micro:bit Educator Lab Pack Experiment Guide

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Contributors: Ell C
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Introduction

Note: This tutorial applies to LAB-14302 and LAB-15230. The difference is that LAB-15230 includes a 2xAAA battery holder with a built-in switch.

Huzzah! You have the micro:bit educator lab pack! Now what? Well, look no further; we have some experiments laid out here that are not only a great introduction to the micro:bit, but will prepare you for the wild world of micro:bit expansion.

micro:bit Educator Lab Pack

LAB-15230

The micro:bit is an incredibly versatile little board that makes it a great introduction to electronics and beyond. It is packed full of lovely little features, including LEDs, temperature sensor, accelerometer, bluetooth/radio... the list goes on. If you've never used the micro:bit before, Getting Started with the micro:bit is a great place to start. It will introduce you to the online development environment and give you a run down of all the extras and where they live on the board.

Getting Started with the micro:bit

September 2, 2021

The BBC micro:bit is a compact, powerful programming tool that requires no software installation. Read on to learn how to use it YOUR way!

Suggested Reading

If you are entirely new to the world of electronics, we recommend you start with some of the following concepts and tutorials:

PCB Basics

What exactly IS a PCB? This tutorial will breakdown what makes up a PCB and some of the common terms used in the PCB world.

What is a Circuit?

Every electrical project starts with a circuit. Don't know what a circuit is? We're here to help.

Voltage, Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law

Learn about Ohm's Law, one of the most fundamental equations in all electrical engineering.

Included Materials

The micro:bit educator lab pack includes the following:

  • 10x micro:bit --- The brains of the outfit with a bunch of on-board components.
  • 10x Small Servo --- Here is a simple, low-cost, high-quality servo for all your mechatronic needs.
  • 10x Piezo Buzzer --- BUZZZZ! Used to make different frequencies of sound.
  • 10x USB micro-B Cable --- This 6-foot cable provides you with a USB-A connector at the host end and standard B connector at the device end.
  • 10x Jumper Wires Standard 7in M/M (30pk) --- These are high-quality wires that allow you to make connections with components on the breadboard.
  • 10x 2xAA Battery Pack --- A AA battery pack with the JST connector that fits the micro:bit.
  • 10x Alligator Test Leads (10 pk) --- A great way to connect individual components to the micro:bit ring connectors.

Hello World!

"Hello World" is the term we use to define that first program you write in a programming language or on a new piece of hardware. Essentially, it is a simple piece of code that gives you a quick win (fingers crossed) and a first step in learning. It also gives you a chance to make sure everything is up and running and A-OK.

For your first "Hello World" we are going to create a simple animation on the LED array that repeats forever. If you just want the complete program, you can see it here. To see a step-by-step explanation of how we built the program, continue reading!

Note: You may need to disable your ad/pop-up blocker to interact with the MakeCode programming environment and simulated circuit!

Building 'Hello World'

A "Hello World" on the micro:bit is a little different than on a normal run-of-the-mill microcontroller. The micro:bit has no single LED to blink on its own, as you would find on the Arduino or similar boards. What the micro:bit does have is an LED array! So, the "Hello World" for the micro:bit is to draw something using the LED array!

When you open MakeCode you are greeted with two blocks: the On Start block and the forever block. The On Start block is all of your code that will execute at the very beginning of your program and only run once. The forever block is code that will loop over and over again...forever.

We are going to use the forever block for building this "Hello World." We now need to start adding blocks to forever.

forever Block

First, click on the Basics category. These blocks are, well, the basic building blocks of a BuildCode program. It will expand into a number of options. Click and drag the show leds block over and place it inside of your forever block. Notice that the block is keyed to fit inside of the forever block, and if you have the volume up on your computer you will hear a satisfying 'click' noise when you let go of the block.

basic Blocks

The show leds block has an array of squares that symbolize the LED array. If you click on a square, it will turn red, which means that it is on. Draw a simple pixel art shape by turning different LEDs on or off; you should be able to see the outcome in your simulator on the lefthand side of your window.

show leds block

To turn this static image into an animation, we need another show leds block to place just under the first block. You can then make a second drawing with this set of rectangles. In your simulator you will see the images switching really, really fast. We need to slow this down!

