Block 1: Level up Arduino

Given by Liza Stark and Emilie Giles.

The goal of this workshop was to take Arduino to the next level – to tackle more complex concepts and develop a richer understanding of the coding that makes the hardware tick the way we want it to. During the design phase, we realized how difficult creating an intermediate Arduino workshop actually is. We went in knowing our audience was probably at many different levels and decided to start from a simple, challenge-based framework, leveraging the collective knowledge of the group. Here’s where we landed.

Part 1: Where are we?

We started off by discussing what we wanted to learn together and what our pain points were concerning Arduino. Some of us hadn’t touched Arduino in a bit and wanted a refresher, others wanted to go deeper into more complex topics. As a group, we felt that combining sketches was our biggest issue.

Part 2: Cooking with code

Next we tackled basic algorithms, structure, syntax, logic flow by writing a recipe in psuedocode. We setup() our ingredients, measured them all, then applied different actions to create the perfect stew.

Part 3: Make it Blink

First we had everyone construct the circuit from a Fritzing diagram. Then we had the group try to write the blink sketch from memory. As facilitators, this helped us get a clearer grasp on misunderstandings and where common mistakes might be hiding.

From there we embarked on a series of scaffolded challenges:

  • Add another LED
  • Make them blink at different times
  • Make them blink at different times && different speeds
  • Make them blink at the same time
  • Make them blink at the same time on different pins

With each layer, we attempted different solutions, wielding loops, conditionals, and functions as primary weapons.

Like most good things, there wasn’t enough time to complete our full agenda, but this was a great start to the week!

BIG Takeaways
1) Copy/paste is your friend
Use the code that is available to you – no need to rewrite or write from scratch!

2) Copy/paste can also be your fri-enemy
Be sure to make any changes to variables and ensure your code flows properly.

3) Watch out for rogue components
If you think your code is right, try it on a new Arduino or switch out that jumper cable.

4) Ask a friend
Three heads are better than one, especially when you’re debugging.

5) There are many, many ways to accomplish the same goal
Don’t feel constricted by trying to find the “right” answer or the most elegant way to execute it. If it works for you, go with it.


Are you an Arduino novice? Do you want to level up your Arduino skills? In this workshop, we will get reacquainted with the foundations of this lovely little microcontroller, then learn how to take a basic sketch and transform it into a project.

We’ll work with breadboards, buttons, soft switches, handmade sensors, LEDs, motors, and more. By the end of the workshop, you’ll leave armed with (1) a library of essential sketches you can use as the base for any project and (2) a deeper understanding of code as an adaptable system for you to wield creative expression over.

All welcome to join! No knowledge of Arduino needed to join, but it is helpful to have had some experience.

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