Microsoft teases micro:bit, a small card that allows users to code anywhere in the world

micro:bit needs to be inserted into the Arcane Shield, a handheld, to work.

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In the middle of a forest or on the bus, have you ever thought about programming a tiny computer without needing anything except for that device? It appears as though Microsoft Research has been working to make this possible with MicroCode – an innovative tool designed specifically for BBC micro:bit and its little gadget, which more than 10 million students are already using in 60 plus countries. But before diving into the nitty-gritty, let’s set the scene.

In a blog post, Microsoft says the BBC Micro:bit is a small computer with features enjoying great popularity in education, particularly among kids aged 11 to 14. It has buttons, sensors, LEDs (lights), a microphone, and a radio antenna. It runs on batteries, so you can use it anywhere to learn.

But, there is a problem. Usually, to program the micro:bit, students require an ongoing internet connection and a computer. This isn’t particularly suitable for learning in nature or staying concentrated without interruptions from the internet.

Now, this part is where it gets really interesting. MicroCode is a portable programming method that allows you to program the micro:bit wherever and whenever, even if you don’t have an internet-connected computer. Two important improvements make this possible.

First, the micro:bit V2 has more power and can handle a small color screen that’s not built in like before. Second, there is the Arcade shield—a low-cost device powered by a battery into which you insert your micro:bit, giving it a color screen and inputs for live programming on the go.

Now, you might ask, “How simple is this setup to use?” The team selected the Kodu visual programming model because it’s easy and efficient for instructing little kids and novices. They even made a small edition of the Kodu editor, particularly for micro:bit V2, which lets users fully use the device’s hardware characteristics while creating straightforward programs.

The whole system is combined inside the micro:bit V2’s lasting memory. This implies that you can continue modifying your programs even if the device is not connected to the internet.

However, the question remains: Does it function as promised? To investigate, education researchers at Lancaster University tested MicroCode in three different schools in the UK.

The outcome of these trials was encouraging. MicroCode didn’t just interest children; it also made them feel they had power over what they learned and how. Teachers perceived physical computing as an opportunity to include it in a more extensive curriculum, thus breaking traditional barriers to computing education.

Looking to the future, MicroCode is on its way to changing how we perceive programming within education. It can be used with the Jacdac plug-and-play system, making connecting sensors and actuators simple.

This feature offers a new level of interactive projects responding to their surroundings. Moreover, discussions are happening about fresh MicroCode backpack kits that could aid learning in additional environments.

A single interesting advancement is MicroData, a fresh application that concentrates on data science. It helps students gather and study environmental information or evaluate chemical responses instantly. This active, hands-on learning could change how we teach subjects, making them more interesting and related for students.

MicroCode can be found on GitHub if you are keen to see it. There is also a version for web applications, which is especially useful if someone does not have a shield. If you’re interested in building AI applications, you should check out AutoGen Studio.

More about the topics: Business software, microsoft