by Will Li (’23) | February 14, 2022
When people visualize computer programming, what often springs to mind is a geeky adolescent equipped with horn-rimmed glasses, hunched over a laptop and fingers furiously flying across the keyboard. Walk into an Arduino Uno meeting, however, and this stereotype vanishes. Here, club members merge coding with hardware engineering to construct various interactive projects. “Arduino is used in many platforms across the world, from something as simple as turning on a flashlight to the chips you see in your laptops,” explained board member Utkarsh Agarwal (’23).
Arduino Uno differs from other Saint Francis technology clubs in its emphasis on hardware. Moderator Ms. Shraddha Chaplot considers Arduino Uno “the hardware aspect” of the Lancer Tech League, an amalgamation of five technology clubs that she moderates, including the Programming Club and Cybersecurity Club.
Board member Nitish Gourishetty (’23) agrees that Arduino Uno constitutes its own distinctive branch within the Lancer Tech League: “The other tech clubs on campus are much broader. Our club is specialized. It’s just Arduino.”
Despite the club’s specificity and seemingly enigmatic nature, Arduino simply refers to a subcategory of engineering that entails implanting small but powerful microcontroller circuit boards called Arduinos within larger widgets, such as lights and motors. These microcontrollers produce physical responses to “environmental external stimuli”, such as lights switching on at a certain time or brightness, explained board member Swathi Badrinarayanan (’23).
Programming is still essential to power the circuit boards, however. According to Agarwal, a computer with code of any language, usually C++, is attached to an Arduino via a local area network (LAN) cable, enabling the code to power the widget containing the Arduino.
Multiple versions of Arduino boards exist for sale, all of which are manufactured by a company also dubbed Arduino. Saint Francis’s club uses the Arduino Uno, the most well-known version (about 2.1 by 2.7 inches), since the variety of Uno examples online facilitates newcomers’ introductions to Arduino programming, according to Board Member Pranav Amarnath (’23).
According to club member Hale Feldman (’25), the team has been developing an autonomous car since the start of the 2021-22 school year, which is estimated to be complete by May 2022. Amaranth stated that the main objective is to assemble the physical portions of the car at the biweekly meetings. After consolidating the various components to form the twenty-by-twenty-inch vehicle, the builders will connect wires from the Arduino to the car’s motor. They will then connect a computer containing the car’s code to enable detection of and maneuvering around obstacles. “[This project] is a pretty big step up,” said Gourishetty.
Despite the extensive scope of its current project, Arduino Uno was officially established just one year ago in January 2021, said Agarwal, who began building the club in November 2019.
After Agarwal recruited fellow board members and other interested students, the club launched its own website to showcase simpler projects from the 2020-21 school year, which can be found at www.sfhs-arduino-club.com. These include a blinking LED, a lava lamp that mixes different colors, and a spaceship interface that flashes lights to simulate the countdown before a rocket launch.
Having facilitated numerous projects, Arduino Uno also aspires to impact students beyond Saint Francis. Agarwal plans on hosting Arduino summer camps at local middle schools, such as Saint Joseph, “that really want to embrace a love for technology.” He explained, “Many schools don’t have that yet, and I think kids who are interested could benefit from this [technological] environment.”
The club is also considering entering Arduino competitions, especially when “a lot more experienced builders” join the club next year, he added.
At present, however, the Arduino enthusiasts are eager to continue developing their car. “Last semester, we learned a lot about how [Arduino works],” explained club member Shreeyans Sahu (’23). “Now, we get to put our ideas to life.”