Photon in Education?


I am a absolute beginner with the Photon; however, I am thinking about using the Photon in the classroom. Has anybody experience with it in a high school classroom environment?

I would assume students need to sign up with their email account, but would I be able to get the Photon re-assigned to me or another students? Are there any issues with using 25 Photons on the same Wifi? Is there any curriculum out there or other resources for teaching?



I think @mprogers or @rocksetta can comment on that, since AFAIK they do do a similar thing.

But the the re-claiming of a device is no problem as long you’ve got physical access to the device.

25 devices on one WiFi is possible, but you may see difficulties when trying to setup up and claim them in parallel.
For your school network you need to check that you’re not using a captive portal since these can’t be (easily) navigated by Particle devices.
Radio noise might make some things less reliable or more complicated but should not pose an impossible obstacle.


But the the re-claiming of a device is no problem as long you've got physical access to the device.

To clarify what @ScruffR said about claiming: For the Photon we have a "Physical ownership means virtual ownership" ownership model. What this means is that at the end of the semester, when you have all the student's Photons sitting on your desk you can set them up again, one my one, using the Particle app and ownership will automatically transfer to your account. You can also just wait till next semester and have the students themselves setup the devices and ownership will transfer.

is there any curriculum out there or other resources for teaching?

Not that I'm aware of. There's this getting started book which might be useful as a teaching guide.


Give you good advice.

If you work low or mid budget schools. Not recommend using free public school Wifi and even public school VPN for photon. State Sponsor government can hack and change future election votes. Lack of security for students & teachers. So be careful free wifi. It’s bear trap.

The high budget & elite school have higher & better wifi security. Check up.

Don’t use it wifi if not on the list. Go for Arduino Uno or Pi Zero. It’s cheap. No need internet.

Mod edit (@harrisonhjones): The Photon does not need the internet to function. Without internet it’s still more capable than most Arduinos (and arguably the Pi Zero if you are interested in real-time IO control). Without internet you simply lose some convenience and obviously the cloud functionality.

I’m not sure what high risk project or fundamental business secrets may be at stake in a High School class room :confused:

Granted, it’s good advice to teach the pupils (and teachers ;-)) about net security and privacy concerns, but seeing a governmental conspiracy against school kids may be driving it a bit too far IMHO.
If they want to spy on anybody, most people have their omnipresent, permanently connected security risk in their own pockets already.


I can share my notes and syllabus with you, if that would help. I taught at the university level, but since this was an exploratory course (for myself as much as my students), the material itself should be comprehensible to a good high school student. At SIGCSE 2017, my collaegue and I are going to be doing a workshop on IoT (starring, of course, Photons), so if you happen to be in attendance we could talk then. [SIGCSE is a big computer science conference with an emphasis on Computer Science Education – it’s taking place in Seattle, WA this year.]

We didn’t have trouble with the Photons (16 of them) on Wi-Fi at one time. The only connectivity issue we encountered was that the COAP port had to be opened. And that, like most of the other issues that we ran into, was solved by all the helpful people in this community.



I am in Brisbane Australia so Seattle is a bit fa, but thank for the offer. I was wondering how did you set up the Photon. Did your students set them up via their mobiles? Did they experience any problems? If I want to use e.g. IFTTT students would need to use their email for their Particle account and hence use it for setting up the Photon. I am a bit concerned that all my yr10 students would need to connect to our school network to get everything to work. The school set up a special Wifi network for me (for testing) as the Photon did not connect to our main Wifi. Not sure if they like students to connect to the special Wifi.


1 Like

What if you get the school to white-list only the Particle Cloud server and the CoAP ports on the special Wifi network? That way students would not be able to use the network for anything on their mobiles or computers.

This would work fine unless you plan on making TCP servers on the Photon. Also, instead of making direct web requests with the Photon you would have to use webhooks.

From personal experience, I'd say the fastest and relatively easiest way to set up Photons is to use particle-cli and run:

particle setup

In order to use IFTTT with Photons the easy way, students will each need an IFTTT account and link their Particle account to it.

@MrRichardB I have taught Robotics with the Photon for almost 2 semesters now and am very happy with it. All 15 Photons can hook up at the same time to regular Wifi. Our school’s Wifi is fine some days and terrible other days (terrible for all Wifi not just the Photon on those days I simply do other types of learning). I do not yet have a good way to use the Photon without Wifi, since only my teacher computer seems to allow a serial connection. With Wifi I really like the Publish command and the new Particle Console. Very slick and fast to test if something is working.

Note: I do the first internet connections with the Photon after school when the Wifi is not busy. Doing it as a class is an exercise in frustration.

I still do not know how to reclaim a photon, I assume the steps are reasonably easy @ScruffR I just have not done it yet.


For logins I do a bit of an email trick. I use my email with +01 before the @ for my students and then assign a password to that account.

example password hjsadjasjf for student pair 01 password ldfglhkfhd for student pair 02

To make it really easy you can assign the same password for all 15 sites.

The advantage of this system is that my email gets all correspondence for any password changes etc.


I have the students put their work both on Google Docs in folders that have been shared with me and on Github. From Github I can make a mobile phone App using Phonegap Build.

I have 15 Photon kits $29.00 but wish I had purchased the Photon Maker kit $89.00
I have 15 SNAP circuits extreme 750 for $90 (Not perfect, but really easy to use)
15 DC motors with 15 motor drivers
15 Stepper motors and am getting 15 stepper motor drivers
15 Servo motors
15 Range Finders

about 30 single board sensors Gyro, Accel, GPS, temp, dust, IR …

I spend most of my time trying to get these serial sensors working.

