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Project-based Learning with Single-Board Computers

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Evaluation: Technology and Tools for K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1272.1 - 26.1272.18



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Paper Authors


Joseph D. Steinmeyer Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Joseph Steinmeyer is currently a lecturer in the EECS Department at MIT. He obtained his BS in EECS from the University of Michigan in 2008, and his MS and PhD (also in EECS) from MIT in 2010 and 2014, respectively. His research interests currently center around neuroscience and engineering, educational technology development, and STEM curriculum development at both the high school and college level.

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Project-­‐Based  Learning  with  Single-­‐Board  Computers       Inexpensive  single-­‐board  computers  such  as  the  Raspberry  Pi  and  BeagleBone  Black  are  a  powerful  class  of  tools  for  introductory  and  enrichment  programs  in  the  STEM  fields.  These  devices  and  the  software  suites  developed  for  them  provide  unprecedented  accessibility  for  students  in  exploring  both  the  hardware  and  software  sides  of  Electrical  Engineering  and  Computer  Science.    While  significant  documentation  for  a  variety  of  hobbyist  projects  utilizing  these  single-­‐board  computers  is  readily  available  online,  there’s  a  lack  of  literature  focusing  on  deployment  of  these  devices  in  the  classroom  or  more  organized  settings  at  the  primary  and  secondary  level,  and  much  of  what  does  exist  places  heavy  emphasis  on  the  software  or  programming-­‐only  uses.  Over  the  past  two  years,  we  have  experimented  with  deploying  BeagleBone  Black  or  Raspberry  Pi  single-­‐board  computers  in  project-­‐based  introductory  STEM  courses  for  rising  high  school  seniors  with  an  emphasis  on  hardware  (circuit)  and  software  (embedded  Python  programming)  integration.  This  paper  details  the  curricula  we  developed  during  this  period.     Our  work  was  carried  out  in  the  context  of  three  different  summer  programs,  all  intended  for  rising  high  school  seniors  from  a  broad  range  of  backgrounds:  a  six-­‐week  program,  a  one-­‐week  program,  and  a  one-­‐day,  three-­‐hour  workshop.  For  each  program  we  developed  a  series  of  laboratory  and  project-­‐based  assignments  featuring  single-­‐board  computers  suitable  for  the  respective  time  constraints  of  the  individual  programs.  In  this  paper,  we  include  details  of  the  laboratory  exercises  for  each  of  the  three  programs  as  well  as  example  final  projects  developed  by  the  students.  In  addition,  we  also  provide  quantitative  analysis  of  student  performance  in  these  laboratory  settings  and  quantitative  and  qualitative  student  feedback  (approximately  100  total  student  participants  in  all  programs  across  both  years)  regarding  the  courses.     While  this  work  was  carried  out  using  BeagleBone  Black  and  Raspberry  Pi  devices,  the  curriculum  and  results  are  not  platform-­‐specific  and  can  be  easily  used  with  future  single-­‐board  computer  platforms.  It  is  our  intention  that  the  work  presented  will  provide  a  basis  for  future  curriculum  development  with  single-­‐board  computers  in  a  variety  of  settings.        

Steinmeyer, J. D. (2015, June), Project-based Learning with Single-Board Computers Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24609

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