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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Shrimping It! - why start with a blink sketch on the chip?

Today I tweeted for advice about the best way to put a bootloader and a blink sketch on the chips I'll be using for the BCS SPA conference next week. (There's still time to book!)

Shrimping It!
One respondent asked how people could learn to program if the chips already had a blink sketch on them. That's a good question which deserves a full answer, hence this post. But first, some background.

I'm semi-retired but over the years I've taught courses about aspects of IT to a lot of adults.

I've learned a couple of things that have worked well for me and my students:

  • I make sure everyone starts and finishes with a win, and 
  • I introduce one new idea at a time
This approach starts students off by giving them something that's easy to copy and is more or less guaranteed to work.  Then I guide students as they experiment with changes and enhancements until they have mastered all the skills they need.

So for the Shrimping lab, students will do three things to test their completed breadboards.
  1. Apply power and see the LED blink, using a pre-loaded sketch
  2. Upload the blink sketch and see the 'done uploading' message
  3. Change the delays in the blink sketch, upload again, and see the LED flash faster.
Once they've done all three, they know their breadboarded Shrimp is working, they know how to adapt and upload sketches, and they can start to explore programming on their own.

We'll see how well it works next week. I'll report back here.