To slow your animation down, you will use the pause block, which is under the basic block set. The pause block is just what it says; it tells the micro:bit to pause and wait for a certain amount of time. Place two pause blocks in the program as shown.

program

The reason we are using two and placing one at the end is that this program is a loop. Without the block at the end, the image in your animation will change really, really fast.

We have built up an example in the next section where you can download the file and try it out on your own micro:bit, or use the simulator. If you want to play around with the code and make some changes, go ahead and click the Edit button in the widget, and it will open a MakeCode editor for you to start hacking "Hello World." Enjoy!

Download Your Program

Either copy and paste, or recreate the following code in your own MakeCode editor. You can also just download this example by clicking the download button in the upper righthand corner of the code window.

Download button

This will download your program file to your standard download location, probably the Downloads folder on your computer, or whatever location you have set in your download preference.

You then simply click and drag your program file from its download location to your micro:bit drive, which shows up as an external device.

Download complete

That's it!

Your micro:bit will flash for a few seconds, and then your program will start automatically. Yes! Win!

Experiment 1: Reading the Temperature Sensor

Introduction

A temperature sensor is exactly what it sounds like --- a sensor used to measure ambient temperature. The micro:bit has a temperature sensor sneakily built into it's processor chip. In this experiment we'll read that sensor and set up the micro:bit to display the ambient air temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit!

Parts Needed

You will need the following parts:

  • 1x micro:bit
  • 1x Micro-b USB Cable

Run Your Script

Either copy and paste, or re-create the following code into your own MakeCode editor by clicking the open icon in the upper right-hand corner of the editor window. You can also just download this example by clicking the download button in the lower right-hand corner of the code window.

Note: You may need to disable your ad/pop-up blocker to interact with the MakeCode programming environment and simulated circuit!

Code to Note

Let's take a look at the code blocks in this experiment.

[[micro:bit code block in MakeCode](https://cdn.sparkfun.com/assets/learn_tutorials/4/9/9/MicroBitLabPackTemperatureCode.png)

If you are having a hard time viewing this code, click on the image above to get a better look!

Set degreesC

Since the microcontroller also doubles as a temperature sensor, temperature is a built in value. In the Variables section of the makecode IDE, you can choose to create a new variable based on that temperature value.

Show Number

The Show Number block accepts a number value (or variable) and then displays it on the LED array.

Show String

The Show String block scrolls the string across the LED array after your temperature value.

Setting and Calculating degreesF

The Fahrenheit temperature can be calculated using blocks from the Math section. To convert C to F, the equation is F = C x 9/5 + 32. You can then display the Fahrenheit temperature using the same blocks you used to display the Celsius temperature.

What You Should See

When your micro:bit turns on, the temperature reading in Celsius will be displayed and scrolled across the LED array followed by the temperature reading in Fahrenheit.

Troubleshooting

Temperature Value is Unchanging

Try pinching the sensor with your fingers to heat it up or pressing a bag of ice against it to cool it down.

Temperature Value is Unchanging

Try holding the sensor near a heater (NOT TOO CLOSE!!) to heat it up or press a bag of ice against it to cool it down.

Experiment 2: Using a Servo Motor

Introduction

This experiment is your introduction to the servo motor, which is a motor that you can tell to rotate to a specific angular location. You will program it to rotate to a series of locations, then sweep across its full range of motion, and then repeat.

Parts Needed

You will need the following parts:

  • 1x micro:bit
  • 1x micro-B USB Cable
  • 3x Alligator Leads
  • 1x Servo

Suggested Reading

Before continuing with this experiment, we recommend you be familiar with the concepts in the following tutorial:

Introducing the Servo Motor

Unlike the action of most motors that continuously rotate, a servo motor can rotate to and hold a specific angle until it is told to rotate to a different angle. You can control the angle of the servo by sending it a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) pulse train; the PWM signal is mapped to a specific angle from 0 to 180 degrees.