Most of the start of the course is working with analog and digital sensors and actuators.


I have a curriculum but am tweaking it as I go. Will try to put some videos on my youtube channel eventually.

It is all a work in progress. For the last month of the semester the students are expected to make at least one of three possible final projects that connect a sensor with the internet and cause an actuator to do something. One project must be their own design to solve a unique problem.

My main webpage that the kids work with is at

with a github at

I also teach Game Coding and 3D printing which goes very well with learning how to work with the Photon. The game coding class helps with programming the Photon and the 3D Printing helps with the supporting structures.

Good luck. Contact me on twitter @rocksetta or here.


This is great stuff by the way! It’s awesome how you have used the photons into your curriculum!

Continuing the discussion from Photon in Education?:

SIGCSE has attendees from all over the world, although I'm sure that wouldn't be a cheap trip from Australia!

They used their computers and Particle CLI.

Not setting it up, that worked almost flawlessly. Occasionally someone would write some buggy firmware so that the loop() method never ended, and then they had to reflash their Photon. You might want to consider making a video documenting the steps required, so the students could watch it at their leisure.

I'm not sure about your exact setup, but I found that being friendly with our hard-working networking guru helped a lot. I never got the feeling that the 15 or so Photons on our network, at one time, came close to being an issue.

I tried adding you to my class, but am having, um, technical difficulties -- as in the + People button is greyed out -- and our technical support staff is on break. I'll try and do this next week.


1 Like

I teach an instrumentation course at UNC Charlotte MEGR3171. I have been using the photon as an engaging way to allow students to interface the physical world with the internet and their mobile devices.

My students mostly do not know how to program. I am teaching them the shortcuts and giving them enough information so they can successfully cut and paste their way to success.

25% of their grade comes from implementing two photons in an IOT project. The class has over 100 students and the students work in teams of two.

The deliverable is to publish their projects to This link has the past semester’s projects.


I too teach at Uni level using Photon’s. No problems claiming, but in my case the students keep their Photon’s as part of their component kits. It’s easy to reclaim them though. I’ve had 30+ Photons hooked up in a classroom without any issues and this semester I’ll get to test 45 at once due to an unusually big class. Be aware that the network can’t use Enterprise security since the Photon’s don’t like that. Normal WPA2 Personal works great though.

I’ve used the Getting Started section for the first lesson and then moved on to MQTT and building sensor nodes after that.


Been thinking about a Robotics / Photon curriculum. The problem with most curriculum’s in technology is that they are not very useful to the students and are static and outdated before the curriculum committee gives it a final stamp of approval. Has anyone found a user editable, dynamic online curriculum database that users can pick and choose which parts of the curriculum they like?

P.S. Any other Particle Community Members good at PHP and MYSQL? I may just go ahead and start making a Dynamic Curriculum Database.

@jenschr @macsboost @mprogers @MrRichardB

So I got an online Particle Photon Robotics curriculum database started at that has playlists so that different instructors can choose different parts of any curriculum. It will probably take a bit to complete my data entry. I have not yet got the instructor signup working yet so if anyone else is interested they will need to get me to setup a login username and password. (Or just wait a few days and I should have it working)

1 Like


Has your exploration into using Photons gone any further?

I’m at a High School in North Brisbane and am experimenting with a Photon to see whether it could be used with a Year 9 Extension science class. At the moment, the enterprise network we have here at school is a big hurdle which is causing me to consider offline solutions.

1 Like

I had a similar dilemma of how to use Photons on a highly restricted school network. Simple answer was that I bought a 4G wireless router and a data SIM from Telstra. So the Photons connect directly to that router to get to the cloud. Router has normal wifi security on it so other students can’t automatically connect to it with laptops. I think 10GB of data allowance cost under $200 for 12months. We haven’t used more than a couple of GB yet. The router means we can take the Photons outside and away from the school network and they can still happily connect to the cloud.

Like others, our main problem is how to manage the claiming and unclaiming of these devices. I liked the suggestion of creating generic email addresses and accounts, seeing as Particle still don’t have a separate management system as far as I can tell.


I would investigate setting up your class's devices as a Product. It would allow you (teacher/administrator) to un-claim a device that was added. Each user would create their own Particle login, just the same.

Since Particle added the ability mark a device as a "development" device, you may be able to leverage that. I believe that students would still need to include your Product ID at the top of their code... Users could flash any version of software they wanted to the development device (and be blind to all of that (except the file header).

I haven't tried it but I think that may be possible. Maybe @rickkas7 or someone else at Particle could figure out and document a workflow for Education using Products.

Anyways, the problem seems solvable in consideration of that new capability.

1 Like

Just adding my two cents here…

I run the “Coding Club” at my high school and I recently (last week) purchased 10 Photon Kits and 10 Raspberry Pi kits with a school grant.

The Wi-Fi at my school is unsecured and I am able to connect Photons and Pi’s at will.

I have created a linux script for quickly setting up Raspberry Pi’s and it is very convenient.

I plan to use po-util for building firmware for devices on student-owned laptops, but I will probably have to use the Web IDE on the school computers for students without their own laptops.

Should I add all the photons to a product? I know that we will be using the Raspberry Pi’s for various non-Particle projects as well, but would it be most convenient to add the Photons to a product, or let students create their own Particle accounts and claim the devices themselves?

Also, for the curriculum I plan on teaching everyone the basics and then see what specific projects people are interested in.

1 Like

Thanks for this suggestion. We will look into it.