Over the course of the project I:

  • Found hardware resources that didn't break the bank
  • Found software ideal to get students started with various sensors and components
  • Created/modified software so that some of the libraries for hardware were easier to use in an educational context.
  • Created instructions students could follow during a lesson to achieve a progression in their understanding of a particular circuit/sensor. 

Can I help you?

After this experience, I am happy to help local teachers run classes using Arduinos either as an interest group, or in a classroom setting. If you are within 10km or so of Adelaide and are interested in exploring this idea, phone or contact me!


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