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A Computing and D&T Crossover with the micro:bit

A Computing and D&T Crossover with the micro:bit

Last month, we had the pleasure of working with Our Lady Hartley Primary School on an exciting project. They were looking for bespoke workshops to combine aspects of their Computing and Design Technology curriculums. Combining two subjects in this way allowed them to keep costs down for each department by combining subject budgets, whilst achieving curriculum aims for both subjects.

The main context for the workshops came from their D&T work, for which they follow the Kapow curriculum. We designed and ran the following three bespoke workshops:

  • Year 2 - micro:bit-controlled Ferris wheels
  • Year 4 - micro:bit-controlled Tower Bridge replicas
  • Year 6 - micro:bit-controlled light-activated, literacy-linked automatons

Year 2

From a D&T perspective, year 2 were required to build their own Ferris wheels, and from the computing curriculum, they needed to be able to create simple programs. To achieve these objectives, pupils built their Ferris wheels from cardboard boxes, lolly sticks, and sauce pots.  They considered how to make strong structures, using triangles and the need for pods to remain continuously upright while the wheel travels around. They then attached the main wheel to a servo motor, connected to a micro:bit. Pupils programmed their micro:bits to spin when the A button is pressed and stop when the B button is pressed. The children needed to consider and control the speed of their Ferris wheels during the production too, as you can see, not only did the children really enjoy the day, they were really focussed on their work too: Year 2 making micro:bit controlled ferris wheels


Year 4

The year 4 children had been learning about bridges in D&T and for this particular session, the school had asked for a workshop to recreate Tower Bridge with a mechanism to raise and lower the bridge just like the real thing! On the day, children worked as pairs in larger groups of four, each pair making half a bridge, each half was then joined with the other pair’s half-bridge to create a complete model of Tower Bridge. Like the year 2 workshop, the children programmed their micro:bits to control two servos to raise and lower their side of the bridge. With year 4, the programming for this was a little more complicated as they were using positional servos which meant they needed to consider how many degrees the bridge should move to get it to the correct positions and delays to allow boats to pass under the bridge. Some even extended their programs slowing their servos motion by using variables and maths.

Year 4 making micro:bit controlled bridges


Year 6

In year 6, the children had been reading the book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charley Mackesy, so we combined this theme into their automatons. The internal workings of the automaton was fairly standard, utilising a cam and follower mechanism. We provided a method to connect the mechanism to a servo enabling the automatons to run automatically. As this workshop was with year 6 children, we needed to ensure the computing aspect covered more complex programming, including selection (if…then statements). In this workshop, pupils used the light sensor on the micro:bit as the input with pupils triggering the automatons by waving their hand in front of the device.  Pupils also learnt how to find the ambient light level to establish a suitable threshold for triggering the motion.

Year 6 making micro:bit controlled automatons


The computing aspect for each of these workshops was in the use of physical computing, programming a micro:bit to control servo motors within each build. The programming skills used for each year group were aligned with the Computing National Curriculum applying the following aspects:

  • Year 2 children were able to create and debug simple programs to make their Ferris wheels turn and stop using the inputs and outputs on the micro:bit. 
  • Year 4 children focused on sequence in their code as well as utilising their maths knowledge of time and angles to include pauses to ensure the bridge moved to the correct position and remained there for a set amount of time.
  • Year 6 children focused on using a sensor as an input and selection within their code to control the movement of their automatons.

We very much enjoyed generating a new set of bespoke workshops, particularly with the challenge of combining aims from two subjects in one day’s outcome. 

Please get in touch if you would like to run something similar in your school or explore bespoke workshops for your setting. We already offer workshops that combine computing with a range of other subjects or to fit in with a particular topic; popular options include science and art. Combining subject budgets really helps to spread the cost of workshops in school; you can find out more about this here.

Crazy Golf Creations Workshop

Crazy Golf Creations Workshop

Last week we had a very enjoyable day at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls running a Crazy Golf Workshop, this workshop is proving very popular this term and I’m sure you can see why! It encompasses so many different aspects of STEAM learning by combining coding knowledge with design and technology to build an interactive crazy golf obstacle.

What is a Crazy Golf Workshop?

In our Crazy Golf workshop learners work together to problem-solve and build a mini golf course, which involves the use of physical computing to program and build fun interactions to trigger throughout the course. First they need to program the micro:bit’s light sensor to detect when the ball passes through a tunnel at the start of the course, this restricts the light reading briefly which triggers other events to happen, such as a spinning ferris wheel or a monster’s mouth opening (to name but a few). 

