Frequently Asked Questions

Robot built by teen

I don’t know anything about electronics or programming. How can I use this to learn myself or teach my teen?
We specifically designed our curriculum kits to be used by families with no background in electronics, programming or robotics. With clear explanations, step-by-step instructions, a complete components kit included, and one-on-one support from our amazing team, we are confident you can or your teen can successfully learn robotics at home.

What skills will we learn?
We teach you or your teen the same way we teach our students. Starting at the beginning and methodically building concrete skills in working with electronics and programming. For example, students using Level A will:
  • Gain an understanding of how electricity and electrical equipment work.
  • Learn to properly use common electrical components to build circuits.
  • Practice systematic troubleshooting techniques (click here to read more on why this is so useful).
  • Learn to read schematic drawings which is really handy in real life (click here to learn more).
  • Learn to use a Raspberry Pi (click here to learn more).
  • Gain skills programming in Python, currently the fastest growing computer language (click here to learn more).
  • Learn to use several software packages related to the Raspberry Pi and Python programming.
  • Learn to troubleshoot computer programs.
  • Gain the skills to independently tackle projects found online.
  • Have a reusable set of common components they can repurpose for later levels of the course or for building projects they find online.

Can I view a sample lesson?

Yes! Three lessons from each level are available as samples:

Can I use my charter school funding to purchase this curriculum?
Yes! We are an approved vendor for a number of charter schools and are in the process of being approved for several more. Click here to learn more.

Why not just buy a kit of parts?
When our own children reached an age where they were ready to dive into electronics, programming, and robotics, we started searching for a great kit to get them started. We were so disappointed with what we found! The kits available often have components and instructions booklets for specific projects but do not have any systematic teaching to understand how components work and interface with each other. Also, there's not much out there for integrating circuits with the Raspberry Pi making it difficult to efficiently build skills to tackle the many amazing projects available online. Essentially if you don't already know what you're doing, the other kits on the market aren't going to do much to improve that situation.
We decided to tackle this project by designing a curriculum written directly to the student which assumes no background in electronics, programming, or robotics by either the adult or the teen. We start with the most basic concepts and systematically work our way forward to achieve a thorough understanding. Our goal is that when a student completes our curriculum kits, they will be able to venture out and design projects themselves or complete projects they find online.

What if we have a question?
We are thrilled to help! Contact us via email or live chat and we will help you get on the right track.
Also, please head on over to Facebook and join the 42 Electronics User Group. It's a great place for current or perspective users to ask questions, get project ideas, and connect with other families using the Intro to Robotics program.

What age range is this appropriate for?
We designed our curriculum kits for grade 6 to adults. That being said, it's certainly possible to use particularly Level A with children a bit younger although we'd strongly recommend a younger child learn alongside an adult or older teen. We want everyone to feel successful!

For middle school students, we recommend using Levels A and B and waiting until high school for Levels C and D.
For more information, check out this video where Julie walks parents through the age range for this program as well as options for younger kids.
Please note, for younger students, Level A is most appropriate as it's a relatively gentle introduction to working with electrical components, using a Raspberry Pi, and writing Python code.

Is there a difference between lessons and kits for teens and lessons for adults?
No. Our lessons and kits are designed to be used for grade 6 to adults.

Can my teen self teach?
Yes, the curriculum is written directly to the student and assumes no background in electronics, programming, or robotics. How successful a teen will be at self-teaching will depend on the age, maturity level, and motivation of the teen. In the event you have a younger or less mature child, we suggest learning alongside your child.

Can an adult use this program?
Yes, we have a number of adults who use our Intro to Robotics program to learn to work with electrical components, the Raspberry Pi, and write code in Python. The primary advantage of this program include step-by-step instruction that starts at the very beginning and assumes no previous experience. This is generally far more efficient (and less frustrating!) than piecing together random information found online.

What if we do have some background in electronics, programming, or robotics?
With the heavy emphasis on STEM education, many teens and adults have received basic exposure to these topics. Keep in mind though that most exposure is very patchy. With our curriculum kits, we do start at the beginning and it is possible that a you may move a bit more quickly through the first few lessons. But we are confident that you will still learn a great deal about how to use specific components, designing circuits, reading schematics, and much more.
For example, while you or your teen may have built a circuit with a kit previously, do you understand how each component works? How to design a circuit or change the design and still ensure a working circuit? How to troubleshoot when the circuit fails to work? How to write a computer program to control how the circuit operates? You will after working through our course!

