Having a play around with a bbc micro:bit

I recently acquired a BBC micro:bit from a friend of my Mum’s and I have already started writing a game for it!

What is a micro:bit?

A micro:bit is a cute pocket-sized computer with a bunch of awesome features. You only need a computer with an internet connection and a microUSB lead to program it, which I think is cool.

My microbit
My microbit

What features does it have?

  • A 5×5 LED display
  • 2 buttons
  • A magnetometer
  • An accelerometer
  • A bluetooth antenna for programming via phone
  • A microUSB port for data and power
  • A reset button
  • A connector for a special battery pack
  • 5 I/O connecters (3 General purpose, 1 Ground, 1 3V)

How did I get started and what have I been doing with it?

I first used a microbit at an open day at a Barclays Eagle Lab in Cambridge, where I made a little reaction game. When I got my own microbit, I progressed to writing a small script that drew random dots on the screen. After that I wrote a little script that cycled through the clock/arrow images. I think it’s awesome how something so small can be so versatile!

I’m currently writing a cool battle game that will hopefully have a lot of awesome features.

Picture of my random dots program running
My random dots program running

How do I get started?

First you need to get your hands on a microbit. They’re unfortunately rare at the moment, although they are being given away for free to Year 7 students across the UK, but will go on sale to everyone soon. When you get one, you need to plug it in and calibrate it first of all. It automatically starts the calibration process on start up, and gives you instructions on what to do to calibrate it, then it will run a built-in program until you program it using an external device such as a PC.

How do I program it?

The microbit is programmed in an online environment. I think that is useful for children because they can use it with any computer and don’t need to install software or get their hands on a load of peripherals. There are currently four languages you can program it in and they are as follows:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Block Editor
  3. Touch Develop
  4. MicroPython

Once you have written your program you can download it by clicking the Compile or Download button at the top of the screen. This should open a save dialog. Once you have downloaded your .hex file you need to connect your micro:bit to your computer and move the file to your microbit which should show up as a removable disk.The microbit will then run your program.

saving-program
Saving a program to the micro:bit

To conclude…

Overall, I think the micro:bit is a very useful tool especially for education because it is easy to program and get started with. I have been having a lot of fun programming with it and I hope to keep you updated about what I do with it. I’d love to see what other kids have done with theirs too.

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