BBC micro:bit

micro:bit

Introduction

The micro:bit is a microcontroller board developed by the BBC and a range of partners.

A micro:bit is being given to all Year 7 students in the 2015-2016 cohort. The gift is intended to encourage them to take up programming and electronics as a hobby as well as to support their learning in STEM subjects.

To get the most out of your micro:bit, you need to write code for it.

Programming

There are currently 4 online code editors for the micro:bit. You can access them all at the BBC micro:bit portal http://www.microbit.co.uk. These are designed with young learners in mind and are easy to use. The current choice is between,

Code Kingdoms

This is one of the code editors that can be configured to allow you to type actual words normally. You can also write statements by dragging blocks. The language is Javascript and you get a lot of visual help with making the program.

Block Editor

This code editor is made by Microsoft and works in a very similar way to Scratch. The other two editors have more features in their languages than this. You can convert a program you have written in the block editor to work in the Touch Develop editor. This is a good way to start and you have the added benefit of being able to convert your program and carry on with it in Touch Develop when you are ready.

Touch Develop

This is the most feature-rich of the code editors and is a nice small step to take without moving to something where you type all of the statements.

Python

The Python editor was the last to be added. There is also an implementation of Micropython that you can use entirely offline through a package called Mu. This allows you to write programs with access to a full range of programming statements. Being able to create functions and use complex data structures makes it possible to connect the micro:bit to more interesting components.

Kodu Game Lab

Kodu Game Lab is a tool for creating 3D games or stories. Programming statements in Kodu all follow the same format and are simple to construct. You can connect your micro:bit and use it as an input/output device in a Kodu world you have made.

If you find programming hard and struggle to concentrate on the details and order of statements, Kodu is a really nice way to get into things and get results that you are pleased with. There are lots of examples and tutorials on the Kodu site and built into the software that make it good fun to explore without being too difficult.

Kodu also involves some graphical design when you build your worlds. This can be artistic as much as it can be technical depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Bluetooth

The micro:bit allows you to communicate with smartphones and tablets using the BLE version of mobiles common to these devices. An Android app is currently available that allows you to connect to your phone using the micro:bit. You can use the Android app to program your micro:bit and write programs that allow your micro:bit and smartphone to interact with one another.

An iOS app is also available. You can use this to connect to the micro:bit and flash programs to it. The devices code in the editors is not available for the iOS devices.

These Pages

These pages are intended to provide you with some help and a few ideas for using the BBC micro:bit. Most of the pages describe programs and or circuits that are relatively quick to make. Follow the Basics section for a quick way to get going and to gather some techniques and ideas before moving on. The idea is that you use the examples to learn some basic principles about how to program the device or use the component before deciding on how you might use the technique in your own projects.

Circuit and breadboard diagrams in this section have been made using the open source program, Fritzing. You can download the program from the Fritzing Web Site.