If you as the adult have experience in these areas, it can be tempting to just teach your teen yourself. While that's a great option, using our curriculum kits will give you structure and ensure you don't miss anything important. We've carefully developed each lesson and you can use our experience to make for a better experience for you and your teen.

Can I use this as a home school high school curriculum?
Yes. Generally speaking each level constitutes about 0.25 credit hours but depending on the amount of additional practice a student incorporates, 3-4 levels can be used for a full high school credit. Please note, assigning high school credit is a function of your state's homeschooling laws. Please consult them for more information.

How long are the lessons?

There are 18 lessons in each level:

  • Level A: 45-60 minutes per lesson
  • Level B: 60-90 minutes per lesson
  • Level C: 90-120 minutes per lesson
  • Level D: 90-120 minutes per lesson
We recommend aiming to complete 1-2 lessons per week. A single level will take 9-18 weeks to complete depending on lesson frequency.

Please note, as the concepts taught in Levels B and C are more complex than Level A, parents of younger students should consider slowing down lesson frequency to perhaps once per week. This would allow the student to complete the lesson more than once if needed and to practice the new skills prior to moving on to the next lesson.

Middle school students should aim to complete Levels A and B in 1+ school year and Levels C and D in 1-2 school years (we strongly encourage moving at your child's individual pace--there's plenty of time to complete all four levels!) Middle school student may also find it helpful to only complete Levels A and B in during middle school and save Levels C and D for high school.

High school students can aim to complete A-D over the course of a school year if desired. Extra time outside of lessons should be built in to allow the student to practice skills between lessons. We recommend high school students schedule 4-5 hours a week to complete all four levels in a single school year.

Adults can expect to spend approximately 15 hours completing Level A, 25 hours completing Level B, 30 hours completing Level C, and 25-30 hours completing Level D.

How often should my teen do lessons?
Each level contains 18 lessons and we recommend 1-3 lessons a week depending on how motivated the student is. For a middle school student, completing 1-2 lessons a week over 1-2 years would be appropriate. For a high school student, we'd recommend 2-3 lessons a week to complete two levels in one semester or four levels in a school year.

Are the kit and curriculum reusable ?
Yes! The contents of the kit and the curriculum are fully reusable for multiple members of the same household and with proper care the parts can be used on many projects in the future. The curriculum may not be resold or given away to another family.

Is the kit resuable for other curriculum levels?
Yes! The components of each kit will be reused in future levels of the course.

Are the kit components reusable for other projects?
Yes! The contents of the kit are reusable for other levels of the course as well as for projects found on the internet. One of our goals is to ensure that each student completing our course has a collection of components to tackle projects they may dream up.

What else do we need?

Yes, besides the curriculum and kit, there are a few things you will need for Levels A and B but you likely already have these items on hand:

  • AA Batteries x2
  • Computer Monitor (or television provided it has HDMI inputs)
  • HDMI cable (likely currently attached to your computer monitor)
  • Keyboard and Mouse (use a wired keyboard and mouse if possible)
  • Internet access, wired or wireless (optional for Level A, required for Level B)

Please note, none of the equipment needs to be exclusive to the Raspberry Pi. The student can easily hook up the family computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and internet access each time they do a lesson if resources need to be shared. Please note, a laptop does not take the place of a computer monitor for this purpose.

For more information, check out this video where Julie walks you through the extra equipment requirements.

