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SparkFun's 2013 National Education Tour plans to bring DIY electronics to all 50 states

Brian Heater

SparkFun is looking to further its educational push this summer, announcing its 2013 National Education Tour. The intiative, set to kick off in June, will bring the hacker supplier to schools in all 50 states, teaching six to eight hour courses aimed at getting students started in the world of DIY. The courses will focus on topics like the PicoBoard Scratch sensor, SparkFun Inventor Kit and e-textiles, teaching kids programming and hardware concepts. SparkFun will be footing a portion of the bills, to the tune of $1,000 per location and leaving hardware behind so education doesn't have to stop when the company's RV pulls away. SparkFun is also looking toward libraries as resources for its educational initiative, with programs aimed at educating librarians in the ways of Arduinos and the like. More information on the program can be found after the break.

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SparkFun Electronics Announces 2013 National Education Tour

SparkFun Electronics (, a provider of parts, knowledge and passion for electronics creation, is excited to announce its 2013 National Education Tour ( The goal of the tour, which plans to make at least 50 stops across all 50 states, is to inspire passion for electronics in students and educators across the country, teaching lifelong skills such as programming, soldering and circuit-building along the way.

"We're trying to bring a hands-on, kinesthetic style of learning back into the classroom," said Lindsay Levkoff, SparkFun's director of education. "I think the most important aspect of this technology and model of learning is that it gives students a chance to have more lasting memories of the information they're being taught. Rather than just talking about what electricity is, we're providing a hands-on experience for the student, which creates a deeper understanding of what they're trying to learn."

During the tour, SparkFun's Department of Education ( will teach workshops to students of all ages, as well as teachers, librarians, after-school coordinators and other educators, showing how electronics can be a vital part of education. The tour will provide teachers nationwide with the ability to introduce current, relevant technology and programming concepts into their classrooms. SparkFun hopes that by providing access to these tools, interest and education in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) will improve across all age groups.

"There's a whole different experience that seems to go on when kids see that LED blink for the first time," said Educational Outreach Coordinator Jeff Branson. "It's not just a flat screen anymore, it's something that's really happening in the real world. It's made the material come alive for the kids. And for teachers, it renews their enthusiasm about tackling some pretty thick topics."

The cost to book a mobile workshop on the tour is $1,500 for the first 50 stops and $2,500 for each stop thereafter. At each stop, the company will provide a "lab pack" - SparkFun's comprehensive learning kits - chosen by the coordinator to focus on one of three concepts: programming with Arduino (, e-textiles (, or Scratch programming with the PicoBoard ( Each lab pack includes enough kits for 20-40 students, three instructors, and all the supporting materials needed to teach electronics on your own. Educators will spend the day teaching kits to students or providing professional development for educators, explaining the fundamental concepts of electronics education, and answering any questions. At the end of the day, workshop participants will keep all of the hardware and educational materials, and will be armed with the knowledge and experience to implement electronics education into the classroom.

David Hodgson, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Union College in Schenectady, New York, was the first to book a stop on the company's National Tour.

"It seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up," Hodgson said. "I think physical computing and electronics have the potential to spark an interest in science and math. There is great satisfaction in using your brain and hands to create something that you can interact with."

To sign up for a stop on the tour, or to learn more about the National Tour and SparkFun's Department of Education, visit (

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