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micro:bit is a little ARM programmable microprocessor (that’s like a limited computer) with various sensor (light, temperature, acceloremeter, compass), 25 programamable leds, radio and bluetooth, pins for external connections, two programmable buttons and USB.
These specs are compressed in a little 4,2 cm x 5,1 cm (1,65 in x 2 in) board with circuits and connectors on one side and leds and buttons on the other (which on our opinion resemble a little face). In part it looks like a more powerfull and versatile Makey Makey. All the sensors on the micro:bit open a world of possibilities.
¿Does it sound like it’ll be only for robotics and coding buffs? Well, it’s not! It’s easy to code for (it has its own block-based visual editor, and there’s also Scratch) and it’s easy to use (if you can connect a usb to a computer, you’re good to go).
What’s the story of micro:bit glory?
micro:bit was born for schools at United Kingdom (home of our beloved Raspberry Pi). It was created by BBC in 2012 as part of the Computer Literacy Programme and as a homage to the BBC Micro (a vintage microcomputer). Nowadays 780.000 kids use it and 75% of United Kingdom schools are part of micro:bit Educational Foundation. It’s a success among the education community, with 90% of students saying that it showed them that anybody can code.
As you can see the micro:bit has lots of government support and lot of resources and possibilities. And a reasonable price!
Who is micro:bit for?
It’s 11 and up. But as you know this is kind of relative… It depends on your kid and if he or she has used block-based visual coders before. If that’s the case, go ahead. The micro:bit is sturdy. When using these kind of boards sometimes it seems the connectors are going to fall apart. Not micro:bit’s, it seems it could withstand anything.
If as an adult you fancy the board there’s lot of activities you can use to introduce it at home, so kids can start to understand coding logic, sensors… Or maybe you can use it as a support for other activities (a treasure hunt using its sensors, led-based games…) so there’s no need for the kids to code.
Some of the activities will need more than one micro:bit, which doesn’t come as a surprise due to the school origin of the board. Still there’re lots that will work with only one. And while it’s origin is on the school you can perfectly use it at home, if you’re motivated.
Fun projects with micro:bit
- On easy mode, let’s use micro:bit to show your name with its leds.
- You can create the well-known piano with a banana o even a guitar.
- A step counter.
- A game that will prove who is the fastest.
- Timing gates for your little cars.
- A soil mosture sensor sensor which you can upgrade with automatic plant watering.
- Turning the micro:bit into a videogame controller. This one is for bikes but should work for many others.
- A train railway crossing detector.
- A “got milk” robot.
Some of these are pretty advanced and will need more materials (servos and such). But we found them amazing and a good benchmark of what can be done. But there’s much more, check these 117 projects with different difficulties.
What do I need to play with micro:bit?
You might need a computer (Windows, macOS, Linux, anything goes) and it doesn’t have to be a powerful one. Just check that it has a USB connector (it most definitely will!).
There’s apps for Android and iOS but you won’t be able to code with them (a real pity!). You’ll be able to send you programs via bluetooth and connect both devices. While you can code with MakeCode on a browser in a tablet or phone we haven’t tested that much.
What should I get for home?
Let’s take a look at the different buying options:
You can find the board sold on its own, but we wouldn’t recommend it. At the very last you’ll want the micro:bit with a battery adaptor so you can it use without having a USB cable connected to a computer. That’ll make it easier to use the compass, light sensor…
You might also want to buy an alligator clip pack. Maybe you won’t need them at the beginning but when you tackle more advanced projects they are a must.
This a whole new level. This pack includes the micro:bit with the battery pack, a servomotor, more external sensor, and OLED screen, buttons… There’s also a little book full of projects to use all this shiny new material. A nice bargain if you’re sure the micro:bit will be a hit at home.
We hope you liked this article, we’ll keep posting more about micro:bit, because there’s lots to explore.