SparkFun Electronics

SparkFun Electronics (4)

SparkFun Electronics is excited to announce the company's inclusion in a new educational initiative between the state of Vermont and For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics. The groundbreaking pilot program, which is currently in place at 10 Career and Technical Education institutions, offers a $3,000 grant from the state of Vermont to each participating program.

The first $1,000 of the grant is allocated to a SparkFun Inventor's Kit LabPack, which includes 10 complete Inventor's Kits, plus 10 more Arduino Uno boards, Baseplates, Circuit Overlays, Breadboards and Kit Guides. The LabPacks are SparkFun's classroom entry point and combine its ProtoSnap, LilyPad, Inventor's Kits or Arduino-compatible through-hole soldering kits with support materials, bringing all the power of the open source community to the classroom.

The remaining $2,000 of the grant provides a portion of the fees required for a school to institute a FIRST Robotics program. FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. Currently, there are approximately 300,000 K-12 students who participate in FIRST Robotics teams and annual competitions around the country. The grant will help offset the starting cost a school needs to join the program.

"To me, the Arduino is becoming the backbone for product development," said Douglas Webster, CTE Coordinator for the Vermont State Department of Education, who worked with SparkFun's Department of Education to create the grant program. "We were trying to get CTE centers on board to be thinking 'robotics/automation/integration of technologies' and Arduino training is a step in that direction. The impact Arduino has on the Maker movement, product development and inspiring youth to become engaged in STEM education is largely untapped. It made sense to offer one grant to purchase kits for both Arduino and FIRST."

State support for the grant program also shows a significant increase in the scope of understanding about the need to facilitate a new generation of STEM education, with a parallel understanding of robotics and electronics innovation and an open source approach to both.

"It gets the state on board promoting emerging technologies within our schools. STEM education buzz to date has meant strengthening mathematics and science. But with standardized tests and other initiatives, the system has been playing that game for decades and has shown little results," Webster said. "By supporting enabling technologies that engage youth in creating and innovating – and the integration of the arts – we may yet see an impact on test scores. However, is it test scores we really care about, or is it the innovation? I'd say inventiveness, creation and a renewed culture of innovation. We have too many problems to solve and now, not later."

"What's really interesting for us is how Vermont is introducing this highly-successful FIRST system, which traditionally is not open-source, while concurrently introducing the open-source model [of SparkFun]," said Jeff Branson, one of SparkFun's educational outreach coordinators. "Introducing them together shows a depth of understanding about the value of open source - not only its intellectual value, but its fiscal value as well - that we haven't seen before."

SparkFun's Department of Education is dedicated to improving the interest and diversification in the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics fields by encouraging kinesthetic and tangible learning with affordable, accessible and relevant technologies.

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SparkFun Electronics, a provider of parts, knowledge and passion for electronics creation, will host its fourth annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition (AVC). Each year at the AVC, teams from all over the world descend on SparkFun's headquarters for a cutthroat race of home-built ground and aerial vehicles around the building. This year promises to be the biggest and best competition yet, so start your engines, cross your fingers, and get ready to make it rain robotic glory all over SparkFun's parking lot.

SparkFun's signature event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free and open to spectators, celebrates ingenuity, inventiveness and good-natured robotic competition. The requirements are relatively simple: Teams must provide a home-built vehicle that will circumnavigate SparkFun's building without any human intervention. This year's competition will host a record-breaking 50 teams, with entrants competing in ground and aerial categories for a grand prize of $1,000. SparkFun also will offer smaller prizes in categories such as Engineer's Choice, for the best-designed vehicle, and the Kill Switch Award, for the most dangerous.

2011's AVC drew almost 700 spectators, and this year's crowd is expected to surpass previous records. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend; the free, family-friendly event promises to be a great summer day full of camaraderie, hackery, tours and, if we're lucky, a robot or two in the lake.

This year, SparkFun's Department of Education is also opening up a section of the AVC just for kids. Bring a robot to the AVC and SparkFun will help young participants run the courses -- we will have an 8x8-foot maze, as well as a track to race on. SparkFun will also provide a limited number of the brand new ProtoSnap MiniBots and computers, so kids can play with them and get to run a bot, even if they don't have one at home. The AVC is a fun way to get kids' curiosity piqued, and offers a hands-on introduction to robotics.

"We like robots. A lot. We've also noticed that kids love robots. So we got to thinking that with the AVC approaching, we need more kids building and hacking robots," said Jeff Branson, SparkFun's educational outreach coordinator.

To read the competition rules and regulations, visit:

To register as a spectator for the event, or to register kids for the robot hacking station, visit:

SparkFun Electronics, a provider of parts, knowledge and passion for electronics creation, today announced a new line of products designed to help the novice electronics enthusiast ease into the world of programming, prototyping and design.

Each product in the new ProtoSnap line features various input and output boards that are linked together, complete with traces, to form a multi-use prototyping platform. This allows users to experiment with embedded electronics without the burden of soldering, wires or other typical prototyping limitations.

There currently are three different products in the ProtoSnap line - the ProtoSnap Pro Mini, the ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Board and the ProtoSnap LilyPad E-sewing kit.

The Pro Mini combines an Arduino Pro Mini with a host of inputs and outputs to allow users to experiment with the Arduino language. When they have mastered programming the ProtoSnap Pro Mini, it can be broken apart so the individual components can be used separately. Both the ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Board and the ProtoSnap LilyPad E-sewing kits are designed to help users ease into e-textiles. They, too, can be broken apart into individual components and used in any number of different projects and applications.

"The ProtoSnap line is really designed with the beginner in mind," said SparkFun Engineer Ryan Owens. "We really think it will help introduce people to prototyping in an easy-to-understand and user-friendly way."

While the ProtoSnap line currently has three products, the range of possibilities for expansion is endless. SparkFun is excited to see the implications this new product holds for beginner electronics enthusiasts and hopes the ProtoSnap line will introduce a new group of people to the wonders of embedded electronics.

For more information, visit:

SparkFun Electronics, a Boulder-based company specializing in helping electronic enthusiasts get the parts and resources they need, is announcing a new department – the Department of Education. At the head of the department is newly appointed Director of Education, Lindsay Levkoff, Ph.D.

SparkFun Electronics always has focused on Sharing Ingenuity – providing extensive online resources as well as offering a variety of in-house workshops and events. The recent development of a new Department of Education within SparkFun emphasizes the company's passion and commitment to providing individuals with the tools they need to explore the world of embedded electronics.

"Our primary goal is to make electronics education exciting, accessible and affordable. We will be launching a new website this year that is catered toward introducing a person of any age to electronics," said Levkoff. "Our hope is that anyone interested in pursuing this exciting field will find the necessary resources and inspiration to play."

Additionally, SparkFun will continue to host workshops on various areas of electronics technology, including soldering, stenciling, wireless communication, printed circuit board design, prototyping and the exciting emerging field of eTextiles.

SparkFun hopes to partner with schools and programs to foster excitement about electronics and technology in the classroom and beyond. The improvement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has been declared a national priority by President Obama. Through hands-on experience, SparkFun hopes to help students explore the creative side of engineering and computer science.

A recent collaboration with an elementary school after school program culminated in an incredible growth (more than 80 percent) in students' interest and knowledge in the STEM fields. SparkFun's programs are designed to explore students' creativity as well as the technical aspects inherent in electronics technology, creating a positive STEM experience and encouraging future exploration.

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