Crazy Golf Creations with Maidstone Grammar School for Girls

To build their creations learners use a micro:bit and connect additional electronics using a ring:bit as a breakout board. This allows servos and NeoPixel LED strips to be connected easily and also provides power through the connected battery pack. Throughout the workshop learners must, not only, overcome coding challenges but they also have to consider their designs to create something that is both appealing and robust. The girls produced some amazing results and had a great time as well. Here’s a video showing an overview of the day:

If you’re interested in booking one of our workshops in your school, check out our workshop list here.

Women in Engineering with Crazy Golf Creations

Women in Engineering with Crazy Golf Creations

Did you know today is International Women in Engineering Day? This is a yearly event celebrating the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing to support lives and livelihoods every day. You can read more about it here

Here at U Can Too we’re big supporters of women in technology and engineering so we thought today would be a great time to shine a spotlight on one of our recent all-girl workshops at Highworth Grammar School for Girls. Here the girls became both programmers and engineers when they had the job of creating interactive obstacles for a micro:bit powered crazy golf course in our Crazy Golf Workshop!

International Women in Engineering Day - Crazy Golf Creations

What is a Crazy Golf Workshop?

In our Crazy Golf workshop learners work together to problem-solve and build a mini golf course, which involves the use of physical computing to program and build fun interactions to trigger throughout the course. First they need to program the micro:bit’s light sensor to detect when the ball passes through a tunnel at the start of the course, this then triggers other events to happen, such as a spinning windmill or a crocodile’s mouth opening (to name but a few). This workshop really brings out the imagination in young people, not only challenging their programming skills but also their engineering prowess as if their obstacles aren’t strong enough they will break before the ball passes through!

The girls produced some amazing results and had a great time as well!

As you can see, our workshops are not solely focussed on computing, there is a lot of art, creativity and engineering going on at the same time encoompassing all aspects of STEAM in education! If you’re interested in booking one of our workshops in your school, check out our workshop list here.

International Women in Engineering Day - Crazy Golf Creations


Happy International Women in Engineering Day from the team at U Can Too!

Robot Petting Zoo STEM Workshop

Robot Petting Zoo STEM Workshop

We recently had the pleasure of being invited back to Holmewood House School for two more days of workshops; a Sphero obstacle course and our Robot Petting Zoo. We’ve delivered workshops here in the past and were delighted to be invited back for more, today I’m going to tell you about our Robot Petting Zoo workshop with year 4 children.

What is a Robot Petting Zoo?

As the name suggests, the Robot Petting Zoo workshop involves children building their own robotic creatures! With this their imaginations really ran wild with a rather eclectic collection, ranging from fire-breathing dragons to piranhas, a ghost and even a flying pig!

In this particular workshop we allowed the children to be flexible in their ideas by choosing their own designs, however, we can easily adapt our workshops to fit a theme or particular learning topic, for example bringing characters from a story to life or portraying a moment in history.

Robot Petting Zoo creations

Starting with Coding

Before the children began building their creatures we gave them a brief introduction to robotics and they investigated how we can use a micro:bit and MakeCode to make things happen! The children enjoyed making an image appear on the micro:bit’s LED display before learning how to program a motor to make things move.

Robot Petting Zoo - coding and building

Designing and Building a Robotic Creature

Once they had got to grips with the coding they designed their creatures on paper first before they began building, they used their coding knowledge to incorporate a motor into their builds to add movement such as wagging tails, shaking heads and even a protruding tongue. 

At the end we put all the creatures on display, after the children had modified their code so the robots reacted to “on loud sound” here’s the result:

The Robot Petting Zoo workshop can be adapted around any theme. We also run similar workshops in the form of bringing the Iron Man to life and our popular Box Bot. Click here to take a look at our range of popular STEM workshops. If you would like to book this workshop in your own school or business, please use our contact page to get in touch

Activated Art Workshop - Kandinsky

Activated Art Workshop - Kandinsky

Last week we had a fabulous time running our Activated Art workshop with 90 year 2 children at Madginford Primary School

What is an Activated Art Workshop?

Our Activated Art workshops are usually themed around the artist, Kandinsky, but can be easily adapted to any artist or theme. In this workshop, the children begin by investigating what his art would look like if he had been motivated by movement, then build and code their own moving piece of art.

Kandinsky Introduction

Our recent Activated Art workshop began with an assembly-style introduction in which we talked about who Kandinsky was and what inspired him. The children had been studying Kandinsky recently so already had some amazing knowledge that they were able to share with us! We were so impressed by how much they had remembered, and we even learnt some new facts too!

We showed them our ‘moving art’ example within the assembly, and there was clear excitement about what they could produce.

