Hardware accessories extend the capabilities of the humble BBC micro:bit, by building on a familiar portable coding platform for mobile devices and Windows/Mac/Linux computers.
Listed in order from easiest to advanced, here's the top 5 hardware add-ons to get started with:
The E-Textiles Kit is great for beginners to easily extend your micro:bit's capabilities with washable red and white LED lights that can be sewn into costumes or clothing. Turning lights on an off with the micro:bit is as easy as connecting lights to the micro:bit pins, and dragging across a couple of code blocks in the browser.
Here's some ideas:
- Use the conductive thread to connect the lights on material, without the need for wires running everywhere.
- Arrange lights in patterns and control them with code leveraging the micro:bit's built-in buttons, temperature, light, and touch sensors; or by simply shaking or tilting the micro:bit.
- Remember that the micro:bit can scroll text or display icons on its built-in light matrix too!
We recommend that all micro:bits, batteries, and wires are removed before washing - the conductive thread and sewable lights are washable.
The Kitronik Inventor's Kit is designed for kids to learn about electronic circuits and coding, by following a step-by-step tutorial book containing 10 activities. These are suitable for ages 11 upwards, and are accompanied by videos online.
This kit provides a good combination of components with essential hardware for future experimentation and prototyping, including:
- The Kitronik Edge Connector Breakout Board that gives access to 21 pin connections, allowing you to connect lots of extra devices to your micro:bit including sensors, lights, switches, and motors;
- The Kitronik Prototyping Board, to mount the micro:bit securely with a built-in breadboard that holds your connected components; and
- Assorted jumper leads and components.
You can find more detailed information about the contents and a list of projects with links to videos here: https://smalldevices.com.au/collections/micro-bit-accessories/products/inventors-kit-for-the-bbc-micro-bit
All materials and components, apart from the micro:bit, are included, and if you need a BBC micro:bit here's a bundled kit , complete with battery and USB lead: https://smalldevices.com.au/collections/micro-bit-accessories/products/micro-bit-complete-starter-kit
The Grove kit for the BBC micro:bit comes with an illustrated book of 12 activities, and uses custom drag-and-drop blocks to simplify adding complex sensors and components to your micro:bit. This allows younger kids, with drag-and-drop coding experience eg Scratch, to make their micro:bit interact with the physical world, often starting with as little as two code blocks!
Some of the interactions include:
- Performing actions eg turning on lights, when various hand gestures are recognised;
- Responding to proximity; and
- Accurate light sensing.
Multiple devices can be connected to the micro:bit at the same time, using a single plug for each, rather than jumper leads or soldering. This is great for teachers and code clubs, where time is limited and to keep kids engaged.
For more detailed information and a full list of activities and components, look here: https://smalldevices.com.au/collections/micro-bit-accessories/products/seeed-grove-inventor-kit-for-the-bbc-micro-bit
The Kitronik :MOVE mini buggy kit is a good introduction to robotics on your BBC micro:bit, and comes complete with an easy-to-follow illustrated instruction book, to take you through construction and programming. Although the principles involved in programming servo motors are very clearly explained, Kitronik have created custom drag-and-drop blocks that simplify the process: https://smalldevices.com.au/blogs/resources/adding-more-blocks-to-the-micro-bit-pxt-editor
Notable features include:
- Clear instruction booklet, complete with illustrations and clear explanations of concepts;
- An array of RGB LED lights that can be individually coloured and lit;
- Self-contained with onboard battery cage;
- The provided servo motor board can later be adapted for more advanced projects;
- Expansion capability to allow an extra servo motor instead of lights, eg to add a Klaw; and
- Small footprint for great maneuverability with a hole for a pen to draw.
Note: The BBC micro:bit is not included in this kit and can be purchased here: https://smalldevices.com.au/collections/micro-bit-starters/products/micro-bit
The 4tronix Bit:Bot robot is a more advanced micro:bit robot than the :MOVE, suitable for students moving into secondary school. While still driven by the micro:bit, this robot builds on skills gained from controlling smaller arrays of RGB LED lights and motors; but now allows access to light and proximity sensors with raw connectivity to other devices controlled using an I2C interface. Due to the great quality and ease of use, this is a well-built and popular robot that handles smoothly and accurately.
Some of the great features in this robot include:
- Quality wheels with tyres;
- Onboard power and switch;
- Light-following sensors on top;
- Audio buzzer;
- Included proximity sensor;
- Two rows of bright programmable multi-colour lights; and
- I2C interface to add additional devices such as gesture and colour sensors.
Although this robot is easy to get started with, it adds extra features with multiple sensors, and the scope to introduce interaction through the I2C interface, which is commonly used on a large number of display and sensor components. Since devices that support I2C vary in complexity and requirements - this allows good scope for more advanced programming skills to be developed, which are then later directly transferrable to more micro controllers that support MicroPython, eg the SparkFun ESP32 Thing.
You can even use an additional micro:bit to control micro:bit robots, and add even more interaction through hardware, eg by adding the Proto-PIC 1up:bit Controller for joystick and extra buttons.
More information on the Bit:Bot micro:bit Robot is available here: https://smalldevices.com.au/collections/micro-bit-accessories/products/bit-bot
Connect BBC micro:bit Hardware and Keep Going
The wide range of BBC micro:bit programming interfaces are flexible enough that even advanced coders and hackers are still finding new ways for the micro:bit to interact with other hardware.
In addition to connecting simple plug-in hardware modules, there's now a huge worldwide community of micro:bit users constantly expanding the code for loads of interesting applications, eg instantly sense gates opening and closing, detect changes in the environment, responding with lights or motor actions, or interacting with other wireless IoT devices.