BBC’s Micro:Bit looks like the answer

For the past several years, I have taught a “Tinkering” class to sixth graders. First I started out with Adafruit’s Trinkets but the Arduino language for 11-12 years olds in a bit daunting. Here’s a writeup of the course.

This summer I planned to explore using a headless Raspberry Pi Zero, so students could use Scratch, Python or Processing.

But I think the answer arrived in my mailbox last week. Its the BBC’s Micro:Bit, a small fully programmable computer  which will be given out to every  Year 7 or equivalent child across the UK.

MicrobitFrontLabeledWhat’s it got? First the hardware. As you can see with the picture above it has quite a few devices built onto the board.  It can be powered  by USB connector or  batteries.

It has 3 digital input/outputs that you can connect via alligator clips plus there is an optional edge connector to expand the Micro:Bit even further.

But what I really love about the Micro:Bit is how you can program it. First you can use a laptop, tablet, Chromebook or smartphone (Android or iOS) to write programs, basically anything with a browser.

There is a Scratch-like block programming language, Javascript, Python, even a touch screen editor.

You go to the Micro:Bit site and after you sign it, you see a list of your programs. Once your in an editor, there is even an image of the Micro:Bit on the side of the screen which is an emulator, meaning you can test your program before you download to the Micro:bit.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 2.30.00 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 2.30.37 PM

To load your program into the Micro:Bit you compile the program and since the Micr:Bit looks like a flash drive, you just drag the .HEX over to it. Or you can use the Bluetooth to pair up and copy it.

For further expansion to teach circuit building there is the Pimoroni Prototyping Kit which gives you an edge connector, breadboard and mounting plate.

I just order one kit for each of our 6th graders and can’t wait to start.

That’s it for now. I’ll keep you posted!