Background Information

    Second-year computer programming students at Washington Township High School have the opportunity to enroll in a course, “Computer Interfacing and Automation” (formerly, “Computer Programming Applications In The Real World”) to learn about the connections between computer systems and the world around them.  Those who sign up learn how to design, build, and program “interface boards” that allow the small, 5-volt signals of a computer’s output port to control larger-power household appliances such as lamps and motors.
 After students study the inner workings of a computer to gain an understanding of how and why it works, they go on to study basic electronics and interfacing theory in order to create devices that let them connect their computers to the “outside world.”

    Their first interfacing assignment is to connect their computers to a digital “Now Serving” number sign salvaged from the recently closed Caldor in order to learn how to send simple signals from the computer to control the sign.
 Their next assignment is to connect their computers to an authentic traffic light (procured from the County with the generous help of former-Mayor Luongo) and to generate code that will duplicate the various signal patterns of the “real McCoy.”

    The students’ next venture is to interface special motors, called “stepper motors,” to their computer systems.  With this arrangement, the students are able to send signals to the motors for precise movements, capable of stopping the motors “on a dime,” as required, through program control.

    While this is taking place, the students are also learning about physical systems and how they work.  They study electromagnetism, motors, mechanical movement, gears, pulleys, springs, levers, electronics, circuit design, interfacing and much more-- all designed to prepare them for what is yet to come:  students in the course are required to turn in “final robotics projects” of various designs to demonstrate and apply all of their newly acquired technologies.