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Grok, Micro:bits & LED’s

The following blog is written by Benjamin Davies from Bowen State High School and long time Grok Learning user. In October 2019 Ben hosted a group of primary school students from cluster primary schools at his secondary school. This is what happened next….

As part of Bowen State High Schools efforts to promote technology in our surrounding cluster schools we invited 20 students from 3 of our primary cluster schools to attend a day of learning at the high school. The goal was to create 2 digital systems that represent real world application of code.

· Project one was a traffic light 🚦

· Project two was blinkers of a bicycle 🚲

The majority of students were from year 6, however there were several from year 5 and one from year 4. As the students had never coded in python before we got started in GROK completing module 1 and module 2 of DT Challenge: Intro to Micro-Bits (Python). We started working as a class, completing the questions and going over the interface together before several students took it upon themselves to work ahead.

After morning tea, we finally got our hands dirty with some Micro:Bits. We started by getting the kids to scroll their name and a short message/image on the MB’s. From there we covered the basics of RGB before students were shown how to turn one LED strip light Red. From there we discussed as a group how we might change the colour, and turn ON additional LED’s. Within 40 minutes several students completed the traffic light challenge which was to create an automated set of lights turning pixels 0–3 green for 10 seconds, followed by pixels 4–6 orange for 4 seconds, followed by 7–9 red for another 10 seconds, before going back to orange in one continual LOOP. Almost all the kids had this done by Lunchtime with several extending themselves by adding a pushbutton interruption to signal pedestrians to walk.

For the record, until 7am the main challenge of the day was the traffic light challenge, but I woke up in a sweat thinking it may not be enough. Thank goodness I did.

After the lunch the kids had 1 hour to create a set of indicators for a bicycle to assist in helping the prevention of traffic accidents. Again, I showed the kids how to turn one LED light on with a ‘shake’ gesture, I then gave them a list of other gestures and let them loose. Sure enough, it took 30 minutes before one young Y4 student named Tom ran up excited telling me he’d done it! To see what Tom had to say check out this video on Facebook.

Overall, the day was a great success and most kids managed to complete both challenges with a few extending themselves with their own ideas. I use micro:bits in Y8, Y9 and I intend to use them again in Y10 next year. I find micro:bits great for several reasons, first they are cheap and easy to use, second and perhaps most important is that there is no end to the level of complexity you can reach. As an inclusive school it is not rare for me to have kids working at a year 3 level in a year 8 class, additionally I have kids working at a year 9 or 10 level that I need to extend. Grok is wonderful, especially since several short courses are available in Blockly and Python, this allows me to provide an inclusive room where all the students across all levels of ability face a challenge.

The easy to use modules on Grok provide me with time to assist strugglers and extend high-flyers as well as the freedom for students to move at their own pace. Assets like Grok and opportunities they provide students and teachers to learn and teach are invaluable. Moreover, as a teacher with a media background I myself did my first coding in Grok, 4 years later I teach everything from EV3 robotics to C# in Unity.

Finally, I would like to add that having the primary school kids here at the school is a big challenge when it comes to access. While passwords are not required for QLD kids to access many modules, an active log in is. As kids in the primary school were not enrolled at our school, they needed to use a generic password to log in on the day. Long story short I called Grok and a day later we had an easy and simple solution for the students to access the platform.

If you enjoyed this blog please give it a clap or two and let us know what you think in the comments. You can also check out some of our courses here.
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