Getting Started With the BBC micro:bit

Getting Started With the BBC micro:bit

The BBC micro:bit is a pocket size computer for kids which comes packed with a bunch of sensors (compass, temperature sensor, motion detection, light intensity, etc.) including an embedded Bluetooth radio allowing it to communicate with other devices around it. The BBC micro:bit is a collaboration between 29 partners and happens to be the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative in 30 years. BBC launched the micro:bit with the ambition to inspire digital creativity and develop a new generation of tech pioneers all over the UK.

In this post we’ll take a brief look at the BBC micro:bit, why should parents/kids consider starting their STEM learning journey with the BBC micro:bit, what can one do with the BBC micro:bit and then look at a short video series put together by Shawn Hymel from Adafruit. Shawn will cover of various important micro:bit concepts, including the Makecode block based programming interface, create a few sample programs for the BBC micro:bit to demonstrate the power of the micro:bit and also take a brief look at MicroPython for the BBC micro:bit. Let’s dive in!!!!

Check out the BBC micro:bit at the OzToyLib store – <micro:bit Go Kit>

Let’s take a closer look – The BBC MicroBit (also referred to as BBC micro:bit) is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK. The BBC micro:bit was first announced on the launch of BBC’s Make It Digital campaign on 12 March 2015 with the intent of delivering 1 million devices to pupils in the UK.

BBC micro:bit – A Great STEM Ecosystem

Here’s some of what’s packed into micro:bit –

  1. The micro:bit is half the size of a credit card and has an ARM Cortex-M0 processor
  2. The micro:bit comes along with an accelerometer and magnetometer sensors
  3. The micro:bit offers Bluetooth and USB connectivity
  4. Also embedded into the micro:bit front face is a display consisting of 25 LEDs and two programmable buttons

The micro:bit can be powered by either USB or an external battery pack. The device inputs and outputs are through five ring connectors that form part of a larger 23-pin edge connector. As a pocket-sized computer the BBC micro:bit is approximately 70 times smaller and 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro computers used in schools. It has 25 red LED lights that can flash eye catching messages and be used to create challenging games. The two programmable buttons on the micro:bit can be used to control games or pause and skip songs on a playlist. The accelerometer on the micro:bit can detect motion and knows when you’re on the move so you can use it to create a pedometer or even an interactive game that detects motion. The built-in compass knows which direction you’re heading in and it can use a low energy Bluetooth connection to interact with other devices and the Internet.

Build, Make, Code with the BBC micro:bit

So what can one do with the BBC micro:bit – What you can do with the BBC micro:bit is only limited by your imagination. Let’s briefly have a look at how we make use of the BBC micro:bit in our code clubs here in Melbourne.

Check out the BBC micro:bit at the OzToyLib store – <micro:bit Go Kit>

  1. Getting started with Block based programming – In class we use the BBC micro:bit to get our kids/parents started with their STEM learning journey. Our kids start off by working on block based programming challenges on the BBC micro:bit using Makecode.
    1. This would be the first step for kids/parents embarking on their STEM learning journey with the BBC micro:bit. We tend to spend a few months working on BBC makecode and block based programming.
    1. Tutorials for BBC micro:bit can be accessed through our KidzCanCode Learning Management System – https://learning.kidzcancode.com.
    2. Parents/Kids would use the BBC micro:bit Go kit to work on these tutorials. Check out the micro:bit Go kit here – <micro:bit Go Kit>
  2. Trying your hand at Javascript – Over time some of the kids/parents transition to working with Javascript and Makecode on the BBC micro:bit. Javascript requires the kids/parents to program using text and is slightly more complex that programming using Makecode Block based programming. Not everyone choose to go down the Javascript route due to the complexity involved.
    1. Tutorials for BBC micro:bit can be accessed through our KidzCanCode Learning Management System – https://learning.kidzcancode.com.
  3. Introduction to electronics – Once kids/parents have gained familiarity working with the BBC micro:bit we introduce them to the fundamentals of electronics using the BBC micro:bit. We make use of a few different electronics kits in class with a focus on introducing the parents/kids to basic electronics concepts while helping them build upon the coding concepts they’ve learning using block based programming with BBC Makecode.
    1. Check out the BBC micro:bit based electronics starter kits at – <Electronics starter kits>.
    2. Tutorials covering fundamentals of electronics with the BBC micro:bit can be accessed through our KidzCanCode Learning Management System – https://learning.kidzcancode.com.
  4. Dabbling with Robotics – Over time parents/kids build a solid foundation coding with the blocks on the BBC Makecode combined with an understanding of the fundamentals of electronics. We then move some of these kids/parents to our fundamentals of robotics development track. We have a few different micro:bit robots which we use in class and the kids/parents work on these micro;bit robots building upon their coding skills.
    1. Check out the BBC micro:bit based robotics kits at – <Microbit Robotic kits>.
    2. Tutorials covering fundamentals of robotics with the BBC micro:bit can be accessed through our KidzCanCode Learning Management System – https://learning.kidzcancode.com.

As you’ve just seen the BBC micro:bit offers kids/parents a great opportunity to get started with their STEM learning journey. Over time as kids/parents pick up relevant coding skills they can explore other facets of STEM learning i.e. electronics, robotics, engineering, making and creating, etc.

Check out the BBC micro:bit at the OzToyLib store – <micro:bit Go Kit>

Let’s check out what Shawn Hymel has to say – Here’s a four part series by Shawn Hymel covering off the basic of the BBC micro:bit.

Now that you’ve checked out the BBC micro:bit and how to code with the Makecode block based programming interface let’s quickly check out Micropython on the micro:bit.

Wrapping up – The BBC micro:bit as it stands today offers a broad ecosystem of partners that provide affordable learning solutions (e.g. electronics kits, robotics kits, engineering kits, etc.) which can be used to get kids from 6-18 working on different STEM related challenges. Getting started with coding, electronics, robotics has never been so easy and so affordable!!!!


So if you are keen on keeping up with the Digital revolution head and help your kids gain the skills to move from being digital consumers to digital creators head over to KidzCanCode.com and checkout the 70+ learning courses we have on offer. Get yourself and your kids started on their own STEM learning journey right away!!!!!!

At KidzCanCode.com we offer FREE access to various STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Math) development courses at KidzCanCode.com . At KidzCanCode.com you will find courses on Scratch, BBC Micro:Bit, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, fundamentals and advanced Robotics, fundamentals and advanced Electronics, Web development, Mobile application development, Python development, 3D modelling, etc.

micro:bit based STEM education robot

If you are looking for a BBC micro:bit, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, starter kits, electronics kits, robotics kits including other STEM learning kits we would recommend you drop by our online store here – <OzToyLib>. Hopefully you have enjoyed the post. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future tutorials drop us a note at – learning at hack2 dot live.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the tutorials. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future tutorials drop us a note at – learning at hack2 dot live.

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