Lesson One

Lesson One looks at the Electric Garden, what it is, and how it works. In this lesson you will:

  • Learn the difference between software and hardware

  • Learn the difference between inputs and outputs

  • Think about why we want to grow big vegetables

  • Get your Electric Garden ready for Lesson Two

Take a look through the slideshow below. What can you see?

Working with the person next to you, discuss the following questions. Write your answers down in your book!

  • How was it possible to grow such big vegetables?

  • Why do we want to grow big vegetables?

  • How would growing big vegetables impact the following?

    • You and your family

    • Your community

    • Your country

    • The world

What is the Electric Garden?

The Hardware

Pass the garden sensor and indoor base station around the class and take a look at the diagrams below. Look carefully at the different components. What can you spot?


1. WiFi Antenna. This allows the indoor base station to connect to the internet.
2. LoRa Antenna. LoRa stands for long range and uses radio waves to send and receive digital information across long distances (e.g. 10km) using very little power.
3. Processor/Central Processing Unit (CPU). This is the brain of the Electric Garden. It takes instructions given by a human, sends them to the relevant parts, and makes sure they carry out the instructions correctly. It is in two parts. This helps it separate the signals coming from the WiFi antenna and from the LoRa antenna.
4. Spaces. These spaces allow us to install switches that let us test the device and fix problems.
5. Light emitting diode (LED). A little light that flashes to tell the user something, for example that the batteries have just been inserted.
6. A space for a battery pack, if required.
7. Ambient condition sensors. These measure the temperature and humidity inside the box.
8. Light sensor. This measures the amount of light entering the box.
9. Spare node ports. These are spaces are where we might attach extra nodes in the future.
10. Device serial number or name.
11. Power supply. This lets the device use the power from either the batteries or from the USB.
12. Connection point for the soil probe.

Answer the following questions

Looking at the sensor, can you identify the following parts?

  • Where does the soil probe plug in to the garden sensor?

  • What can be used to power the device and where does the power connect?

  • Which section provides the “thinking power” for the devices?

  • How does the garden sensor talk to the indoor base station?

  • How does the indoor base station send data to the cloud?

What do you think the Electric Garden is made from?

  • The box is made from tough plastic that is waterproof and durable.

  • The cables are copper wrapped in an insulating rubber.

  • The components are attached to a printed circuit board. This is made up from layers of copper, glass, and silk.

  • The node is a printed circuit board, with the components protected by epoxy resin.

What do you think the Electric Garden does?

  • The Electric Garden is a sensor for monitoring the conditions in your vegetable garden.

  • It can measure the soil temperature, soil moisture levels, and light level in the garden and send the information to your computer! You can then look at this data, and it can be used to help you grow the bigger vegetables!

How do you think the Electric Garden works?

  • The garden sensor collects data from the vegetable patch through sensors in the soil probe and inside the box.

  • The Electric Garden uses LoRa to send this information to the indoor base station, which then uses WiFi to upload this information to the cloud. This data can then be accessed from a computer connected to the internet through the Electric Garden dashboard.

The Software

In a new tab, open up the Electric Garden interface and take a look around.

Can you answer the following questions?

  • What do you think this page is showing you?

  • What is under the dashboard?

  • Where can you find help such as a FAQ (frequently asked questions)?

  • What was the soil temperature on LOCATION/DAY/DATE/TIME?

  • What happens when you hover over a specific point on the graph?

The hardware is the physical tools, machinery, or physical devices that are used to complete a task. Software is the computer programs and instructions that computers and electronic devices use to perform a function.

Look at the following items. Are they hardware or software?


Inputs and Outputs

An input is a piece of information that a digital device receives and can use. An output is information that a digital device creates and sends.

Look at the following images and decide if they are input devices (devices that send an input) or output devices (devices that create an output). Be careful, some devices might be both input and output!


Putting it all together

Now that you have explored the Electric Garden, can you answer the following questions?

  • Who do you think came up with the idea for Electric Garden?

  • Why do you think they came up with this idea?

  • How do you think the Electric Garden was made?

  • What can we use the Electric Garden to do?

Why do you think digital technologies are important? Think about:

  • Jobs in the future. Can you think of three jobs that might exist in the future that will need digital skills?

  • Using connected devices. What would you like to be able to control using your computer? Your fridge? Your alarm clock? Your car?

  • Improving society. Can you come up with an idea that uses digital technology to help people?

Plugging it in

Now that you know all about the Electric Garden, you need to get it ready for next week’s lesson.

  • Add the batteries to the garden sensor and plug in the indoor base station.

  • Log in to the dashboard. Can you see a data point yet?

  • Insert the probe into a patch of soil in your garden, or in to a potted plant in preparation for next week.

The Humans

These are some of the people who created the Electric Garden.