Interested in getting hands experiences on with the BBC micro:bit, due to land in the hands of every Year 8 student in the summer term? Now’s your chance!
Farset Labs will be running a free, hands on “Getting started with the BBC micro:bit” Computing at Schools Northern Ireland Hub workshop on the 10th March 2016 from 6:30pm-9:00pm at Farset Labs. We will hope to cover
– What is the micro:bit?
– Getting started and making your first programs
– Brief overview of the different programming environments available
– More in depth look at Python on the micro:bit
– Ideas for use in the classroom
We will have a few computers available at Farset, but if possible, please bring your own laptop.
If you have any queries or questions, feel free to drop myself (Andrew Mulholland, Outreach Manager @ Farset Labs) an email at email@example.com
Do I need to have any previous programming experience?
Nope! We are targeting the workshop at those will little or no programming experience.
I am not a secondary school level teacher (am a primary school teacher, higher education academic or from industry), can I come down and take part?
Unfortunately we expect high demand for this workshop so have to prioritise secondary teachers for now. If we still have space closer to the workshop, we would still love to see you there though. Put your name down for the waiting list for the “Other” ticket type and we will be in contact closer to the date.
If there is sufficient demand, we well look into launching follow-on events for a wider audience.
Is there anything then I need to bring?
If you have a laptop running Windows, Mac OS or Linux, then it would be great if you could bring it. Although we have some computers available, it is better to learn and practice on familiar equipment.
Is there free parking available nearby?
Yip! Weavers Court Business estate (which Farset Labs is located within) has ample onsite free parking.
We’ve been busy in the workshop building and testing the gadgets to show you how they could make a difference in your own home right now!
There’s also a chance to get a first hands-on look at the BBC micro:bit, a pocket-sized codeable computer that’ll be given to every Year 7 pupil or equivalent across the UK. Come and see what it can do!
Andrew Mulholland has been an active member of the Farset community since he was dragged down from native Coleraine to attend the first Raspberry Jam in Northern Ireland, hosted by Farset Labs in the Event space in November 2012.
As part of his responsibilities as a Creative Technologist, Farset Labs supported Andrew taking the Foundation’s Dots Boards activity to the BBC’s MakeItDigital tent at the CultureTech festival in Derry, where it also joined Dr Robin Price’s “This Is Not A Table” that was constructed (and usually lives in) in the Farset Labs workshop. I managed to stick around and help for a bit but it was clear I wasn’t needed, and the event ran very smoothly (if messily), all in all engaging with over 2000 children and young people.
After the major success of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Dots board activity with Minecraft Pi at Liverpool Makefest and Dublin Maker, there was one final event left that I was down to help out at before the start of the new university term, the BBC Make It Digital event at Culturetech!
With us, we had a set of 8 Raspberry Pis (with monitors and all the cables required for them) and a box of 100 Raspberry Pi Foundation Dots boards ready to be filled in with Bare Conductive Electric paint.
The activity we were running involved kids filling in one of the Dots boards with electric paint, then attaching these to a Raspberry Pi and seeing whatever they had drawn appear in 3d in Minecraft.
The Dots boards were developed by Rachel Rayns from the Raspberry Pi Foundation as an activity to engage people of all ages (especially younger children) in technology.
They are an extremely simple circuit board featuring a 40 pin Raspberry Pi header, a single resistor and a series of pads on the front.
These pads are the key to it all, they feature an inner circular pad and an outer ring. Between the 2 pads is a gap which can be bridged by electric paint.
Bridging the pads allows the Raspberry Pi to read it like any input, for example a button. There is 22 dot-to-dot pads, 4 colour selection pads, a pad on a cloud and finally a pad on a parachuting bear.
Although we tell the kids to do the dot-to-dot, in fact all that is actually required is a dot on each pad you want to select.
For the activity, there is 2 options for the software on the Raspberry Pi side.
The Minecraft Pi program written by myself while on my internship with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It splits the plane up into 10 sections, each of which is added to a 3d version of the plane inside Minecraft if it is dotted. Once the user is happy with their plane, they can attempt to see if the plane will fly. If they have enough dots dotted, the plane will fly across the sky, if not it will plummet to the ground and crash.
If the user selects the bear, a parachuting bear will come down from the clouds and if they select the cloud, grey clouds will be added to the scene and lightning will strike down.
For Liverpool Makefest, Dublin Maker and the BBC Make It Digital event, we used the 2nd option, the Minecraft Pi program.
The event ran from 6pm-10pm on the Friday evening to coincide with Londonderry Culturenight and the many other family friendly events going on in Londonderry that evening.
Within minutes of the doors being opened, we were swamped by people wanting to have a go with our activity, so much so we immediately discovered we had underestimated the number of volunteers we would need to run the activity!
Thankfully, the BBC stepped in and we able to provide 2 awesome guys from their team to help out.
Throughout the 4 hours that evening, we had roughly 800 Dots Boards filled in (and then cleaned)!
Because we weren’t able to keep up with the demand, a hefty chunk of those 800 boards were filled in in pairs or families so the number of people taking part in the activity that evening was 1000+.
We also were visited by some pretty awesome Minecraft in education people who came by to try out the activity including COO of Mojang, Vu Bue, Deirdre Quarnstrom (Director of Minecraft Education from Microsoft) and Santeri Koivisto (CEO of Teachergaming).
A huge thanks to my team of volunteers on the Friday evening.
The event ran from 10am-6pm on the Saturday. It coincided with the Londonderry Maker City event that was happening in next door in the Guildhall.
By the Saturday morning, I had been able to get some additional volunteers over to help out, although even with a team of 9 people (plus Matt from the BBC), we were still overwhelmed later in the day.
Although the event started at 10am, it didn’t get busy till after midday which allowed us to do some much needed Dots board cleaning catch up, table cleaning and GPIO pin fixing.
After midday though, we were basically constantly assisting people with the activity. This continued till around 5:30pm when it started to quiet down again.
On the Saturday we also set up a Raspberry Pi Camera module to do a timelapse of the event. Below is roughly 2 hours of the event in 55 seconds. As can be seen, it was incredibly busy!
From feedback from parents, kids and the BBC, we can say that the activity was a complete success. With over 2000 people of all ages taking part from kids as young as 4, right up to senior citizens of 80+ years.
This is what makes the Dots Board activity so awesome, it really is suitable for people of all ages, thanks to its simplicity.
Big thanks to the BBC Make It Digital team for inviting us along and looking after us while in Londonderry, the Raspberry Pi Foundation for the Dots boards, Farset Labs for use of their equipment and to my volunteers, couldn’t ask for a better team over the 2 days.
The Award is your chance to develop the broadcast technologies of the future, with the opportunity to win tailored development support from BBCNI, Invest NI and DCAL, as well as the unique opportunity to pilot your solution on BBCNI’s media platforms
If you need help with your application, or just want to bounce your ideas around, Farset Labs are hosting a drop-in support clinic next Thursday 19th from 12pm till 2pm in the event space.