Friday, 25 September 2020

Mu, Edublocks and the Kitronik Inventor's kit

A friend of mine recently asked me about Python programming on the micro:bit. I told him that I wrote a free workbook about that a while back. (If you'd like to get a copy you can sign up here). 

 It's based around the excellent mu editor.

Code with Mu

Mu is a no-frills editor that you can use to develop and run programs on the micro:bit, Adafruit CircuitPython boards, the Raspberry Pi and other Python environments

Mu has just enough features to be usable without being daunting. I love it.

But some young students find text-based programming a bit scary. How can they get started?

Code with Edublocks

Some younger programmers are happier with block-based (visual) programming. For them, Edublocks is a great solution.

Edublocks is block based, runs in your browser, and looks like the popular Scratch environment, but it's Python-oriented.

Here's the Edublocks version of the code for the first experiment for Kitronik's excellent micro:bit Inventor's Kit.

Edublocks allows you to assemble a block-based program in your browser. Then, as with mu, you can deploy it to a

  1. micro:bit, 
  2. Raspberry Pi,
  3. CircuitPython board or 
  4. a Python environment on your laptop or workstation.

The Edublocks interface will look familiar to anyone who has explored block-based programming, but it has a secret power!

Blocks or Python

If you click on the button marked BLOCKS the display switches to show you the Python  script that corresponds to your block-based code.

That helps users to get familiar with normal text-based Python programming. There's so much fascinating and educational Python code on the web, but you need to be happy with text-based programming to master it.

There's more!

To help with moving to text-based code there's a split screen mode that shows both views at once.

Edublocks is s delightful project. Amazingly, Joshua Lowe was 14 when he created it!

Josh was introduced to programming by Alan O'Donohoe (@teknoteacher) and knew immediately that he wanted a career as a programmer. With Edublocks Josh has shared his passion with a new generation of programmers.

If there's enough interest I'll post some more Edublocks examples based on the experiments in the Kitronik Inventor's kit. Let me know in the comments below or in the micro:bit and MicroPython FaceBook group.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Build your own Arduino clone - updating the Shrimp

A Shrimp assembled

A while ago I ran a series of workshops showing how to build your own Arduino clone, based on a low-cost e-book called Making the Shrimp.


The book needs an update and I'm looking for reviewers. They will get a free copy of the book and a free kit to build. If you're interested, sign up here.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Getting started with Pimoroni's Tiny 4WD Rover

Kit contents with extras

I just finished my book on the Pimoroni Explorer HAT, and I'm celebrating!

I have treated myself to a Tiny 4WD Rover kit.

It looks a lot of fun, and should be simple to assemble. The product page has a link to a great blog post from Emma Norling which has detailed build instructions. I'll be following that closely.

I have already encountered one  minor gotcha.

You need a few extras over and above the parts in the kit.

Some of them are mentioned on the product page (battery, Pi zero W), but Emma found she needed spacers to mount the Explorer pHAT on the Pi zero W. I have suitable spacers in stock so I think I'll be OK.

I also got a LIPO shim and a USB charger.

Once I've completed the build I'll document it and provide a link on this blog.

A nice bonus if you hurry! 

Pimoroni are currently offering a free Pi Zero WH for customers spending more than £100 (excluding postage). The offer ends soon, but I managed to get my order in on time which got me the brains for the kit!

HAT book update

I mentioned that I'd finshed Explorer HAT tricks. It's got all the planned content, code and images; I'm wating for feedback from my copy editor and a few reviewers, so it may change a bit. Since the book is on Leanpub, readers will get any upgrades free.

The book price (currently $8 + tax) goes up again on Monday, so if you are thinking of getting it, buy it now! There's a 45-day money back guarantee so it's a risk-free purchase.