So this week I got myself a CodeBug (website here).
I’ve been really impressed by this little board. With the launch of the BBC Microbit so shrouded in mystery, I wanted to have a go at using a similar device before the Microbits make it into school’s like mine. I figure that if I can get my head around using something like the CodeBug over the next few weeks, I should at least have some kind of headstart on my students when it comes to us using them in my school.
I have really enjoyed the simple interface, being able to make the code in a Blockly-type interface, which all seems very familiar to users of Scratch etc. When using the LED grid, it is nice to see that these can either be programmed through creating custom sprites, controlled individually, row by row or column by column. Use of ‘loops’ to control LEDS in sequence is also possible. I’m sure my students at school will love using it. The 2 control buttons are sturdy and add a nice way into talking about control and trigger events. I used them to trigger a start to a sprite animation of a spiral.
Using the CodeBug untethered from mains electricity has also been well thought out. I believe the BBC Microbit will be powered through AA or AAA batteries, which are of course very bulky. By contrast, the CodeBug has a slot on the reverse for a CR2032 cell, which are commonly used in calculators, weighing scales, etc and freely available in shops. Battery drain from being left switched on has been addressed, with a default sleep time of 3 minutes being specified. This can be over-ridden in the code, but from the point of view of a classroom teacher, with students who can be told to turn kit off many times, but still fail to do so, this is a nice touch.
I haven’t had a chance to plug in any electronics to the ‘legs’ yet, or plug onto my Pi GPIO pins, but the CodeBug website has currently got 9 pages of projects that kind folk have shared with the community, and many of these use the ‘legs.’
This little gadget has such potential and I shall be bouncing into my daughter’s primary school next week to talk about how great this board is. At about £10 per board, I’m sure there will be many schools and code clubs out there who will be looking at this board as an affordable way into encouraging people into coding, designing and tinkering. A hearty “well done” to the CodeBug team for putting such a great device and website together. This is a really good example of how great Kickstarter projects should work out 🙂