LC1 BBC Micro:bit programming

Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, games console - the range of electronic devices at our fingertips is huge. In the Computing Department at CLC our task is to explore answer to questions such as: how do such devices work, what can we use them for, and how do we build software for them? And yet these are all highly sophisticated electronic devices, and the software they run is typically created by large teams of highly trained engineers taking months of time. 

What the students need is a simple device, pared down to its essentials that can be programmed by a beginner, such as the BBC Micro:bit. Funded by the BBC, this nationwide initiative has provided all students across the UK in their first year of secondary school with a small, simple, easy to program computing device about the size of a match-box.

The Micro:bit is controlled by just two programmable buttons, plus its compass (to detect direction) and its accelerometer (to detect motion), which are also found in tablets and smartphones. Its display consists of a simple array of 25 LEDs. It can readily be connected to other devices by Bluetooth, the USB connector or one of three general purpose input/output rings.

Programming is straightforward and was easily grasped by our LC1 girls. All the tools they need are supplied on the BBC Micro:bit website in a programming environment provided by Microsoft. They write their program code and test it on-screen, and then connect the Micro:bit and download their program. The Micro:bit website is also full of ideas, videos and examples of what others have created.

We were able to exploit these exciting devices and our Lower College girls took to them like ducks to water. We were delighted how quickly they picked up the basics, and even more pleased that, as they worked on small projects, they were coming up with ideas for even more interesting and challenging programs they could try later. 

Programming, or coding as we often refer to it, is often assumed to be dry and technical. While the girls do have to learn the 'rules' and stick to them, just as important is the creative drive to think of a good idea and to see it through to completion. Ultimately, coding is far more about imagination and determination and our Micro:bits have proved an excellent platform for this.

Mr Fayter, Computing Teacher