My aim for this blog is that it be of high quality and for it to cover all of the STEM areas with equal professionalism. I recognise, however, that there is a bias towards the subjects in which I am qualified. I am therefore delighted to welcome a new guest blogger in the form of the hubster, an experienced mechanical, design and R&D engineer with a shiny new Masters degree, to boldly go where the blog has not been before – Programming:
The UK has a history of being at the forefront of computing, with all modern computers based around the work of Alan Turing during the mid-20 century. The UK has now become one of the first countries in the world to make computing coding compulsory for school age children. The government sees coding as key life cycle to support an ever increasing technological world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/year-of-code-and-500000-fund-to-inspire-future-tech-experts-launched)
To support this we have been creating a few simple experiments for the boys using a BBC Microbit computer, which is similar to a Raspberry PI. The BBC Microbit costs around £14 and comes with tonnes of built in features. We have also brought an ‘Inventors kit’ from Kitronik (around £25) which contains some LEDs, resistors, buzzers and a breadboard, which allows you to connect everything up.
The programming software is free from (http://microbit.org) there are several programmes to choose from I tend to use Java script block editor for ease of use as its drag and drop codes.
The experiments we have tried are simple, practical and should take less than an hour from start to finish.
Aim: Generation of electricity via a simple wind turbine. Children blow on a fan to try and make the LEDs light up. Watch out for kids blowing raspberries! The harder they blow, the more electricity is generated, and the more LEDs should light up
Learning: Apart from basic coding, the experiment can be linked to how wind can be used to turn a motor and generate electricity.
1x Red/Green/Yellow LEDs
1x Fan motor
2x 22KΩ resistor
Male – Male, Male – Female jumper wires as required
This is just one simple experiment, using drag and drop code, which can be tailored to the age of the child. For younger
children, an adult can take a greater role in putting together the kit and doing the coding, the child simply sees the code on screen and by blowing on the fan and seeing the LEDs light up is helped to link the idea that the code is a block of instructions for the Microbit to follow depending on what physical input it gets. More advanced kids can put together the drag and drop codes themselves, and when they get really confident there is an option to type code directly as text.
If this type of post is useful, let us know in the comments below and we can share more Microbit experiments as a regular feature.
Note: many thanks to our guest contributor. We purchased the BBC Microbit and paraphernalia ourselves and have no affiliation with the company producing it. Usual safety precautions apply, keep small components away from kids under three years old, don’t lick wires, don’t run with scissors etc…