Tetrix PRIZM: Tutorial 1 – Connecting the Battery and Connecting to Arduino

Each week I am hoping to bring you a tutorial of my journey with PRIZM. This is the next robotics controller to hit the market and so far I love it. In the previous episode I shared an overview and unboxing of PRIZM.

In this episode I will be covering some very simple and basic information, but important nonetheless. We will cover plugging in the battery and making sure PRIZM is up and running with the Arduino software. For many of you this is something you can do quickly, but I don’t want to leave anyone behind once we get into the coding.

For this video you will need the following:

  1. PRIZM
  2. Battery wires
  3. On/Off Switch
  4. 12V Battery
  5. USB cable to connect PRIZM to computer

*All items come with the PRIZM except the battery unless you order the Tetrix Max or one similar

You will need to make sure you have a 12 volt NIMH battery pack.

Links for video



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Tetrix PRIZM: Overview of the Next Generation of Robotics

PITSCO has finally released their next generation programmable device that I believe is going to push coding, engineering, and STEM experiences for students to a whole new level. According to their website PRIZM is


The TETRIX® PRIZM™ Robotics Controller is a fully integrated, programmable brain for your bot that features a variety of motor, servo, encoder, and sensor ports with convenient connectors that enable you to control your robot’s behavior like never before. This controller offers the best of both worlds – a learning tool that is powerful yet easy to use. With PRIZM you can take learning to new heights by creating robots that are smarter, more precise, and as real world as it gets.


I have been fortunate enough to have had my hands on a PRIZM for about a month. I have had a chance to code with Arduino and push my knowledge base with coding with this language. I have a chance to test a few sensors, program my robot to move, and begin to think about the benefits of PRIZM with students.


I would be a fool if I did not acknowledge that there are a ton of great products out there already. My school uses LEGO EV3 for our robotics classes. My makerspace has Raspberry Pi’s, Sphero’s, 3D Printers, and a host of robots in various shapes and sizes.


What I like about PRIZM in comparison to the others are the following components

  1. Plug and Play – it is easy to swap out motors and gears and various components to the PRIZM. This shortens the time to prototype while allowing students to push to higher levels of coding and problem solving.
  2. Arduino based – there are so many resources, tutorials, and guides with Arduino that the sky truly is the limit(and even then the sky may be pushed to new boundaries) when it comes to student potential. Teachers won’t have to create it all as there is already plenty to be created. What will be developed next by your students?
  3. TETRIX MAX – being compatible with this kit and just TETRIX in general really opens the door to build a wide variety of projects. These pieces are almost universal anymore and to be able to build with these parts and expand with everyday materials makes it a great choice

I know this post reads like a sales pitch. This is not the intention. This is my excitement. I recently placed PRIZM in the hands of my students and we are already developing some crazy ideas.


Here is a quick unboxing and overview video


Be sure to check their website out to read all the specs and what is to come.


As we plan to roll out a series of videos and tutorials with PRIZM we would love to know what you want to learn. Leave us a comment with your questions and ideas and we will work to experiment and give you the answers you seek.


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Computational Thinking: My Summer Learning Reflection

I have been learning a great deal this summer on my own initiative like most educators do! Summer is a time to relax, but it is also a crucial time for educators to learn and develop new skills, ideas, and modes of operation because the reality is that we just don’t always have time while in the classrooom.

I have been glued to Minecraft and Computational Thinking. I recently wrapped up a new project around computational thinking using Scratch and Arduino.

I want to compile my reflections of learning so far and decided to use Sway to organize it all. Check it out and let me know what you you think. What else should I learn about computational thinking? What is missing?

I plan to develop projects and create more with Scratch and Arduino. I also plan to get back on the Minecraft path and finish development of some projects I am working on.

| “Computational Thinking: Summer Learning Reflection” | https://sway.com/jytAAWc5i7l3ONJQ

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Scratch for Arduino: LED “Sprites” in Action

Computational Thinking Example

I have been giving some great thought to the topic of computational thinking(insert paper link here). I really believe that this is something that can be easily integrated into any classroom with a bit of prep work and cleaning up some rough edges of current lesson plans.

I have also had some prior experience working with Scratch and wanted to dive into Scratch but in a different way. I did not want to create something that just moved on the screen. My past experience has exposed me to the fact that middle school students are just not that impressed by Scratch and their focus usually last one to three days before it just does not mean anything to them anymore. This is a general statement as I know there are students who will spend countless hours programming and creating, but the majority just don’t fall in love with the program.

However, I found in my experience that if you can get things in the real world to move, light up, make noise, and be open enough to be tinkered with students will stay engaged much longer. So, with that being said I wanted to create something that bridges both worlds together. The world of Scratch because students can easily learn how the programming works while creating change in the real world and not just images on a screen.

I went through a design phase that allowed my computational thinking to be challenged.

