PICOs, Pis, Beans, Bits & Bugs – Coding Reaches out into the Real World

Coding for the most part exists in a virtual space. But there are some fascinating tools that allow learners to experiment with coding and real world objects. Here are a short list of some of those items. I will have tutorials on how some of these work as the year progresses…


PICO board

PICO board
PICO board

The PicoBoard allows you to create interactions with various sensors. Using the Scratch programming language, you can easily create simple interactive programs based on the input from sensors. The PicoBoard incorporates a light sensor, sound sensor, a button and a slider, as well as 4 additional inputs that can sense electrical resistance via included cables.

Here’s an example of PICO boards in play in a Drawing Program:

WSDCodeCHWK2PrepScratch from Keith Strachan on Vimeo.


Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi 3

In another excellent article provided to me by my Director, called “Life with Raspberry Pi: Sparking a School Coding Revolution” By Chad Sansing, I discovered that…

The Raspberry Pi is a “$25 computer that fits in the palm of your hand. While you supply the mouse, monitor, and keyboard connection, your “RPi” supplies the rest. It comes with a Linux-based operating system (an open-source alternative to Windows and Mac OSX) called Raspbian. The operating system is on a Micro SD card.”

“Using the RPi, kids can connect Scratch with Microsoft Kinect to write programs controlled by a player’s body. Or they can plug an Arduino circuit board into a laptop to light up or move attached objects by writing small “sketches”—short programs—of code.”

“Working with Python and IDLE to run a circuit or to modify a game like Minecraft makes it clear to kids how computers control the devices around us. Programming a blinking LED light or a Minecraft building helps them see how what we do with code translates into what happens virtually, on screen, as well as in the physical world of electricity.”

And that’s really just a starting place.


Arduino Beans

Arduino Beans
Arduino Beans

The LightBlue Bean is a low energy Bluetooth Arduino microcontroller that is programmed wirelessly and is perfect for your smartphone controlled projects!

“Using Bluetooth 4.0, this Arduino-compatible board is a serial protocol that allows the LBM313 Bluetooth Low Energy module and Atmega328p to communicate both messages from the client (OS X, iOS, etc.) to the Arduino. As well as send special commands to the LBM313 to do things like read the temperature sensor and set the LED.”

In other words, this tiny little bean can handle anything from opening your combination lock with your phone to reminding you to pick up milk from the grocery store, to turning your fan on automatically when you get too hot. All while running on a single coin cell battery! It’s designed for easy wirelessly programming from your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Mac or PC!


Micro Bits

Micro Bits
Micro Bits

The Micro Bit is all about having “young people learning to express themselves digitally” through coding. Suggested projects for the Micro Bit include using its magnetometer to turn it into a metal detector, using it to control a DVD player, or programming its buttons to work as a video game controller.

In another great article provided by my Director entitled “This Is The Tiny Computer The BBC Is Giving To A Million Kids”, by Rich McCormick the situation concerning “comparatively cheap computers that have helped thousands learn programming skills, and played a part in kickstarting the British video games industry, as coders designed increasingly elaborate console games in their bedrooms. Rocks references the original BBC Micro in describing the scope of the new project. ”As the Micro Bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis,“ she says, ”this could be for the internet-of-things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry.”


Code Bugs

Code Bugs
Code Bugs

CodeBug is a cute, programmable and wearable device designed to introduce simple programming and electronic concepts to anyone, at any age. CodeBug can display graphics and text, has touch sensitive inputs and you can power it with a watch battery. It is easy to program CodeBug using the online interface, which features colourful drag and drop blocks, an in-browser emulator and engaging community features. Create your own games, clothes, robots or any other wacky inventions you have in mind!

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