Pre-engineering class at Gompers High School, 2009-2010:
Dissecting Wii Remotes and building a Secret Knock Detector
Initiated by two of my classmates (Lauren Grosberg and Ryan Field) and funded by IGERT, this program brought six Columbia engineering graduate students to an underfunded high school in the Bronx. In pairs, we devised a curriculum and taught electrical engineering once a week for five weeks. The class is a small group of students who are interested in pursuing a college program or career in engineering but have had little access to the field.
My partner, Mike Khalil, and I based our first unit on “reverse engineering”, the process of studying an existing device in order to understand how it works, to modify it, or to copy the design. We illustrated aspects of this process by giving each group a Wii remote to take apart, probe and modify. After a review on using a multimeter and soldering, the students “modded” their Wii remotes and eventually designed and built their own controllers, soldering new components to the Wii remote and using them to play Tetris. The students were enthusiastic and did very well with the project; most had successfully created a working controller by the end of our unit. For our detailed lesson plans, see the links at the right.
Our second unit used the Arduino, a low-cost programmable microcontroller, to teach students about programming. In this unit, students wired input and output modules to the Arduino and programmed a “secret knock detector.” When the Arduino detected a specific sequence of knocks on a door, it would unlatch an electric door lock and open the door.
For More Information:
See a Video of our Gompers students!
Our Lessons for the Programming Unit: