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The micro:bit from Halloween! Part 1 – An introduction to the micro:bit

I enjoy and use electronics every day, but I will be honest, I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about them.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I have my degree in Elementary Education, and the last programming class I took was 15 years ago in college.  I also currently teach ESL (English as Second Language) part-time online while also fostering another young engineering mind at home (yes, he may be following in his father’s footsteps).  I enjoy reading books, and spending time with my family.  With all that, then how they heck did I end up getting roped into writing a blog post about electronics?  Read on to find out…

 

The micro:bit displaying a programmed light pattern

 

Our family was at the Dayton Mini-Maker Faire last month and the MCM Electronics booth was selling micro:bits.  I began thinking of all of the different ways I could use one while teaching English.  Some of the demo micro:bits they had on hand were showing numbers, letters, words, and patterns in their LED display.  These are all concepts I review with my ESL students daily. I thought these little devices looked interesting and sat down to play with one.  (As I said, it’s been a while since I did any programming).  I was curious to see how user friendly they really were.  Their slogan is “Get creative.  Get connected.  Get coding.”  To be honest, it really was that easy.  The micro:bit can be coded from any web browser in Blocks, Javascript, Python, Scratch, and other languages as well.  I decided to start out with Blocks.  The JavaScript Blocks editor made it extremely intuitive, and within a few minutes my four year old and I were creating light patterns.  He loved it so much that I knew we were probably coming home with one.

 

A view of the Javascript Blocks editor that can be used with the micro:bit

 

Since then, I’ve been playing with this fun little device on and off for the past month and I still smile every time I see it.  It has been very useful already.  I have been able to use it in teaching letters, sight words, and numbers.  I also found a magic 8 ball game that I downloaded which was fun for both my son and my students.

 

Here is what I am thinking as an idea for a project

 

Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself at the dollar store and inspiration struck when I found a skeleton and a mummy Halloween decoration.  I was thinking that these could be used with the micro:bits to spice them up for our trick-or-treaters.  We are trying to figure out exactly how we want to integrate the micro:bits into our Halloween decorations.  We might program the LED lights to look like eyes moving back and forth, have the micro:bits say, “Boo”, or have it play spooky sounds.  We may have it do all three.

Do you have any ideas on other things that you might try?  How would you use a micro:bit in these Halloween decorations?

 

Editor’s Note

I am super excited that Kelcie has decided to stretch herself and grow to take on a project like this.  This is far outside of her comfort level, but she is excited to play with the micro:bit and see what she can do with it.  Help me welcome her into delving into the world of embedded electronics.  This is a first step, and has started to inspire her to take a look at continuing to grow and do more projects.

One Comments

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  • T.K.Hareendran

    @Kelcie: Quite an interesting read!

    As you might noticed, micro:bit can also be programmed through Bluetooth with the help of their official mobile app.

    Will be waiting for the next episode. Thank You…

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