Generic Servo Motor

Inside of the servo there is a gearbox connected to a motor that drives the shaft. There is also a potentiometer that gives feedback on the rotational position of the servo, which is then compared to the incoming PWM signal. The servo adjusts accordingly to match the two signals.

In this experiment, the servo is powered through 3.3 volts on the red wire and ground on the black wire; the white wire is connected to pin P0.

Hardware Hookup

Ready to start hooking everything up? Check out the wiring diagram below to see how everything is connected.

Polarized Components Pay attention to the servo's wire colorings and how they connect to the micro:bit. Polarized components can only be connected to a circuit in one direction.

Wiring Diagram for the Experiment

Fritzing Diagram: Hooking up the Servo

Micro:bit and servo images courtesy of Fritzing.

Run Your Script

Either copy and paste, or re-create the following code into your own MakeCode editor by clicking the open icon in the upper right-hand corner of the editor window. You can also just download this example by clicking the download button in the lower right-hand corner of the code window.

Note: You may need to disable your ad/pop-up blocker to interact with the MakeCode programming environment and simulated circuit!

Code to Note

Let's take a look at the code blocks in this experiment.

Code to Note Using a Servo Motor

If you are having a hard time viewing this code, click on the image above to get a better look!

Set "Direction To"

In the On Start block we set the direction variable to 1. This value will be toggled between 1 and -1 to determine the direction we want the servo to sweep.

Servo Write

We use the Servo Write block to control a servo connected to a specific pin to rotate to a specific angle we pass it in degrees. We use a variable we have labeled as degrees. You can use this command to just write any angle between 0 and 180 to a servo motor at any time, but do remember to add a small pause to make sure that you give it enough time to respond before moving to the next angle.

Change by

If you want to increment or decrement a given variable by a certain value, which is positive or negative, you use the Change by block. You can select the variable you want to change and then the value you want to increment by (positive value) or decrement by (negative value). We increment the angle by 1 degree using this block.

Set "Direction to Direction x -1"

To change the direction of the servo once it reaches 0 or 180, we do some fancy math to multiply the direction variable by -1 to toggle it from a positive value to a negative number or a negative number to a positive value. That way when we use the change by block, the number is positive or negative.

What You Should See

When powered up you should see the servo move to a single location (0 degrees) and then start to sweep to 180 degrees back and forth until you turn it off or tell it to go to a different angle.

micro:bit Using a Servo Final Assembly

Troubleshooting

Servo Not Twisting

Even with colored wires, it is still shockingly easy to plug a servo in backward. This might be the case.

Still Not Working

A mistake we made a time or two was simply forgetting to connect the power (red and black wires) to 3.3 volts and ground (GND).

Experiment 3: Using a Buzzer

Introduction

In this experiment, we will again bridge the gap between the digital world and the analog world. We'll be using a piezo buzzer that makes a small "click" when you apply voltage to it (try it!). By itself that isn't terribly exciting, but if you turn the voltage on and off hundreds of times a second, the piezo buzzer will produce a tone. And if you string a bunch of tones together, you've got music! This circuit and set of code blocks will create a simple sound machine.

Parts Needed

You will need the following parts:

  • 1x micro:bit
  • 1x micro-B USB Cable
  • 1x Piezo Buzzer
  • 2x Alligator Leads

Introducing the Piezo Buzzer

The buzzer is a small component with a piece of metal in it that moves when you apply a voltage across it. This motion causes a small sound, or "click."

Piezo Buzzer

If you turn the voltage on and off fast enough, you get different beeps, squeals, chirps and buzzes. You can use PWM to control the speed of turning the piezo on and off --- and, in turn, the audio frequency coming out of the buzzer. Adjusting the PWM enables you to get legitimate notes out of the buzzer.

If you flip the buzzer over and look at the bottom, you will see that one pin has a (+) next to it. That pin gets connected to a signal from the P0 pin. The other pin should be connected to ground.

back of Piezo Buzzer

Hardware Hookup

Ready to start hooking everything up? Check out the wiring diagram below to see how everything is connected.

