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Getting Started with Sid - micro:bit

May 26, 2021

close up of the micro:bit board

Hello Elmies! I’m Sid Drmay, the new content intern here. 

I’m a multidisciplinary artist based in Hamilton, ON who has been exploring aspects of maker culture and tech as art for the last year and a half through festivals, kits and one on ones with friends. I’m an anxious person by nature which means I talk myself out of trying new things very quickly so I consider myself a beginner in maker spheres but I have a lot of drive and interest. During my time with Elmwood I will be experimenting with all kinds of maker tech and seeing what I can accomplish and learn. This blog will keep track of this journey and hopefully help you learn new things and guide other newbies too!

Today I’m starting with micro:bit a “pocket sized computer transforming digital learning skills” that’s an easy and fun way to learn coding. 

hand holding the micro:bit box in the air

Having never used micro:bit before and barely coded beyond changing the colours and fonts on my tumblr page as a teen, I was excited to learn. I love anything weird and small that can make all kinds of noises which micro:bit can do extremely well. This is the benefit of the version 2 option, seen here, it has a built in speaker and a built-in microphone to make sound projects way easier.

micro:bit box open on a cutting mat, all the contents are spread across the mat

The product comes looking like this, and includes a USB cable, a battery pack, two triple A batters and the board itself. The small cardboard piece actually folds up and around the board to hold the battery pack in place so it isn’t always flopping around while you work.

close up of the micro:bit board with the LEDs lit up to show a smiley face

 It will take you through a simple little startup procedure that involves moving the board around to trigger different LED formations. 

The first thing I did was get on the micro:bit website to look at the different project ideas. There’s a lot of options of things to try, I started with the beginner level just LED displays. The micro:bit makecode editor is extremely simple and intuitive so it didn’t take long to want to play around with more ideas. You can use the ‘blocks’ setting to make it extra simple or code in Python or JavaScript if your goal is to learn to code. You can change this setting at any time to see what the blocks would look like as code.

My first ‘improved’ code I worked on myself was named ‘boo!’ and programmed having the ghost display appear, the word boo scroll by and then return to the ghost all while playing the ‘mysterious’ sound clip. 

After figuring out one sound I wanted to see what other noises I could make which lead me to the Scratch theremin tutorial. Scratch had to be installed on my computer and then I had to pair my micro:bit with it and add the micro:bit extension on their coding site. If you wanna make a lot of fun sounds like I do I’d recommend it, there’s a lot of pre recorded sounds available. 

For my theremin I wanted to go for weirder/spookier sounds and played with the ‘chill’ and ‘dance head nod’ sounds. I reduced the speed on both to make them extra strange and creepy for my theremin. It was worth it, as you can see above.

For a first time experience in coding micro:bit was a great place to start. The programs were all really simple and clear, it made it less intimidating to start and learn. It’s gonna take me a while to get the hang of coding in Python or Java but the micro:bit system will be a big part of that. 

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