Click this for NoviceGuard main page

Teachers, Parents: It works!

Preliminary checks on two batches of PCBs for NoviceGuard have gone well! A third batch is being made up. No basic flaws were found in the first boards, but we've now had two "tidies" of odds and ends.

This page is a sub-page of my Rugguino site, and a sub-page of the information for NoviceGuard (PCB 261). For more information please see the NoviceGuard main page.

Project may shut down...

I've spent time. (many, many hours). I've spent money. (Making boards, getting in components.) I've not asked anyone else to put their money into it.

I've spent time trying to make a market aware of this project.


Yes, the page is rough around the edges... but does it really not give enough of an idea of what NoviceGuard does to excite interest? No one seems to be "Liking", forwarding, mentioning in blogs, etc.

So I conclude that either it doesn't do what I think it does, or that no one is interested in bringing Arduinos to kids, and will move on to other projects if interest doesn't pick up.

YOUR CHOICE Spread the word that this MIGHT be worth looking at, if you want the project to continue. I only ask that people look at the pages, not that they send any money.

Offer to testers...

I am now looking for teachers or electronics savvy parents) actually working with kids with Arduinos in schools (or homes) for comments and further testing. I will loan you a NoviceGuard, if you will do something with it! (Email link at bottom.)

There is a page dedicated to how to obtain NoviceGuards.

At the moment, I have a rough draft of a manual for parents and teachers in the works. If you "need" to be reassured that this is true, you can see it at ModMainManu.htm, but I've left that for you to fuss with, rather thank making it a link, because the page REALLY isn't ready for reading, yet. But if you doubt the work has been done, you can go and look.

What NoviceGuard is....


NoviceGuard is a small PCB with a few very dull components on it. It also has sockets to allow users to plug in more interesting components, carried on "daughter boards". So: It is flexible. (Beginner users would have to be persuaded to refrain from plugging "just anything" into those sockets... but many things are possible for a knowledgeable daughter board designer, without compromising the "protect the Arduino" function of the NoviceGuard. If NoviceGuard gathers momentum, I hope people will share the daughter board designs they have come up with.)

It could be the final link in the chain of things needed to let you bring the fascinating world of computer programming with input and output from hobbyist electronics "bits" to your kids.

This is something that many of them will be able to pursue outside of the classroom. The English teacher can bask in the glory of opening the world of books to kids. The science teacher may let pupils use a van de Graf machine at school... but how many of the kids will carry on with that at home, take it further, grow their creativity?

Access would be needed to some kind of Windows, Mac OS X or Linux computer. This could be the kid's own computer... one well tested and unremarkable piece of software needs to be installed on it, but there's no further risk to the computer beyond that small risk. (All interaction with the Arduino is though a USB port.)

The kids would need the use of some Arduino Pro Minis, and the programming cable normally used with them.

You could get by with the above and a few breadboards, components, bits of wire... if you thought you could manage the kids mistakes, and afford to replace the Arduinos from time to time.

That, I thought, was "a bridge too far"... and so I am developing my NoviceGuard.

Take the elements already described, and plug the Arduino into a NoviceGuard. (It can later be un-plugged whenever you wish.)

NOW, with no further ado, the kids can do some interesting projects. They will have two pushbuttons and four LEDs available "immediately", right there on the NoviceGuard PCB. There are an additional two buttons which are available by the end of "Chapter Two" (figuratively speaking) of the "textbook".

Don't underestimate how much can be done with such limited inputs and outputs!

The only thing that the users need to remember and respect is that they must not alter a few pinMode() statements in the setup() sub-routine. (27 Apr 15... I am moving towards a system based on an optional Arduino library which will, among other things, take care of the required pinMode statements. Users will just have to remember not to add any pinMode statements. See the page about NovGrdCore, the free Arduino library provided to you, to simplify using Arduinos.)

As long as they respect that request, it is hard for them to hurt the Arduino.

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You can get Arduino Pro Minis and their programming cables from many sources. (And there are some really cheap ones... clones? maybe... by eBay out of China.) At 3/15, I looked up the cost of them from two suppliers I've used often, and like for reliability, "professionalism": and Arduinos cost $10 / £8.40. Cables: $18 / £13. I know one of them offers a discount if you are buying 10 or more. I imagine the other would.

You can, if you know enough to wonder (it isn't "important") use NoviceGuard with both 5v and 3v3 Arduinos, but you would choose different resistors, depending on which Arduino voltage you wished to use with the PCB.)

The NoviceGuard with some basic "bits and pieces" costs about $25. You have to do some trivial soldering. (No SMT components)

There is a page dedicated to how to obtain NoviceGuards.

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"Chapter Three"

As I said... much can be done with "just" a computer, an Arduino and a NoviceGuard.


When the "joys" there have begun to seem "boring", NoviceGuard has sockets into which (beginner-helper approved!) daughter boards can be plugged, expanding both the input devices and the output devices available to the programmer.

Even before using daughter boards, there is a "secret" output device available to all Arduino programmers. It is unlikely that a hardcore Arduino user would want to use it, but everyone, at least during system development, will use the screen of the attached computer as an output device. For classroom use, the ordinary "serial monitor", a standard part of the Arduino environment, is an "output" device with no end of uses. For example...

With the simple setup we have been discussing, even without any daughter boards, you could program the Arduino to wait a bit, and then turn an LED on. The user must press a button as soon as... but not before!... the LED goes on. As soon as this has happened, the time it took the user to react, in centi-seconds, would appear on the computer screen.

Advanced use

The "ordinary" daughter boards would fit the "ordinary" sockets of NoviceGuard.

If you know a bit about electronics, and microprocessors, etc, you know that it can be a Very Bad Thing to wire up (plug in) an input device to something that the microprocessor is using as an output. It can do permanent damage... unless you have a NoviceGuard between your newbies and your Arduino!

Probably the main objective of the NoviceGuard project was to provide the Arduino with protection from its users.

A few restrictions had to be agreed to achieve the level of protection NoviceGuard affords. They are...

That's in "the simple" version of NoviceGuard use. In addition, however, nine more of the Arduino's I/O lines are available, and when your users are ready to use pinMode without making mistakes, those I/O lines are for unrestricted... but un-protected... use.

In conclusion....

So... that's an idea of what NoviceGuard is about. It grieves me that kids are not being "got started" at school in the fabulous world of micro-electronics. Be part of the solution!

NoviceGuard needs to gather momentum. In search of that, I will loan a NoviceGuard to suitable individuals. Write, tell me why I should loan you one. If I cannot send it to you c/o a school I can research on the web, it will help if you are an established contributor at the Arduino Forum.

(The switches and LEDs on the NoviceGuard are mostly irrelevant if you don't use them, but they can be isolated, disconnected with simple configuration links when necessary.)

This page is a sub-page of my Rugguino site, and a sub-page of the information for NoviceGuard (PCB 261). For more information please see the NoviceGuard main page.

How to email or write this page's editor, Tom Boyd

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