I have been playing with micro:bit and various shields/hats to have easy access to the pins for robotics purposes. Most recently I worked with bit:booster from electrify (video links at bottom). It costs $35. It has a nice form factor, being just a little bit larger than the micro:bit. They made the pins on the sides large enough to fit Lego pieces.
They have some good features. The battery pack (3 AA) is mounted on the back to supply 4.5 volts for motors, servos, neopixels and sensors. They use voltage regulation to send only 3V to the micro:bit. There is an on/off switch. They have 2 sets of pins designated for servo’s and 2 other sets for motors. They also have 10 neopixels on the board and pins to hook up a neopixel strip. They have 2 grove ports to attach some sensors. They also have pin outs for “extra” pins (more later). Finally, there is a piezo buzzer for some sound from the micro:bit. lectrify has created great starter cards showing you how to hook things up and how to start the code.
About those extra pins. I want to use them for external switches/buttons, besides the A & B buttons on the micro:bit. After a bit of research I found out that they are part of the LED matrix on the micro:bit and if you want to use them otherwise, you have to disable them. This is easily done with one block of code under the “Led” set in makecode , "led enable false". There is a video in my playlist how to use them for a switch.
I also wanted to play with some more sensors, so I started with the HCSR04 ultra sonic distance sensor. This was a pain at first. I tried using the grove ports, then the “extra pins” to no avail. Did a bunch of research and found out that it needs almost 5V to work (grove and “extra” only put out 3V). I verified this using a 5V grove port on another shield. I thought I should be able to use the “BATT” near other pins like the neopixels as it should be 4.5V, but I must have been doing something wrong. After contacting Diego at lectrify he mentioned that I should be able to do that and mentioned the servo ports. So I tried that the next day, using BATT, GND and P13 from one port and P14 from the other port. Success!!! (yes there is a video or two).
There are two extensions that I added to the blocks for this. One was “Sonar” and the other was “Makerbit”. Sonar only has one block, it is to designate the signal pin, the echo pin, and units of measure. The Makerbit has a block under Ultrasonic , “connect ultrasonic….”. It seemed like it should be helpful to initialize the setup. I will have to check if it is necessary to have both.
Coding was frustrating at first (nothing to do with the bit:booster). I was trying to get some if’s to trigger neopixels based on distances and that was not happening. So I went basic and had the micro:bit LED matrix just show the number the sensor was getting. After I knew that was working I added an if and it worked. That is the logical thinking part of programming, how to make happen what you want to happen.
I don’t know what else to add to the bit:booster right now. Maybe try to add another speaker output. But I don’t think that is possible because micro:bit defaults sound to P0 and there is no access to that. Maybe a 2 line LCD screen, or an actual micro switch (which i don't have yet), or a potentiometer (dial).
I like the bit:booster. It is easy to work with. I think they need a few more cards (distance sensor, how to use extra pins, what about the pins they don’t mention, one or two other sensors. Remember, for all physical computing you need jumper cables, all three types (M-M, M-F, F-F) and alligator clips.
Here is a link to my video playlist exploring the bit:booster :
The list of "Ten skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution" by the World Economic Forum is three years old.
This visual was created by @refthinking :
How are we doing in schools with these?
Do we still focus more on content than skills?
Do you think the list has changed in 3 years?
Will anything drop out of the 2020 list? Replaced by what?
Artificial Intelligence and robotics are increasing their presence in the work arena, are we helping kids prepare for that?
I think skills are more important than content. We need a certain amount of content to be literate in the world, and how much is a difficult amount for everyone to agree on. But we should shift our focus to the skills and weave the content in. Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Community, Curiosity, Problem Solving. We should also focus on the P's from "Lifelong Kindergarten" : Play, Passions, Peers, Projects, as those are how we best learn.
We also need to expose all of our students to a wide variety of topics and ideas in a hands on, interactive, exploratory way. I believe what Dr, Robert Ballard once said in a keynote, that if you don't get a sense of "WOW" from a kid by grade 4 or 5, you wont get it later. We want them to be "WOW" about many things.
I attended #OETC19 (https://oetc.ohio.gov/ ) February 12-14 at the Columbus (Ohio) Convention Center. The Renaissance is a great hotel, though a few blocks from the Center. There is an awesome breakfast place right next door, called Lexi’s on Third. The best part about conferences is catching up with my PLN, some of which I had never met in person. More time to chat would have been great, but everybody is busy. The Convention Center is easy to navigate, though I think they should include a layout map in their app for newbies. They did have an app to make your schedule and message people, and I used it along with a few others. I don’t know how many people attend OETC, but it seemed low this year (though i have not been here in a while, maybe 6 years) and a few others made that comment also. The Keynotes were not nearly as full as they should have been. Eric Sheninger, Justin Aglio, and the AI panel were all great. If you aren’t looking up Artificial Intelligence, get started (like I have to)... it is everywhere and is only increasing its reach.
I went to a few sessions, mostly to hear what kind of maker people were doing. I tweeted out many thoughts (#oetc19) . The Middie Makers from Middletown started makerspaces at 3 elementary and 1 middle school. They have a couple of designated maker days during the quarter where everyone is doing some kind of maker project, not necessarily curriculum related. They have 6 areas of focus : Engineering Design, Co-botics, Low Tech/no Tech, Circuits and electronics, VR & AR, Digital Media. Coding and Robotics can play a role in studying agriculture and helping to create solutions to issues they encounter. This project by Dublin Jerome HS was looking at soil compaction.
Crestwood talked about Mobile Maker Carts that they are deploying. A 3 person panel gave some ideas on sustainability , as well as promoted the MakerX event April 6th (MakerFaire). The final session was about Product Based learning in a multi age, multi skill space. It is a semester long computer science elective that middle school kids can take more than once, so each time has to be different. It is set up in a very blended fashion, with a great amount of self regulation and teachers going around helping
I also spent a little time in the vendor hall, talking to a few people, maker related. Got some ideas and contacts. I have a few things to research and a few people to contact. Aisle 100 of the hall had a Playground in 2 hour chunks, where teachers were showing off some of the things their students had done. This is like a poster session at other conferences.
I tried to have two, impromptu, #Maker meetups, day 1 and day 2. I posted a 2 hour time and location in the app as well as on Twitter (several times). I had a suitcase of maker stuff with me (Keva, Strawbees, jewelry items, paper circuits, microbit, circuit playground express, makerbit, crickit, hummingbird bit, motors, servos, neopixels). Sadly, no one showed up. There were sessions going on at the time. There are always sessions going on. I did some programming experimentation. I hope that in the future OETC has a full, all day (all 3 days) #MakerSpace for people to spend time with activities, projects, materials, tools. They did have a couple of maker tables in the Playground aisle 100 of the vendor hall, in two hour increments. One I saw was making craft bookmarks, another time slot was 3D pens. That only works for people who have that time slot open.
I want to grow my network at conferences, find more people with ideas and plans. I did that a little, but with thousands of people there, it could have been more. Many conferences are not set up for that to happen easily. Sessions scheduled back to back or overlapping. You see people scattered all over the place having conversations, 2 over here, 3 over there. Would you feel comfortable sitting down and getting in on their convo? There are many places in the Convention Center to have conversations. But I also see many people sitting/walking alone. I don’t want to go up to them, because maybe they are an introvert and need the alone time. I think they need to have a designated networking area. A place where you know you will get involved in conversations , where people will expect you to get in on the conversation. A place like Bloggers Cafe at ISTE. Pod B, first floor, under the stairs is a space that would work well (pod A also, but some of those sessions flowed out into the space). I think networking is more important than sessions.