30 Mar, 2010

Arduino in Schools (visual programming options)

Posted by: Brian In: electronics

call and response
Image by sctv via Flickr

I have been thinking about Arduino and Schools for a while. What I like about Arduino is the ease of use, of getting something happening quickly, I particularily like the call and respsone code. . I would like to see the user base explode, and that could happen with some help in schools teaching of Design and Technology. The incumbents in this are parrallex / Pic.

One of a number of people are thinking about how to get arduino into schools.

For this we need to think about a few diferent things.

The price: Arduino is still a little expensive(around £21), it is possible to make a small board with the microcontroller on it for a few pounds (or even paper : see paperduino), the main cost is the ftdi chip/usb interface that allows the arduino to talk to a computer. With the multi leaded surface mount ftdi chip retailing for £3-4(read: more complicated than the atmel chip it talks to), and the cables going for £15 it would not be possible to have a lot of these cables.

I am interested to see what comes out of the discussions of Arduino Puntu Zero, i know it may be some cut down versions.

How to access arduino, a lot of the competitors to arduino have visual programming(for instance Flowal). Here are the three visual programming languages I know of for the arduino.

amici (Windows and OSX) from Eduwear

EduWear aims at contributing to the reduction of inhibiting factors by employing an approach rooted both in education and in ICT development. The objective is to develop an educational low-cost construction kit for wearable and tangible interfaces.”

scratch (osx and windows) + processing/catenary + firmata

Catenary is a small, easy-to-use program that allows a project written in Scratch ( to communicate with an Arduino board ( Catenary is written in Processing (, and runs as a Java application. It takes advantage of Scratch v1.3’s ability to send and receive broadcasts and global variable messages. Catenary acts as a middleman, shuttling certain messages back and forth between the Arduino board and Scratch. (windows and osx) downloads

Modkit is an in-browser graphical programming environment for little devices called embedded systems development. Modkit can currently program arduino and arduino compatible hardware using simple graphical blocks similar to and inspired by the scratch programming environment.

Updates: amici now has an osx version.

Interested in any Linux based visual programming tools  for arduino.

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6 Responses to "Arduino in Schools (visual programming options)"

1 | Eva

April 6th, 2010 at 10:43 am


Thanks for this interesting overview on visual programming tools for Arduino!
It made us think about updating Amici for Mac — and here it is:

2 | Mário Pinto

July 19th, 2010 at 5:18 pm


In Cultura Livre we are currently thinking and designing Arduino workshops targeted not directly to schools, but to all the citizens who want to experiment with this kind of technologies and Free Culture practices.
We think that the price of the Arduino is one of the problems that can be solved when the number of users increases (scales up the usage and scales down the price), and the main problems are still finding people that can give training to these people; getting the schools and other public institutions engaged in promoting digital literacies and skills in the communities and promoting a culture of experimentation and prototyping.
We are interested in everyone who has tried this kind of programs communities, in order to share experiences and help each other.


August 3rd, 2010 at 2:15 am


[…] a combination of Scratch + Serial Server as explained here […]

4 | Visual Programming Arduino: modkit and the others | SquareCows

October 6th, 2010 at 10:01 am


[…] post has a good review about all the other arduino visual programmers. [Comment if I miss […]

5 | Julián da Silva

October 23rd, 2011 at 8:01 pm


Hi! I released today Minibloq Beta. It’s free and you can download it from:

The sources will be published once some key features become finished.


6 | Terry King

February 14th, 2012 at 10:27 am


Take a look at ArduBlock which is pretty mature already and has some support from the Arduino developers:

Regards, Terry King
…On the Mediterranean in Italy

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Brian Degger is a technologist/artist, he writes, thinks and makes around themes of interactivity, biomimicracy, and collaboration

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