Getting Crabby with EduBlock for Microbit

This is really pulling together two recent posts, one when I started playing with Edublocks for the microbit and one about playing with BinaryBots Crab .


The BinaryBots Totem Crab is available at https://www.binarybots.co.uk/crab.aspx


Here I going to use Edublocks (https://microbit.edublocks.org/) by @all_about_code to control the claw of the Crab to close when button A is pressed (and display a C on the LEDs)  and open the claw when button B is pressed. For a discussion on the Crab and what the pins are, etc goto http://robotsandphysicalcomputing.blogspot.com/2018/08/crabby-but-fun.html for more details. 



The timing of the opening and closing is controlled by how long the C or O takes to scroll across the LEDs. As an aside, but I found it interesting (it appeals to my geekiness), if you save the blocks, using the Save button; it stores it as an XML file, an example extract is shown below:



Now I want to explore a little the Python editor in Edublocks; to see if it can be used to expand the range of activities. The code as it stands now:



Using some code developed by CBiS Education/ BinaryBots I have added some code to read the Crab's temperature sensor and display "Warm" or "Cold" depending on this. The code uses the struct module to convert between strings of bytes (see https://pymotw.com/2/struct/) and native Python data types. to work with  the I2C bus which the Crab sensors use (more details on the bus can be found https://microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/latest/i2c.html ). The code below was then download as a hex file to the microbit as before.


The Crab's reads in the temperature and displays either message "Warm" or "Cold" - currently repeatedly "Warm". The open and closing of the claws still works.

   
So this was a double win, I had a chance to explore whether the Edublocks Python works as advertised and it does and an opportunity to play with the Crab a bit more; a definite win-win.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Chris Burgess and the team at Binary Bots/CBiS Education for sending me a copy of the Python code for accessing the sensors on the Crab.






All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with. Twitter @scottturneruon

Speech with EduBlocks on BBC microbit

The microbit is a great piece of kit, not least of which because of the range of programming languages and tools that can be used with it - officially JavaScript and Python and but there is also a range of third-party ones. A useful place to look for what languages/tools  are available is http://microbit.org/code-alternative-editors/; listing both official and third-party tools (there was a few I wasn't aware of ). One I was aware and meaning to play with, is the brilliant Edublocks by Josh Lowe (@all_about_code) or more  specifically in this post Edublocks for BBC Micro:bit (https://microbit.edublocks.org/).



Edublocks for the microbit (and Edublocks in general) allows graphical blocks of code, in a similar way to languages such as Scratch, to be dragged and dropped into places. That in itself would be great, but the really useful thing here is though, whilst doing it you are actually producing a Python program (technically in the microbit case micropython)- a good way (as others have said before e.g https://www.electromaker.io/blog/article/coding-the-bbc-microbit-with-edublocks ) of bridging the gap between block based programming tand text-based programming language (ie. Python). Added to this is the support for Python on the microbit and the things like speech, access the pins and neopixels you have a really useful and fun tool. 





Talk is cheap (sort of!)
The project shown here is getting the microbit to 'talk' using speech. I have attached a microbit to Pimoroni's noise bit for convenience (https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/noise-bit but equally, alligator wires and headphones could be used (https://www.microbit.co.uk/blocks/lessons/hack-your-headphones/activity ). The routine below allows when button A on the microbit is pressed the Microbit (through a speaker) to say Hello, B say Good bye and when both pressed Now what ? Simple but fun.



The equivalent Python code
They are essentially the same.


Here is a video of it in action:






Thoughts.

As you might have gathered I think this Edublocks for the microbit is a fantastic tool. I am planning my new experiments with it now- coming soon to this blog. Edublocks for the microbit is not all Edublocks can do, the project itself can be found at https://edublocks.org/ is well worth a look. For playing with the microbit for the first time with Python I would recommend Edublocks for the microbit  https://microbit.edublocks.org/


All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with. Twitter @scottturneruon

Scratch 3 that microbit

The Beta version of Scratch 3 (https://scratch.mit.edu/microbit) allows certain physical computing devices to interact with the Scratch; including the micro:bit. This post looks at a little experiment with the micro:bit; producing a pen that moves around the screen controlled by tilting a micro:bit.




Set-up
In the video above an example of the pen moving under micro:bit control is shown. Also, some discussion of setting up Scratch to work with the micro:bit is included. The best source for the instructions to set up the micro:bit/Scratch combination and the links needed is https://scratch.mit.edu/microbit. The key features are:
- The programming of the Micro:bit via Scratch is not done by downloading a new .hex file each time as you do with the python or the javascript blocks but is done through the Scratch Link which has to be run separately to the Scratch editor each time you have a session using Scratch and the Micro:bit. There is a version for both windows and OS X.
- One program/hex file is downloaded on to the micro:bit to form the link between the micro:bit and scratch.


Microbit and Pens
The experiment was to get a micro:bit to control a pen around the screen and draw (the video above shows the pen moving around under micro:bit control but not drawing).


The key to all of this the little blue icon at bottom left of the editor; this allows extra blocks/features to be added. You first need to connect a micro:bit; click on the blue icon and select the micro:bit option and attach a micro:bit to your machine, the system should (hopefully) allow you to make a connection. As well as the micro:bit blocks you will need to add the pen blocks via the blue icon and the pen option.
The code (see below) does two basic things
- Press button B on the micro:bit resets the pen to a fixed starting point;
- Tilting the micro:bit forwards and backwards (once the green flag has been pressed) moves the pen forward or backwards in the direction that the pen is facing and tilting left or right turns the pen.




At the moment the pen is drawing as if the nib is in the middle of the pen (see below) but tilting the micro:bit does give rough control. It is fun, to mix Scratch and micro:bit.






All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with. Twitter @scottturneruon

Crabby but fun

Just started playing with one of BinaryBots latest Totem robots - Crab https://www.binarybots.co.uk/crab.aspx, which as the name suggests is a crab-like robot kit with controllable via a Microbit a claw. 

It is early days playing at the moment, but some initial thoughts. You get a solid looking (and is solid) robot when it is built via a 'meccano-esque ' like construction material - Totem . A brief note on the Totem system is it is nice to build with, the design around the square nuts mean they slot into the structs and stay there - a nice feature, and the all the tools needed to build the structure come with the kit. The only thing missing from the kit is the micro:bit, but if you buying the kit you probably already have one (or more) microbits; or you can get one at the same time as buying the kit.

Two boards come with the kit. First one, the power board, has the battery holder and connections for motors. The second the BinaryBot sensor board has number of features I have yet to explore including two capacitive touch sensors, 4 addressable LEDs, light sensor, vibramotor for producing vibrations and a buzzer.


Playing so far!
After building it the Crab, I have mainly been playing with using the javascript blocks to control the opening and closing of the claw. Simple routine below,   controls the claw: open (and display an o on the microbit) or close the claw 9and display a c on the microbit), depending on whether button B or A is pressed.




It is fun, and works. Looking at the two boards though finding the pin numbers, etc to add motors access the sensors is where the real fun is going to begin.



Some ideas initial ideas for where next
- Play with python to program it.
- The Vibramotor included may not be powerful enough to do the next idea - make it move by vibration. The sturdy structure means the stronger vibrations may needed to make it move. Nice thing about the kit is the construction is sturdy so it should be able to take the stronger vibrations by adding more larger vibrating motors (to see the kind of thing I mean see: https://medium.com/@scottturneruon/crumble-junk-eggbot-db0a1d02595f ). There is room on the power board for connecting motors.
- Getting the claw to react to light.

I am looking forward to playing with it a bit more!





All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with. Twitter @scottturneruon