THINK/BRAINSTORM: Through my trial and error I came across Scratch for Arduino. I am a huge Arduino fan and recently started teaching students Arduino. They struggle with the coding. When I saw this modified program I knew I had something that could enhance learning and really help students use all the tools in a mix that works.

LEARN: I had to learn how to install the software to make it work. I had some issues with my Mac, but after a few hours of frustration and way too much coffee I was able to get things up and running on my Surface 3. We were in business. The beauty of it all is that it programs just like Scratch and connect right with Arduino. Easy Peasy!

CREATE: What in the world was I going to create? I used three LED lights to serve as my “sprites”. I developed sounds files to go along with the LED lights blinking. Each light was a different color(costume). I had various programming blocks in use to make things work. To really challenge my learning I tried to develop a flipped learning lesson plan using PowerPoint and the Office Mix In add on. The goal was to show how to create something using all these tools and then give an assignment for the user to take their learning to application mode.

TEST: The problem was to see if I could teach others how to program using Scratch and Arduino to solve a challenge/problem. In this case it was to turn on three LED lights while beeping three times. Through this challenge I wanted to expose the user to how circuits work and how to program. I have built in checkpoints to gain feedback along the way. I am going on the assumption that the user understands Scratch and Arduino. As people use the lesson I will take the feedback and continue to improve the lesson so it works for anyone. This will take time as I troubleshoot my teaching and missing components.

COMMUNICATE: I learned a great deal. For me, I learned more about compatibility between computers and software. I had a difficult time with ports acting up to install the firmware and getting things up and running. Once I did that the programming and building was easy. This was also my first time using Mix for a flipped lesson so I tried to communicate the learning and instructions the best I could, but I realize it is probably not very good and will need some revisions.

REFINE: I have already discussed this above, but I plan on using the feedback from users to make the experience better. I know I need to spend more time on how to use Scratch and Arduino, but I also feel like there are a million resources already. Additionally, I want to build new projects and take the learning to the next level so I hope to build upon this and create cooler projects in the future.


Basic Lesson Plan

Please use the following link to answer questions in the flipped learning Office Mix: Link to Office Mix of this Flipped Learning Lesson

If you want just the video here is a YouTube version of same material

The user should be able to gather everything from within the Mix. I did not include a slide with objectives(I should have), but the goals of this flipped learning lesson is to help students learn about engineering design, circuits, computers, software coding, and problem solving.

As students go through the lesson they are given step by step instructions to making everything work. The goal is to lead by example and give them something that works. As they work through the steps they are learning about circuits and coding.

At the end they are given an assignment to take their learning to the next level with their own student voice and agency. They are expected to explain their thinking and process along with hitting one of the NGSS. I used NGSS instead of Core because our school has switched over the NGSS. This lesson is aimed at middle school students, but could easily be used by upper elementary, high school, or educators who are just starting out. Everything can be seen in the mix or will be added as I continue to improve.

I encourage you to go through the lesson and leave feedback so I know where to make improvements. If there are any questions please let me know. I hope you find this interesting and useful as I learned a great deal putting it all together.


Link to Office Mix of this Flipped Learning Lesson


Scratch for Arduino

123D Circuits

Learn Arduino – great site I used to reference standards of all types

Try Engineering

Scratch Resources-

Scratch Educator Portal 


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Snapping Jaws Jack O Lantern Using Arduino and Sparkfun

Here is my latest build for our Young Engineers of Today program. I had to tweak the original idea to make it work, but I am happy with the result.

Instructions coming soon

For now, enjoy this little clip

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The Power of Play, Tinkering, and Coding with Arduino! #edplay

As part of Coffeechug Cafe Hackshop series I gave an arduino kit to a student to play with over Spring Break. I simply asked him to play and tinker around. Adam is a great kid who does have a bit of coding knowledge that he self taught himself.

Over break he sent me two videos. I just had to share because he is an example of simply giving someone time and tools to play and tinker.

I gave him free reign to play and tinker. His first project was just learn Arduino. He had never used it before and it was all brand new to him. He sent his first video of just getting the LED light to work which he did a great job doing.

A few days later he sent me another video to learn more programming. He created a Morse Code Converter program all on his own.

How awesome is that? We have plans to meet a few days a week to work on some projects together and see what we can come up with. I have much to learn from him and he is just another example about what can happen when you give kids time and a place to play and tinker. Something that we need to figure out how to bring into the school day more.

We have two more kits and I will be working with students after school a few times a week to figure out ways to use Arduino in our school. One idea I have is to incorporate Arduino programming into our LEGO World Build Challenge that I have going on in my school. You can read some prior posts on this to gain a sense of what we are doing. I want LED lights, stoplights, and inter-activeness to the city once we get it built and established.

More importantly, I want to figure out more ways to get this type of free play built into schools to help students find their flow and new ways of thinking learning.

What will Adam come up with next? I cannot wait to find out.

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