Microcontroller Fun with Tessel


tessel logo

What Are Microcontrollers?

tessel board

Microcontrollers are small computers that take inputs from our physical world through various sensors and uses that information to control or trigger other actions.  They are often embedded in the products we use everyday and with wireless communications and the capabilities of the Internet, they can be used to to interact with devices at a location far distant from the controller itself, also referred to by some as the Internet of Things (IoT).  Examples of microcontroller projects include robots that move towards or away from light, smart devices that allow you to monitor your home security or environmental controls with your phone, or even text your company’s coffee maker so that you have a nice fresh cup of coffee when you arrive at work!

TriV Tessel Session at Veeva Systems

For our session at Veeva, TriV invited Kelsey Breseman of Technical Machine to show the kids all the fun that could be had experimenting with their Tessel microcontrollers.  An advantage of using Tessels is their ease of use.  No breadboards or soldering necessary.  Sensor modules just plug in to ready made ports on the board.  Unlike other microcontroller boards which require users to learn C-based programming, Tessels can be programmed in Javascript, a language used for websites and applications with a plethora of sources to help new users learn.  Add to this Technical Machines’ easy to follow tutorials and you’re all set to let the kids loose and play.  Our youngest attendee was only eight years old!


Kelsey (left front) mentors a student and an interested audience.

Kelsey brought various modules for the kids to work with.  There are many more modules available that work with the Tessel. Visit their site to learn more and get suggestions on how to use them.

  • Accelerometer – detects orientation and movement of the Tessel by measuring gravity / acceleration
  • Ambient – detects ambient light and sound levels
  • Climate – detects humidity and temperature from your environment
  • Camera – gives sight to the Tessel by taking pictures!
  • Relay – controls high-current devices, such as power cords and appliances
  • RFID – reads radio-frequency identification cards
  • Servo – control up to 16 hobbyist/RC servos to make things move!

Teamwork Makes The Difference

tessel pics

Tessel Camera Pics


Ethan and Alex Brainstorming

Kids worked in pairs making brainstorming experiments with the Tessels more interesting and any problem solving more collaborative. They played with sensing the light and sound in the room, changing temperatures measured by the climate module by testing heat variance near the cafeteria coffee pot (kids are ingenious aren’t they?), taking pictures with the camera modules, and sending texts to themselves with various combination of modules with tessel’s wifi capability!

Tessel Gets A Thumbs Up!


Michael and Reilly partnered to send texts using an RFID.

From our members:

“The session on Tessel microcontrollers was a great learning experience for the kids. Each project was related to a real world application which gave them a better understanding of how technology is used in their every day lives. The kids built some really cool things and it was great to see them experimenting to see what else they could build.” – Bryan, parent.

“I had a lot of fun learning how to use the Tessel micro controllers.  We built a really cool RFID card reader that connected to a texting service. Every time I swiped the RFID card, it sent a text message to my friend’s phone. And the best part was I got to code while hanging out with friends”  – Reilly, 11 years old.

We want to give a big thanks to Kelsey of Technical Machine for giving our kids this opportunity and the folks at Veeva Systems for being a TriV host and providing us with the venue for our sessions each second Wednesday of the month.

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