micro:bit of Things

This site is for teachers. In fact it is for anyone who has their hands on a micro:bit (either model V1 or model V2) and wants to know what they can do with it. I have assumed that those reading these notes are already familiar with the micro:bit. If you are not, I recommend that you follow the link below.

The micro:bit is a superb tool for delivering the physical elements of a computing curriculum and it is a fantastic device on which to base a wide range of STEM projects that involve electrical circuits and electronics.

Since I created this website, the excellent Tutorials section of the makecode.microbit.org website has been extended to include many differnet micro:bit based science and STEM projects that will enable both you and your pupils to develop their physical computing skills.

I created the site to publish notes on projects that I am working on with my pupils so this site will be of interest to teachers who are looking for ideas and advice that will enable them to exploit the capabilities of the micro:bit.

The projects have been piloted with children in Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 and many are now embedded into the STEM curriculum at my school. They have been designed with tight budgets in mind. With the exception of motor control there is no need to buy expensive add-ons. All of the components used are cheap and can be recycled.

I have purposely not provided full schemes of work or lesson plans for all the projects illustrated as there is considerable variation in the way different schools teach computing, science, D&T and STEM. It is up to individual schools to identify where, within their curriculum, some of these project ideas might be incorporated.

To encourage schools to make a start I have produced a scheme of work consisting of 12 one hour sessions aimed at primary school children (aged 9 to 11). These first and future steps are for the complete beginner, both children and teachers (follow the link below).

The rationale for placing a strong emphasis on physical computing (control technology) is twofold.

Firstly, the selection of suitable projects will provide an engaging and understandable context for the children to learn about computing and the design of computer systems.

Secondly, we need to educate a generation of engineers, designers, technicians and 'Internet of Things' knowledgeable entrepreneurs, to enable the UK to be at the forefront of future technological developments. The school children of today will build and maintain the Internet of Things of the future. Key to this end is enabling children to see how coding and electronics can be made to work with hardware and mechanisms to produce systems that solve real life problems.

To find out more about the IoT, click on the link below.

You can start anywhere with this website, but progression is built into the projects so I advise the beginner to start at number 1 and work through the projects in sequence. All of the scripts included on this site were created by children, as were the models shown in images and video clips.

For coding control projects both the BBC Block Editor and the MakeCode Editor work well and are intuitive for children who have grown up with Scratch. I would express a distinct preference for the MakeCode editor for programs that make use of the input output pins.

With older children (Year 6 and above) who are feeling a little 'Scratched out' and are ready to move onto a textural language, I would recommend using Micro Python. This is quite a big step as syntax errors will abound at first and this can be very dispiriting for young programmers. The EduBlocks editor represents a handy 'stepping stone' between a block editor and Python. The facility to create code using blocks and then view it as a Python script makes initial experimentation much less frustrating. EduBlocks have only recently been constructed for the micro:bit so the library of blocks is currently limited, but it is growing.

If you have access to a Windows 10 computer, then it is well worth downloading and installing the Make Code App. This has an enormous added advantage as it enables data to be recorded, downloaded and imported to a spreadsheet for further data handling. The micro:bit has to be connected to the PC via its serial cable for this to work and you will probably need to install an Arm mBed Ms serial port driver.

The links below will take you to a wide range of program editors for use with the micro:bit.

Graham Hastings

Head of Computing

St John's College School, Cambridge

CAS Master Teacher