At $22 for a Micro:bit which has a Bluetooth, Accelerometer and capacitive touch sensors, I wouldn’t, for a moment, doubt its usefulness in a class as a learning resource. The web-based OS isn’t too bad either as you can program using the block based system or using JavaScript. As it’s a web-based OS, you need to create the program, download it to your computer and then transfer it to the Micro:bit, which shows up as a folder in your My Computer panel (Windows). The short USB micro cable can be a pain if all your front ports are in use but you can get USB extension cables for that purpose.

The assembled Buggy kit with Micro:Bit
The assembled Buggy kit with Micro:Bit

As a practical activity to go alongside the programming, I decided to get the Kitronik buggy kits. These kits are available via Learning Developments NZ for $44.95 NZD (please check latest pricing for correct guide). They are laser cut acrylic pieces that come along with a servo shield and 2 continuous rotation servos. The servos do need to be calibrated prior to installation and can sometimes behave erratically, which means you have to unscrew a few bits before you can reach them.

It took me just under 1.5 hrs to complete the construction ( using the manual and all its practical examples prior to the build, but I was probably slow as I was analyzing it too much and wasting time on YouTube as usual). It probably, in reality, takes about 20-30 mins to put the kit together. Apart from a few cons, I think it’s a good little buggy to have in the class. If you are teaching programming, you could have a number of challenges especially using the onboard arrays. We created a simple obstacle course in class that had student chairs and desks as obstacles and the robots had to make their way around it. Combine with creating an algorithm and flowchart and you can extend their computational thinking skills.

Cons: 1) Nuts are too small to handle and they don’t come with a screwdriver. So, if construction is the intended activity, please ensure you have a bunch of small magnetic Philips head screwdrivers (and possibly a small flat head as well to hold the nut in place, if your fingers are big). I wouldn’t recommend the construction activity with smaller kids.

2) Fine tuning the servo calibration can sometimes be required after assembly so be prepared to pull it apart after installation.

3) Phone app isn’t the most user friendly yet. A lot of bugs especially connecting to the device. Alternatively, there might be other developers who have made apps for the Microbit.

On the whole, I feel they are a good little kit to have in class. Aimed mainly at your primary and intermediate students, and as an introduction to computational thinking course, these nifty little buggies’ can do the job.

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