BBC micro:bit dev board

Last year BBC introduced Micro:bit development board  Intended to allow children to get creative with technology. The Micro:bit is one of the cornerstones of the BBC’s “Make it Digital” campaign. With Micro:bit BBC tries to get a million preteens into embedded development world as Micro:bit will be given to every 11 or 12 year old child across the UK, for free. BBC micro:bit is aimed for all sorts of cool creations, from robots to musical instruments.

There are already a lot of low-cost, small-sized developing card, like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, ESP8266 NodeMCU, CodeBug .. and many other Dev Boards. So why does the world need another new educational development board?

In some way you could compare the idea to famous Raspberry Pi board, but this Micro:bit is aimed to be cheaper and even easier to program. Where Raspberry Pi is a full computer, Micro:bit could be more compared to an Arduino board or IoT device with limited resources but with built-in features like LED display and sensors. The technical specifications for the board will also be open-sourced, and a not-for-profit company will oversee future development. There is a large number of product partners, web site with on-line development tools, the board is distributed to million preteens and $19 Micro:bit computer is now available also as commercial product.Product partners in technology include:  ARM (mbed hardware, software development kits),  Microsoft (TouchDevelop web-based programming tools), Nordic Semiconductor (main processor and enabled Bluetooth Smart) and Samsung (connecting to phones and tablets with the Android app). So it seems that it has already found it’s path on the crowded dev board market.

Micro:bit board is based around an ARM Cortex M0 processor and features a programmable array of 25 red LEDs, two programmable buttons and a built-in accelerometer and magnetometer. It is designed to be powered with two AA batteries or though USB. Here is picture of 50x40mm Micro:bit board from Micro:bit web site:

BBC Micro Bit specifications

  • Size: approx. 5cm x 4cm
  • Weight: 8g
  • Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU
  • Bluetooth Low Energy
  • Digital Compass
  • Accelerometer
  • Micro-USB controller
  • 5×5 LED matrix with 25 red LEDs
  • 2 programmable buttons
  • Powered by 2x AAA batteries

For connections on the bottom of the board in the picture are five rings which work with crocodile clips or 4mm banana plugs. Those can be used to attach more sensors including thermometers, moisture sensors, proximity sensors and more. The entire edge of the Micro Bit is a ‘standard’ edge connector and it can be used also for output signals: 23-pin edge connector with two or three PWM outputs, six to 17 GPIO pins (depending on configuration), six analog inputs, serial I/O, SPI, and I²C.

More detailed hardware description from Wikipedia:

What is the price? For school kids the price is £0, and for everyone else £15.The BBC Micro Bit is now available to pre-order from distributors including Kitronik, Pimoroni, Science Scope, Tech Will Save Us and The Pi Hut. The first paid-for micro:bits will ship in July 2016.

 

How do you program the BBC Micro Bit?

Kids will be able to program the Micro Bit via a web-based editing environment.The available languaghes are JavaScript, Python (MicroPython), C++, Blocks (a visual programming language) and Microsoft’s Touch Develop language (visual + code). There is on-line web based editing enviroment that runs on PC, tablet and smartphone. Once a program is finished it can be saved and sent to a server which compiles the program into the code the Micro Bit can understand.The Micro Bit was created using the ARM mbed development kits and the mbed cloud compiler service. The development environments are all accessible through the micro:bit website, on which no login is required for writing code.

The Micro Bit can act like a USB flash drive when connected to a PC, so programs can be dragged and dropped onto it. Or compiled program can be transferred wirelessly via Bluetooth to the Micro Bit

On clicking the “Create code” button you are presented with a choice of four, Code Kingdoms JavaScript, Microsoft Block Editor, Microsoft Touch Develop, and Python. For exmaple this Blocks aditor provides you Micro:bit emulator that allows you to test your code without real hardware:

microbitscript

JavaScript also has visual look and Micro:bit emulator in it:

microbit_javascript

What to do with this board? Your imagination is the limit. Example projects:

For example one  School launches BBC micro:bit into space!

14 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    BBC micro:bit product review
    http://www.electroschematics.com/12778/bbc-microbit-product-review/

    While almost all of the electronic distributors, hobbyist sites, and online electronic shops have the BBC micro:bit available for pre-order (officially available starting next July), thanks to element14, we had the opportunity to test, play with, and enjoy one of these boards for ourselves.

