Dear Educational Community,
Over the past week, I’ve received calls on the Educator Hotline (916-701-8625) from instructors wanting to send Parallax electronic kits home with their students as part of their distance learning programs. Often our robot kits are too expensive for one-kit-per-student ratios and educators are looking for less-expensive alternatives.
The Micro:bit is one of our favorite solutions to “be the class they remember” in distance-learning programs. This fantastic little device has all the features: low-cost, a Python or MakeCode visual programming environment, built-in sensors, LEDs, a wireless transceiver, and loads of on-line examples and projects. Plus, it’s one of the few boards that connect to any computer without any drivers or software installation — just plug it in and open a browser tab to start programming. We’ve sent out thousands of Micro:bits for distance learning programs over the last two weeks to some of the largest school districts in the country. Many of these have shipped with other products of ours.
If you’re interested in building a custom Micro:bit kit for your distance learning program Parallax would be pleased to help. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org, include your phone number and answer the following:
– What’s the name of your class and the age of your students?
– How much lab time do you have for the program?
– Any subject or approach you’d like to emphasize (art/music, cybersecurity, robotics, Python, project-based learning, etc.)
– What’s your budget per student, and how many students?
Based on your needs we can add servo motors, Edge I/O Adapter, breadboards, headphones, LEDs, wires, alligator clips, resistors, and anything else you may need to build a full distance-learning kit. We prepare a quote, your school places the order (educational purchase orders are always approved at Parallax), and then we ship in bulk or bagged as individual kits – your choice! Budget anywhere from $20 to $100+ per student.
When in-person class resumes, your students will be fully prepared for robotics and you can buy the cyber:bot without the Micro:bit.
Many educators ask “where’s the curriculum for Micro:bit?” to which I respond with enthusiasm “it’s literally everywhere – YouTube, microbit.org, cyber.org, learn.parallax.com for cybersecurity.” Coding is like writing and art where we learn best from examples produced by others. Therefore, I advocate providing just enough guidance to students to get started with an introduction to the Python editor, identify some examples they can run in parallel with your screen sharing, and then allow them to get creative by browsing the web for resources of their own interest. The Micro:bit has enough built-in hardware that circuit building isn’t necessary in the beginning (and you won’t need a document camera to share your circuits up close). Zoom meetings can include show-and-tell sessions with double points for projects that incorporate family pets, hacked toys, environment, science, and music.
Would you like a custom Micro:bit distance learning kit for your program? E-mail or call me directly on the Educator Hotline at 916-701-8625! I’m available for the rest of the week to take your calls.
Interview with Katie Henry Days of Micro:bit Education Foundation
What value do you place on true experiential learning in these times? Does micro:bit allow educators to ensure every student can program?
Getting “hands on” this school year might seem like a challenge, especially in computer science and career/technical education. Yet experiential learning is often what helps students become passionate with a subject or topic for a lifetime. True experiential learning in these times is possible with free tools like micro:bit classroom, a way to organize and manage a remote coding classroom. Teachers can support individual student projects because they can virtually “look over a student’s shoulder” while they code in Python or MakeCode. Teachers can share out code, collaborate, and collect assignments all without student registrations or student logins. Teachers can choose from dozens of python activities on the microbit.org website to use with micro:bit classroom, or create their own. Find free lessons and activities at www.microbit.org or go directly to micro:bit classroom.
Edge I/O Adapter for Micro:bit Provides Breadboard Access
The Parallax Edge I/O Adapter connects a BBC micro:bit module to a breadboard, moving students from the alligator clip connections into a more useful prototyping space used in higher education. While many breadboard adapters exist for the micro:bit, they frequently have one key shortcoming that we have addressed in our design related to power supply management. The micro:bit only provides 90 mA of current when powered directly from the battery pack, useful for a single micro servo. In our design, the micro:bit battery pack connects directly to the Edge I/O adapter to power both the micro:bit and breadboard accessories directly (with as much current as the batteries can provide). This is particularly important when using multiple motors, LEDs and sensors.
The LaserPING 2m Rangefinder provides an easy method of distance measurement. This near-infrared, time-of-flight (TOF) sensor is ideal for taking measurements between moving or stationary objects. This sensor works well in applications where ultrasonic sensors fail: soft objects and angled surfaces. A single I/O pin is used to both query the LaserPING sensor for its latest distance measurement, and to read the reply.