Micro:bit Photogate

Bob Bumgarner, a Physics teacher at King George High School, programmed a Micro:bit so that it could be used as a photogate, a device for very accurate timing.  He also designed a holder for the bit using Tinkercad, and 3D printed it.  Bob was generous enough to provide his description of the project, the Micro:bit code, and the .stl file for the holder.  This is a very practical use for both the micro:bit and 3D design/printing.  As Bob points out, it is a way to save a good bit of money on lab equipment.  To read Bob's report click here, the code is here, and the .stl file is here.


Photogate code for Micro:bit

Photogate holder in Tinkercad

Colonial Beach STEM Club

This is a link to the Colonial Beach STEM Club site.  Lots of good resources, videos, and handouts.

April Workshop Part 2 - Friends of the Rappahannock

In this post you'll find links to the documents provided by Nancy Stalik and Daria Blom, educators from the Friends of the Rappahannock.

The introduction to E-STEM PowerPoint

The Stormwater Sediment Filter Design Brief

The Sediment Filter Data Sheet

The soil that was used during the workshop

April Workshop Part 1 - Ozobots

I'll be doing additional posts for our April workshop including some great design briefs created by  participants, session handouts, and some additional information about Biomimicry.  This post will provide some information about Ozobots and links to the documents Emily Sheckels provided for her sessions.

     Ozobots are small robots that can be used to teach pre-coding skills (The Bit) or programming (The Evo.)  The Bit is a line following bot that can also "see" red, blue, and green.  You can program the bot by adding a variety of color sequence blocks (red-blue-red) to the black line the robot follows.  There are a number of sequences and each one causes the bot to execute some command, such as Reverse, Speed Up, or Turn Left.  The programmer creates the route for the bot by drawing a black line and then adding color sequences as needed.  The route is created using standard markers and paper.  The kits have a lot of materials including code sheets, pointers for …

3D Printing and the Arts: Lithophanes

A recent post on the SparkFun website introduced the idea of using a 3D printer to produce a Lithophane. As the post explains, lithophanes are "...a specific kind of artwork that can only be seen clearly when backlit, meaning light is an element of this creative technique. Traditionally, a lithophane is a thin porcelain tile with an etched artwork on one side. Porcelain has a translucent quality when the walls are thin enough, so by carving into a thin tile, artist were able to make lithophanes by hand."

     The post provides a link to a free lithophane generator here:,  It's very easy to use, you upload a photo, choose a format (flat, curved, cylinder) and it quickly creates an .stl file for downloading. The Sparkfun post provides some example pictures and they turned out pretty well. I decided to try this out with a color photo of my own. I chose one that was a bit complicated, a photo of my granddaughter painting at her easel, wi…

The FINCH Robot

The Finch Robot is a small robot produced by BirdBrain Technologies, the same company that makes the Hummingbird board. If you're familiar with the Hummingbird board, you'll find the Finch very easy to work with, especially if you use the Finch version of Visual Programmer.  One way to think of the Finch is that it's very much like a Hummingbird board with sensors, motors, and LED's already connected and the whole thing is placed inside a robot body.

     The Robot costs $99.00 but make sure you check into the 10% Educator's discount.  It comes completely assembled, with a long USB cable that links the bot to your computer.  Like the Hummingbird, it must be tethered to the computer but the long cable gives you plenty of room to test  your programs.  You can program the Finch in a number of languages including Visual Programmer, Snap, and Scratch.  The website,, provides lots of helpful information and some really good tutorials. 
     I li…

More Micro:bit Part 2

While the Micro:bit on its own provides a great way to learn programming, you can really extend the learning by making use of the accessory kits provided by  Students will still use the online site for coding and downloading their program to a bit, the kits allow them to plug their programmed bit into a weather station, vehicle, or arcade game. 
     I've worked with two of the kits (weather station and vehicle) and they are very easy to assemble and they work as advertised.  I especially like the Micro:bot kit.  Being able to code then quickly test your code with a robot you just assembled provides a great learning experience.  I know you can do this with a number of other robots - sending your code via Bluetooth, Wireless, or cable - but the act of plugging the "brain" into your robot and then seeing it execute (or not) your instructions is somehow a better experience.

The SparkFun micro:bot kit, found here,…