In the third part of our series on useful smart phone applications for the STEM classroom, we have three apps that all begin with the letter A. One is a tool referred to in Part 2, another makes angle measurements simpler and more accurate than ever, and finally a new Arduino interface that makes this ubiquitous microcontroller usable by nearly any student.
Andrometer gives a reasonably good estimate of distance to an object using triangulation with GPS, plus the built in accelerometer and geomagnetic sensors on most smart phones. Objects to be measured should be outside for proper GPS signal. You’ll need the object distance in order to use the Speed Tools app discussed in Part 2 of the Smart Tools series. Stress to students that these tools in particular will provide good relative numbers but they are not 100 percent accurate.
There are dozens of reasons for STEM students to measure angles, from the spindle on a machine tool in the shop to measuring a ramp angle in the physics classroom. This handy smart tool gives highly accurate measurements in a very flexible configuration, all in a free app. Students can measure the angle of any object that that they can rest the phone on. It can be used as a level in a pinch. One caveat always to keep in mind when making angle measurements: We have found that some phones and/or cases are not flat on every edge, which will effect the accuracy of measurements. Also, be particularly careful if students are in the machine shop, we had an incidence where someone used their phone to measure the angle on a newly welded part and the residual heat damaged the phone.
The Arduino microcontroller is a very popular tool among makers, professionals, and tech-savvy educators for controlling anything from robots and airplanes to movie props and automatic door locks. A couple of potential stumbling blocks for some students is the need to write code and the need to be connected to a computer when programming. ArduinoCommander does away with both of those, with some limitations of course. With a bluetooth module, the ArduinoCommander allows wireless communication between Android smartphones/tablets and the arduino. Students can use the I/O pins on the arduino remotely, without writing code. The application permits input of data from sensors, and output to motors using a well thought out interface with a graphical display of the arduino itself on the screen. There are lots of possibilities that make arduino accesssible to everyone, including grade school students or those who may have special needs. While ultimately kids need to learn code to use the potential of the arduino platform, ArduinoCommander makes it a much easier task to get started in any STEM classroom.