Polarized Components Pay special attention to the component’s markings indicating how to connect it to the micro:bit. Polarized components can only be connected to a circuit in one direction.

Wiring Diagram for the Experiment

Fritzing Diagram: micro:bit Piezo Buzzer

Micro:bit and piezo images courtesy of Fritzing.

Run Your Script

Either copy and paste, or re-create the following code into your own MakeCode editor by clicking the open icon in the upper right-hand corner of the editor window. You can also just download this example by clicking the download button in the lower right-hand corner of the code window.

Note: You may need to disable your ad/pop-up blocker to interact with the MakeCode programming environment and simulated circuit!

Code to Note

Let's take a look at the code blocks in this experiment.

Code to Note Using a Buzzer

If you are having a hard time viewing this code, click on the image above to get a better look!

Button Pressed

The button pressed block checks the on-board buttons of the microbit and allows you to add logic based on whether or not those buttons are pressed.

Play Tone for

The play tone for block is pretty standard if you are used to making sound with other microcontrollers. For example, tone() function in Arduino is pretty much the same as this block. The play tone for block accepts a note that you would like the buzzer to produce and the length of time in beats per second that you would like it to play. So if you are a musician, you are golden to write horrible robot music for your friends!

Start Melody Repeating

The Start Melody Repeating block takes all of the frustration out of getting music out of a microcontroller. It is as simple as selecting one of a number of songs that are preprogrammed into MakeCode and how many times you want it to repeat and you are done! Note that when a melody is playing no other code can run, this is called "blocking" code and has to be accounted for you in your program.

What You Should See

What you should see --- well, nothing! What you should hear --- a song should start as soon as the program starts to run on your micro:bit! When that song is done you can press one of the two buttons, and another song will start. Each button has its own song, and there's another song if you press both buttons at the same time. Enjoy your sound machine and feel free to swap out the song of your choice!

Piezo hookup image

Troubleshooting

No Sound

Given the size and shape of the piezo buzzer, it is easy to miss the right holes on the breadboard. Try double-checking its placement.

Also, double check to make sure the push button is wired correctly. If you miswired it, then the circuit will never be completed even if you press the button or not.

Feeling Let Down and Deserted

Create your own song using just the tone blocks rather than the standard song options given from the start melody block.

Resources and Going Further

This is just a glimpse into the vast world of micro:bit. We produce a number of other kits and carrier boards that you can hook up to your micro:bit to help take your projects to the next level.

To expand upon the Educator Lab Pack, we recommend the micro:bit Bridge Pack for the full micro:bit Inventor's Kit experience!

SparkFun Inventor's Kit Bridge Pack for micro:bit

SparkFun Inventor's Kit Bridge Pack for micro:bit

KIT-14719
$39.95
1

For more information on our micro:bit ecosystem, check out these tutorials:

micro:climate Kit Experiment Guide

A weather station kit that is built on top of the inexpensive, easy-to-use micro:bit and Microsoft MakeCode.

micro:bot Kit Experiment Guide

Get started with the moto:bit, a carrier board for the micro:bit that allows you to control motors, and create your own robot using this experiment guide for the micro:bot kit.

micro:arcade Kit Experiment Guide

We love games! We love writing games, building games and yes, even building game consoles. So we want to introduce to you the micro:arcade kit for the micro:bit!

micro:bit Breakout Board Hookup Guide

How to get started with the micro:bit breakout board.

For additional resources, please check out the following links.

Looking for additional project ideas using just the micro:bit? Check out micro:climate kit's reading light levels experiment:

micro:climate Experiment 2 - Reading Light Level

Check out Shawn's 4-part video series with the micro:bit. The projects have examples that use the accelerometer, combines the servo and temperature example, and sends a bluetooth message between two micro:bits. There are two additional videos using micro:bit with MicroPython. Or try exploring micro:bit with cardboard circuits!

Open Source!

All of our experiments and guides are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 Unported License. Feel free to remix and reuse our work. But please, share the love and give us attribution for our hard work!

To view a copy of this license visit this link, or write: Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA.