Pre-College Programs
STEM I for Middle School - SPARK

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Hack Your Space: Bringing J.A.R.V.I.S. Home

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course Description

There are many reasons to envy Tony Stark, the Marvel character who created Ironman. He’s rich, good-looking, and can invent pretty much anything he wants. While the first two qualities are beyond the scope of this course, we can tackle the third. We want you to be able to build whatever you want, and this class will help you learn the skills.

First off, we won’t be handling arc reactors, flying at high velocity, or developing advanced weapons. Let’s start with the basics. Before Tony Stark built his Ironman suit, he built J.A.R.V.I.S., the artificial intelligence that controls his home. In addition to designing and assembling exosuits, J.A.R.V.I.S. can control the house’s temperature and lights, detect intruders, and alert Tony to anything out of the ordinary. These household duties and others are made possible in our class by an inexpensive and easy-to-learn electronic system called Arduino.

You might think you need to be a genius like Tony Stark to get these things to work. In fact, other people have already done most of the work for you and put their code online, so you don’t need super hacker skills to complete projects like this. And what if you do want to become a coding genius? The best way to learn is to do many projects like these!

So what will you do in this course? You will become familiar with programming Arduino microcontrollers. You will build some cool home automation projects that you can take home with you. And you will learn where to find parts, code, and answers to your questions for whatever future projects you want to tackle. Possible projects for this course include a programmable thermostat, motion detector, and remote-controlled electrical outlet so you can monitor your house and turn lights on and off from the other room or with a smartphone from the other side of the world. While home automation is the theme for this course, the skills you will learn are useful in many other areas. If you want to build a robot arm, a drone, or a self-driving toy car, this course will help you get started. Each student will be given a kit with all required components plus a few extras for future inventions.

Students will be given background information in building digital circuits and programming microcontrollers. However, a fully-developed understanding of these topics is impossible to achieve in the timeframe of the course. For this reason, our main learning goal will not be mastery of the entire subject, but a familiarity with the resources and methods used in completing projects. This will help students gain confidence to tackle projects on their own. The real mastery will come as students continue to explore and enjoy similar projects for years into the future. And who knows, once you’ve got J.A.R.V.I.S. up and running, you can move on to more, shall we say, "ambitious" projects.

There are no specific prerequisites, though any prior coding or electronics experience will be helpful.

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