Building the Artwork

After the assembly children were given break-out time in their classrooms to create the base for their pieces of art ready to add the moving section later on, we provided all of the materials needed so it was nice and easy for them to get started with their teachers. We were so impressed with their artistic skills; here’s a snapshot of some of their work, as you can see they really stuck to the theme nicely: 


Coding and Moving

Later in the day, each class took part in a coding workshop to learn more about the micro:bit and how they could use their coding skills to make a servo motor spin. They were able to confidently connect everything together, working in pairs, and build their code. It was such an amazing moment when lots of the children hit the ‘download’ button at the same time, and we heard the eruptions of “WOW!” echoing around the room when they could see their artwork moving.

It was a “wow” moment for me too as the newest member of the team as it was the first time I had seen this workshop in action. It was so rewarding to see their faces light up when everything came together for the showcase at the end! 

Connecting and coding with micro:bit

Activated Art Showcase

At the end of the day, we put all the artwork for each class on display so the children could see it all working and look at each other’s masterpieces! 

Here’s a video that gives an overview of the day:

If you would like to book this workshop in your own school or business, please use our contact page to get in touch!

Drone Assault Course Workshop using micro:bits

Drone Assault Course Workshop using micro:bits

drone workshop 42 - Drone Assault Course Workshop using microbits. Su explaining a programming solution to a year 11 studentBlog Post by Nicki - Computing Curriculum Specialist at U Can Too

We recently had the pleasure of delivering our Drone Assault Course workshop using the micro:bit at Maidstone Girls Grammar School. The participants were an enthusiastic group of 33 GCSE Computing students who took over the sports hall for a day bursting with creativity, inspiration, coding and excitement!

What is a Drone Assault Course workshop?

You're probably pondering the question: What is a Drone Assault Course workshop? This is an engaging full day workshop aimed at secondary school children (years 7 to 11) where the learners participate in Drone Flying School and learn how to apply physical computing by using a micro:bit to build a range of interactive obstacles. Learners work in teams to build their obstacles and then earn points by successfully flying the drone through each one. This workshop brings together a huge range of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) skills as learners not only use a pocket-sized computer called a micro:bit to control motors, sensors and LEDs but they also need to overcome engineering challenges to ensure their structures are strong and functional. An artistic flare from our recent learners really brought the obstacles to life, with many choosing a dark, twisted theme!

Getting Started with the micro:bits

Before building their obstacles, learners are given a crash-course in using the micro:bit to control motors, respond to inputs and light an array of LEDs; they are then introduced to their challenge, addressing ways in which the motors can be combined with various mechanisms like a winch and touch sensor.

The learners work in teams, collaboratively choosing their own theme for their drone assault course and assigning roles, the teams were broken down further drone workshop 60 - Drone Assault Course Workshop using microbits - a year 11 student making the creative part of their build next to their code and electronicswith learners working in pairs on each individual obstacle. From here they planned their mechanism on paper before using the available resources to construct their final product. Once each obstacle was complete the learners had their next engineering challenge of ensuring they were securely attached to the stands in order for the drone to fly through. This proved quite a challenge for some of the obstacles as the teams had to consider various support methods due to the weight of the items, and additional thought was required, particularly for some, which began to spin around when mounted. After securing the obstacles groups were able to tweak the programming for each mechanism to ensure it worked as intended.

The teams worked exceptionally hard throughout the day to ensure they were successful, with nearly all students actively choosing to cut their lunch-breaks short to continue working on the aesthetics of their obstacle courses in readiness for the big event!

As a new employee, this was the first U Can Too workshop I have attended, as I am the company's newest recruit, and what I found so interesting is how artwork and creativity merged so beautifully with both computing and engineering. The day had a whole cross-curricular feel to it, with so much incidental learning happening in addition to the main objectives. As the main focus on this occasion was Computing, the girls were allowed to choose their own themes, but this workshop could also be easily adapted if a school wished to bring other subjects in too, such as a story-telling aspect for English, a point in time for History or a place for Geography.

The end result was fantastic; the energy and anticipation from the year 11 students was clear to see, they had invested so much effort into their creations and were keen to see how they held up to the drones and curious to see how many points their team would accrue as they carefully navigated each obstacle. The event even attracted attention from other members of staff and sixth formers as they were passing by who chose to join in as spectators to cheer the groups on.

Flying the Drones

The girls had each spent a short session in Drone Flight School earlier in the day, where they learned how to safely fly the drones using an iPad app, so they were able to take turns to navigate their assault course in a relay-style race to complete as many as possible. Points were also awarded for creativity and innovation, and additional points were allocated to the more challenging obstacles; I was amazed to see the drone carefully flying through a ghost's mouth, not once but twice, as I had been convinced they had made the mouth too small!

Here's a video showing our highlights from the day:

If you would like to book this workshop in your own school or business, please use our contact page.

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