MicroBit: The MicroBit is a robotics platform sponsored by the BBC specifically designed to be used in projects by kids. It contains many onboard inputs (e.g. buttons, thermometers, gyroscopes, compass, radio transceivers) and a 5×5 LED array which (with the help of an easy to use block based online coding interface) gives kids a very capable and rewarding introduction to robotics.
After covering the basics of electronic circuits (with the MicroBit acting as a voltage source) kids get their first taste of giving instructions to Microcontrollers. The 5×5 LED array is used as the primary output (supporting easy to draw faces, animals, and other symbols) while fundamentals of robotic logic (e.g. detecting button presses, loops, and events) are introduced one at a time. Before moving on to more complex inputs kids also learn to wire up buzzers and make use of Makecode’s (the MicroBit’s online development environment) extensive sound and music library.
Arduino TinkerCAD: The Arduino is an open source industry standard prototyping board. It is a low level controller where electricity is directly controlled and circuits containing desired components (e.g. lights, buttons, buzzers) must be wired before being used. Many activities take the form of device operating theory, wiring instructions, and finally programming usage.
The beginner section focuses on LEDs and buzzers as outputs stressing the importance of visualizing the actual flow of electricity that results from the Arduino following our instructions. Basic circuitry and programming concepts are also covered to give students a good foundation for more complex components and coding structures later on.
Kids learn core skills that get applied in projects to integrate their learning and make it fun. Some of the core skills learned and sample projects made include:
- Microbit and MakeCode (coding Microbits)
- Input Events (Buttons and Shaking)
- Songs and Sounds with Buzzers
- Project: Flashy Heart
- Project: Smiley Button
- Project: Love Meter
- Project: Coin Flipper
- Arduinos and Electricity
- Connecting the Arduino
- TinkerCAD and Programs
- Digital Output (with an LED light)
- Delay (Putting the Arduino to sleep)
- Project: Blink (flashing an LED light)
- Project: Dual Blink (flashing LED lights)
- Analog Output (dimming LED lights)
- Tone Output (makie sound with a buzzer)
- Loops (repeating code)
- SONGS (program robots to play music)
- Project: SOS (messages in Morse Code)
- Project: Sunrise Sunset
MakerKids Mindset for Robotics: Confidence
Robotics involves a lot of technical skill and deep thinking. Concepts like circuitry can be tricky to work with. The best understanding comes from seeing things in action, and that requires first giving it a try.
In addition to the testing required for inquiry-based learning, with robots, there are countless reasons why something doesn’t work as intended. Having the self-confidence to experiment while working through a problem and trying new things to see which one works is an asset in all areas of life.