Starting the year in STEAM with Sparkfun and MicroBit

If you are an educator interested in coding, you know there are 800 platforms out there. It is challenging if not impossible to keep up with every development and you don’t need to because the good stuff bubbles to the top.

At long last, the Microbit is available in the US. This is an amazing platform for programming and you can do so MANY THINGS with it.

I am writing not because the Microbit is awesome and low cost, but because there are some great tools to support learning goals you already have that use the Microbit.

When I got back to the lab in August after reMake Education, I saw that the awesome folks at SparkFun had sent me 3 great kits that have the microbic at the heart of them. Now you may have heard me speak in broad and negative ways about kits, but that is more about kit-based curriculum. In this case, the microbic climate/ Weather kit allows me everything I need to get started with the 3rd grade innovation class looking at weather and data collection. We will also be talking about sensors and programming, all the while following the documentation provided by Sparkfun, which is a core literacy activity. I will be providing a more detailed review, likely the kids will report out that part of the experience.

The second kit I have already seen in action. The Microbot kit is a standard “reboot” the companies 2 motor rover, adapted for the microbic including a battery pack as well as the MicroBot board that makes it possible to control 2 motors and 4 servos. WE popped the seal on this kit in a teacher workshop and were 60 percent successful adding motor power to a toy truck. The motto control was pretty much the most straightforward I have ever seen. The motors in the kit are great, the chassis is useful, but this is a kit full of pieces asking to be used slightly differently, and I am sure it will be a key feature in my Toy Hacking approach this year.

The last kit, the arcade kit, the arcade kit. I feel like I am gonna have to go long form about the challenges to building arcade games in an environment of digital citizenship and respecting intellectual property, but here I will just say. The buttons in the kit are AWESOME! I want to build things with these big buttons. I need more buttons like this in my life. Hopefully, this will help me find a path to video games that fits with the ethos of my maker space.

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