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Signals and Connections

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

Modified 5 days ago by Dev Ramesh

Student version

Hardware -

  • Uncompleted drone kit

Previous Lesson

Knowledge -

  • Ability to identify different electrical connections used on the drone and the advantages of each

  • Know the definition of signals and where they are used on the drone

  • Understand the differences between and varying advantages of analog and digital signals

  • Understand that values, properties, and concepts can be encoded into numbers and the purpose thereof, and know advantages of binary as a number system.

Skills - N/A

Signals and Connections

STANDARDS: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

ISTE: 1. d.: Understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

Assessments and Evidence of Understanding

Modified 2020-08-20 by jakerad007

By the end of this lesson, student should be able to understand analog and digital signals and examples of each, as well as be abe to translate numbers into binary.

AGENDA (Brief Summary of Activities)

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

  • 5 min: Introduction

  • 20 min: Electrical Signals

  • 10 min: Analog signals

  • 20 min: Digital signals

  • 15 min: Short online game

Differentiation (strategies for grouping, ELL, and inclusion)

Modified 2020-07-01 by jakerad007

Advanced preparation/Materials/Set Up (Including Misconceptions)

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

Teacher Materials

Optional presentaion medium for lesson (i.e. whiteboard, powerpoint slide).


Modified 2020-04-16 by Garrett Warren

Introducing the Lesson

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong


  • The teacher should open this lesson with an explanation that there are two types of signals on the drone (Analog and Digital).

Exercise: Have the students guess where these signals could be located on the drone. If no one is able to give an answer, lead into the lesson saying that these signals are not only intigral to the drone’s flight, but also integral to know in the field of robotics.

Main Lesson

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

Electrical connections (20min)

Briefly explain: crimping, connectors, splicing, and soldering. Introduce PCBs as ‘home bases’ for connections in the drone.

Exercise: Point out soldered connections and pull out different connectors used in the drone (e.g. from battery sense to Pi GPIO to XT-60), compare the number of pins, current capacity, etc.

Use this section as an opportunity to motivate why students need to learn to solder. This will transition the course to the next module, Soldering!

Analog signals (10min)

Besides power, electricity can also be used to convey information…Information can be transmitted through electricity:

  1. Encoding in voltage: use an IR sensor as an example.

  2. Encoding in frequency: use WiFi as an example.

Noise, which can come from various sources, can distort or block the information transmittion done by the former.

Exercise: After describing frequency and voltage, have a group brainstorm on what other electronics and sensors could have a voltage or frequency signal. (Use examples from above to lead the discussion).

Digital signals (20 min)

Introduce how numbers can represent anything, e.g. letters (a=1, b=2, etc…)

Exercise: Devise a way to represent things as one or more numbers! For example, physical properties (distance, colors, volume, etc…), other symbols, music (notes, chords, progressions, pieces, scales/modes, intervals, etc.), sports plays, games (cards, stats, etc.).

Our number system uses base-10 (10 symbols) to represent numbers, but there are many other ways to convey information!

There’s no reason we have to use 10 symbols, you can get away with just 2 – binary! (or other numbers, eight: octal, sixteen: hexadecimal) Show ascii table with binary and decimal.

Exercise: To understand binary, here is a short activity to do with this video explaination. Assign the students to convert a few numbers of the teacher’s choosing on their flippydo.

Using the resources below and in the student book, teachers should discuss:

  • How digits can be represented as ranges of voltages with an undefined zone in between (used as a break). Also, mention having only two symbols (binary) simplifies the circuitry and reduces effects of noise.

  • Binary can be transmitted in parallel and over time, which are two ways to represent more than one symbol, sacrificing either complexity or time.

  • Mention electrical vs timing vs content specifications of signals (discussing this will set up for future networking lessons with higher levels of abstraction).

Ending The Lesson

Modified 2020-09-05 by Peyton Strong

Give students this binary game link, and challenge them to hit the highest level!

Useful Resources and References

  1. Flippy Do Activity

  2. Binary Bonanza Game

  3. ASCII Table

  4. Glossary