    The BBC Foundation has already distributed more than 750,000 units for free to English schools for children seven years and older, and a meaningful effort has been made to support classes, teachers, educators, and parents through the teaching and learning process.

    Micro:bit makes many different approaches available to users and supports different levels of knowledge.

    To make many projects, only a few PINs, power, and GND are sufficient. As such, three large PINs, 0-3 V, and GND are always in evidence and easy to connect with alligator clips. 2xAAA batteries are sufficient to power the board and some external sensors or devices (the battery holder is included).

    The portal aims to be a comprehensive reference for the device, programming languages, online editor, and programmer, as well as a clearly explained teacher’s guide and a community for users and enthusiasts.

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    JUST DO IoT
    BBC Micro:Bit connected to LoRaWAN network
    https://hackaday.io/project/12164-just-do-iot

    The BBC Micro:Bit is an IOT microprocessor board based on the Nordic Semiconductor NRF51822 chip with an ARM Cortex M0 processor and bluetooth. For this project it was decided to program the board using the micropython development environment.

    The LoRaWAN radio module used to connect to the TTN is the RN2483 from Microchip. This module connects to the Micro:Bit over a serial interface. A microcontroller integral to the RN2483 take care of all the processing for the radio and supports the LoRaWAN protocol layers. In this build the RN2483 module is mounted on a breakout board from Azzy’s Electronics Store on Tindie.

    The Radio module is powered from the Micro:Bit using either USB or battery. Three data lines between the Micro:Bit and radio module carry a hardware reset line and serial transmit and receive data.

    The python code initializes the radio over the serial connection and sends data packets over the radio channel. The antenna for the 868 MHz radio in this case is a short piece of wire of the correct length (82mm).

    The Things Network (TTN) comprises a number of internet connected LoRaWAN gateways deployed by enthusiastic supporters in a growing number of areas around the world. If you don’t already have local coverage, then you can deploy your own gateway and connect it to TTN. While gateways are expensive at around $500 each, many local funding opportunities exist, and exploiting these makes the IOT opportunities more visible and pertinent to the local community.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Germans React to UK’s micro:bit
    http://hackaday.com/2016/10/18/germans-react-to-uks-microbit/

    Getting kids interested in programming is all the rage right now, and the UK is certainly taking pole position with its BBC micro:bit, just recently distributed to every seventh-grader in the land. Germany, proud of its education system and technological prowess, is caught playing catch-up. Until now.

    The Calliope Mini is essentially a micro:bit clone, but one that has learned from the experience of its spiritual forefather — the connection points are spread around the outside of the board where the crocodile clips won’t accidentally touch each other.

    Not content to simply copy, the Calliope also adds additional functionality. A microphone and speaker are integrated onboard, as is a Grove-style I2C connector. They’ve even added a TI DRV8837 H-bridge motor driver, so students could make a rolling robot straight out of the box.

    But the real secret ingredient here is piggy-backing on the existing BBC micro:bit codebase and infrastructure.

    We’re left wondering if the micro:bit platform will become as important as the Arduino has. If Calliope gets adopted wide-scale in Germany, that would be a harbinger. Having two countries’ kids all familiar with the same platform will certainly give it a boost.
    … But not Open Hardware

    But why aren’t the designs for either the micro:bit or the Calliope open-sourced? There’s not enough going on that it would take an average hacker more than an afternoon to reverse engineer either of the boards, so there’s little to gain by not opening up to the community.

    http://calliope.cc/ueber-mini

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    BBC Micro:bit is piloted Espoo

    Supporting schoolchildren digital teaching the BBC Micro: bit PC card will be piloted in Espoo, Finland. The project is supported by the BBC Micro: bit Foundation leader Zach Shelby in addition to Etteplan’s IoT, Vice President of Jaakko Ala-Paavola and educational organization Mehackit.

    Great Britain has been since March 2016, divided into about a million persons studying in the seventh grade schoolchildren BBC Micro: bit computer board. Now supporting educational projects in British Foundation will help the Finnish secondary schools with Mehackit-company training.

    “It’s been amazing to see the enthusiasm of the students’ and teachers’ ‘, Ala-Paavola says. He believes that the platform enables the programming interface for other subjects teaching.

