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Master the technology, sky is the limit

The four-day LUMA course allows one to dive into nanotechnology and discover: technology is a tool that allows one to do their own thing.

'We started learning the foundation of Arduino principles by building traffic lights.  After this, it is easy for students to start creating projects according to their interest areas', says Heta Närhi.

The atmosphere in the large laboratory is almost devout, as twelve high-school students are focused on working with small devices.

'They are Arduinos, which are small microcontrollers. Arduinos can be used to implement a small electronic device and its functionalities programmed using an easy-to-use code editor', explains Heta Närhi, one of the coordinators of Aalto University's LUMA activities.

The term LUMA stems from the Finnish language and means promoting of natural sciences and mathematics. The Arduino exercise is the grand finale of the four-day LUMA course in nano and microtechnology, where high-school students learn about topics such as Micronova cleanrooms, scanning electron and  atomic microscopes, solar energy, making ice cream using liquid nitrogen and photonics lead by Professor Ilkka Tittonen and other Micronova personnel.

'It was cool to visit a cleanroom and the microscopes were really interesting', say the enthusiastic Helmi Iivarinen and Eero Torpo.

'We got to make many different types of cool things, which may actually turn out to be really useful.'

Practical exercises and the possibility to learn about Aalto attracted Eero Torpo and Helmi Iivarinen to participate in the LUMA course. On the Arduino day, they built a motion detector that plays the Star Wars theme.

The hands-on approach and user experience are an important part of LUMA activities.  Heta Närhi reveals she aims to achieve two goals during the course.

'First, I want students to get the sensation of wow, I can do this and am capable of doing these types of things. Secondly, I want them to realise that it's good to study technology, because it is not just an engineering thing, but a tool that can be used to achieve different goals in any industry. For example, with the 9th grade girls, we created a mobile application that can be used to learn languages. It used to be important to know how to use a saw and a sewing machine – now the same applies to technology', she explains.

'Arduinos can be used to implement 'serious' development projects, so this is very motivating to the students. As an Arduino card is affordable, this expertise could be introduced more to schools and even libraries', Ilkka Tittonen visualises.

Different types of motors, lights and sensors can be connected to the Arduino using a USB. During the day, Jussi Roos implemented a sensor that measures distances. 

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