For Level C, a few additional items are needed:

  • A Desktop Computer, Laptop, or Chromebook
    • Must be connected to the home network via a wired or wireless connection (this can be the family’s regular computer as it will be used in networking lessons)
  • Anti-Static Mat
    • Highly recommended to prevent damage to more sensitive equipment such as the Raspberry Pi camera; click here to find one at a bargain price. This is particularly needed in Level C.
For Level D, a few additional items are needed:
  • AA Batteries x6
    • These are used to power the robot, we recommend rechargeable batteries, click here to learn more
  • 9v Battery
  • USB Drive
    • Minimum 4gb
  • Electrical Tape
    • Used to build a track on the floor for the robot to follow; use black electrical tape if you have light colored flooring, use white electrical tape if you have dark colored flooring
  • USB to SD Card Adapter (optional)
    • Optional activity in Lesson D-1 shows students how to back up their SD card to their computer, click here to see links to adapters

We need replacement parts. Where do we purchase those?
Replacement parts can be found here.

Why is the curriculum only available as a PDF download? Can I buy a printed copy?

The PDF files containing the curriculum can be downloaded following purchase. The component kit will be mailed to you within several business days.

We do not offer printed copies of the curriculum for several reasons:

  • When reviewing concepts, it is very beneficial to be able to search the curriculum document for information about a skill you are working with.
  • The technology you will be working with changes regularly and we typically update the curriculum every 2-3 months to assure you are working with the latest information. Sometimes the changes are significant (screen layout, menu options, procedures, etc.) It is advantageous for you to have access to this updated information via the electronic copy of the curriculum. We want you to keep moving forward with their lessons, not getting stuck and frustrated because a menu option changed.
  • We want to save some trees and keep your cost down! Our program is lengthy and the book would not only be heavy to carry around, it's simply unnecessary to print it. All lessons can be read and completed with the file pulled up on a tablet, laptop or desktop.
  • If you wish to print a full copy of the curriculum, we recommend The Homeschool Printing Company for their quality work and reasonable prices.

Why can’t I buy the curriculum separately from the electronic equipment?
We are fully committed to helping you troubleshoot any bumps you may have while using this course. Doing that effectively becomes a great deal more difficult if you are using a different breadboard configuration, different resistor values, etc. Offering all the items in a kit ensures the very best educational experience. We know exactly what parts you are working with and can skip straight to helping you figure out your challenge. Keep in mind too that the components are reusable so while the kit is an initial investment, with proper care, you can continue to use the components long after the lessons are completed.

Can I sell or give away the curriculum?
No. The curriculum can only be used within the family. Each PDF file is marked with the purchaser's email address for use by their household.

Are videos available? Live courses?
At this time we do not have a video or live course component. On one hand, we've written the curriculum to not require videos. With easy-to-follow instructions and pictures, we are confident you will be successful with each lesson. Also the tiny nature of many of the parts makes it hard to clearly represent circuit assembly on a video--photos are far easier for students to work with.
However, we realize that videos are particularly useful for certain learning styles and therefore videos are likely to be available at some point in the future. Likely late 2020. All current users (at the time videos are made available) will be grandfathered into video access.

How would I use this kit with an unschooled child?
We've received a number of questions from families who unschool and want to support their child's desire to learn these skills, but are uncomfortable using a "curriculum". Please let us reassure you that while we use the words lessons, curriculum, etc. it is really more of a step by step guide, conveniently broken up into manageable chunks (lessons). The guide is written to the student and is ideal for an older child working independently or for learning alongside an adult or older teen. Parts of the guide, such as the questions for understanding at the end of each lesson, are optional (although even if your child just reads through them, it can be helpful to ensure understanding before moving on). Click here to view a sample electronics lesson. Click here to view a sample programming lesson.

How would I use this kit for afterschooling my child?
With many parents placing a priority on STEM education and many schools meanwhile cutting back on extracurricular activities, it's become necessary for parents to work with their children after school, on weekends, holidays, etc. Please be reassured that this curriculum is written to be usable by a parent or older child who has no background in electronics, programming, or robotics. Even if you've never sat down and tried to teach your child anything formally, we are confident this will work for you.

Would robotics be considered a handicraft under the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy?
Yes! The term handicraft essentially refers to useful hands on activities and skills. STEM based skills such as electronics, computer programming, and robotics are all a lovely fit for the handicraft time. Our curriculum and kit is adaptable to multiple children learning together and the lessons can be broken up into 30-45 minute lesson blocks in keeping with the CM scheduling preferences in the higher forms (grades). Of course this program can also be used as an open-ended afternoon occupation as well.

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