    Source: http://www.uusiteknologia.fi/2016/10/26/bbcn-korttimikroa-pilotoidaan-espoossa/

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    One Micro Bit Accomplishes Its Goal
    http://hackaday.com/2017/03/04/one-micro-bit-accomplishes-its-goal/

    Like the Raspberry Pi, the BBC Micro Bit had a goal of being foremost an educational device. Such an inexpensive computer works well with the current trend of cutting public school budgets wherever possible while still being able to get kids interested in coding and computers in general. While both computers have been co-opted by hackers for all kinds of projects (the Pi especially), [David]’s latest build keeps at least his grandkids interested in computers by using the Micro Bit to add some cool features to an old toy.

    The toy in question is an old Scalextric slot car racetrack

    But what fun is a race if you can’t keep track of laps or lap times? With the BBC Mirco Bit and some hardware, the new-and-improved racetrack can do all of these things. It also implements a drag race-style light system to start the race and can tell if a car false starts.

    microbit Lap Counter For Scalextric Like Track
    https://www.kitronik.co.uk/blog/microbit-lap-counter-scalextric/

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Micro:bot
    A simple robot based on the BBC micro:bit.
    https://hackaday.io/project/8475-microbot

    As a part of the “microbit world tour” program, I’m putting the micro:bit on a robot. This is a very basic animal, assembled from junk I had lying around, held together with two-sided tape and hot glue. No soldering required, so any kid can try and build one like this.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Micro:header
    A cheap breakout header for the Micro:bit
    https://hackaday.io/project/9685-microheader

    Micro:bit is a nice little board, but to really get more of it, you need access to all those extra pins on the edge connector. There are breakout kits that let you do that, but they are too big to actually put in your project. I’m trying to make the simplest thing that could possibly work here.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The BBC’s card micro will come to Finnish schools

    British Broadcasting Corporation brainchild of a microprocessor card will be introduced dozens of new schools in Finland. A small processor card for use in teaching programming in 15 schools across the Finnish, autumn starting co-operation of schools will be 50 more.

    In Finland, University of Helsinki is involved through Innokas (Eager) Network. Co-operation means, among other things, large-scale experiments examining their functionality.

    University of Helsinki, Faculty of Education, Eager Network was selected Micro: bits partner for Finnish schools for the tip. With his enthusiasm has a strong network of interested of digital technology in educational use and development of teachers.

    ” Our pilots during the avid Network conducts research on how teachers and children work and what students ages Micro: bit is best suited for, ”

    Finnish curriculum of digital technology fits very well, but user-friendly for teachers teaching tools are missing. Therefore, often the enthusiasm fall apart easily. With simple tools, for example, students learn to program, build robots and create music.

    Source: http://www.uusiteknologia.fi/2017/04/11/bbcn-korttimikro-tulee-voimalla-suomalaiskouluihin/

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    BBC’s Micro:bit turns out to be an excellent drone hijacking tool
    Much love for tiny microcomputer
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/29/bbcs_microbit_drone_hijacking_tool/

    DEF CON The BBC’s Micro:bit computer board may be winning over school kids, but hackers have found its wireless capabilities and programmable nature make it an excellent tool for mischief.

    In a presentation at this year’s DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas on Friday, Damien Cauquil, senior security researcher at Econocom Digital Security, showed how the pocket-sized microcomputer could be configured to sniff out keystrokes from a wireless keyboard, and even take control of a quadcopter drone with just some nifty programming.

    The Micro:bit, which costs just £12 in the UK or $15 in the US, is powered by a 16MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 CPU with 16KB of RAM and Bluetooth connectivity that, with a little Python coding, turns out to be an excellent wireless sniffer. To make matters better for hackers, it’s also tiny, and thus easy to hide while doing this job.

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The main Espruino boards are Cortex M3 and M4 based, but I ported it to the BBC micro:bit a while back, and it runs pretty well on there.

    todbot micro:bit is NRF51822, correct?

    Gordon Williams It’s a bit constrained because after the Bluetooth stack you only have 6kB RAM for the interpreter, but it’s usable for simple stuff. The SAMD21 should be a lot better – it’s 256kB flash, 32kB RAM?

    Gordon Williams And yes, it is NRF51822 – and M0

    Source: https://hackaday.io/event/26310-espruino-hack-chat

    Reply

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