Seventh Graders Take On Micro:bits in a Big Way

Micro:bits, pocket-sized microcomputers developed by the BBC, are making their mark in the world and on the Masters campus. 

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Seventh grade students in Rae Johnson’s Computer Science for Innovators and Makers class are using them to learn about the power of programming and digital technology.

“I love that these devices allow students to see the immediate results of their labor, whether they're creating simple LED animations, sending messages or playing music,” Johnson said. “The micro:bit makes the cause-and-effect relationship between the program they write on their computer screen and the device's behavior very clear, which encourages students to go back in and improve on what they are creating in real-time.”

Avi Kinon ’29 appreciates the versatility of the micro:bit: “I love that they are easy enough to work with but you still feel like you're learning while you go along.” 

Inspired by a recent “Nutcracker” performance, Kinon was excited to create something of her own. “I made a little spinning ballerina with it.” she shared. “You can connect different things and make it do whatever you want.”

Classmate Jack Barek ’29 enjoys the micro:bit’s freedom and accessibility too. “It is a very good start to computer science as a whole,” he said. “It uses inputs and outputs like LEDs, buzzers, pressure sensors, servos (small but powerful motors), and it uses code that provides a good foundation to further understand other pieces of code. All of these skills can be used to create robots, games, tools and more. That’s what I like the most about it.”

Barek is currently designing a game controller “that fits around the micro:bit to turn into a controller that could look like a Nintendo controller.”

In class, students are learning to use the Bluetooth features of the micro:bit to send and receive information from other devices. “We are building up to a major project after break where the students will be programming and designing a security system that uses light, sound and radio signals to alert the owner that something of theirs has been compromised,” Johnson said.

Johnson loves that the device and coding platform is welcoming to students and is helpful to them no matter where they are. “The challenge then becomes remixing basic code and using these different functions creatively, which is very much in the spirit of Middle School IEC,” Johnson said. “Some of these students will choose to study AP Computer Science in Upper School, and others will have just a taste, and will be able to proudly look back and say they learned how to program a custom step tracker in Middle School.”

“This course has it all, and in a way, prepares us for the future,” Barek noted. “It’s also a blast to create crazy things with nothing but determination, a computer and some creativity.”

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