MicroBlocks is a visual programming IDE for 32-bit microcontrollers


MicroBlocks is a visual programming IDE for 32-bit microcontrollers currently supporting the BBC Micro:bit V1/V2, Calliope mini (aka the German Micro:bit), Adafruit Circuit Playground Express and Bluefruit, Raspberry Pi Pico and Pico W, and various other boards including ESP32 and ESP8266-based boards. I discovered MicroBlocks in the list of talks for FOSDEM 2023, and although it did not make it to my virtual schedule, I thought it was interesting to look into and write about it. In their upcoming FOSDEM talk, Bernat Romagosa and Kathy Giori refer to MicroBlocks as small, fast, and human-friendly with development guided by four guiding principles: liveness, parallelism, portability, and autonomy. The IDE is inspired by Scratch, and as such, looks very similar to other visual programming interfaces I have used over the years. You can launch MicroBlocks from Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge on a PC (not a mobile device) without having to install […]

HackyPi Raspberry Pi RP2040 USB dongle serves as an educational “hacking” tool (Crowdfunding)

SB Components’ HackyPi is a Raspberry Pi RP2040-based USB dongle whose main purpose is to teach ethical hacking and coding programs, in other words, some sort of portable educational hacking tool. The small USB stick features a 1.14-inch color LCD, a MicroSD card to store data such as scripts and photos, and a button to enable programming like on other Raspberry Pi RP2040 boards. HackyPi specifications: MCU – Raspberry Pi RP2040 dual-core Cortex-M0+ microcontroller @ 133 MHz with 264KB SRAM Storage – QSPI flash, MicroSD card slot Display – 1.14-inch color LCD with 240 x 135 resolution USB – 1x USB 1.1 Type-A port Misc – Boot “Initiate Program” button Power Supply – 5V via USB port Dimensions –  55.04 x 23.20mm SB Components says the HackyPi USB dongle can be programmed with Raspberry Pi Pico C/C++ and MicroPython SDKs as well as CircuitPython, and they will release hardware design […]

Maker Feather AIoT S3 – An ESP32-S3 board programmable with CircuitPython or Arduino

Cytron Maker Feather AIoT S3 is an ESP32-S3 board compatible with the Adafruit Feather form factor and suitable for makers and STEM education with features like LEDs for GPIOs, a buzzer, expansion headers and connectors, and support for CircuitPython & Arduino. The WiFi and Bluetooth LE IoT board also supports LiPo and Li-Ion batteries, includes a USB Type-C port for power/charging and programming, and a few buttons. It’s suitable for machine learning thanks to the vector extensions found in the ESP32-S3 microcontroller. Maker Feather AIoT S3 specifications: Wireless module – Espressif ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N8R8 module with ESP32-S3 dual-core LX7 microprocessor @ up to 240 MHz with Vector extension for machine learning, 8MB FLASH, 8MB PSRAM, WiFi 4 and Bluetooth 5 LE/Mesh USB – 1x USB Type-C port power and programming Expansion 2x GPIO headers compatible with Adafruit Feather form factor and FeatherWing add-on boards 3x Maker Ports compatible with Qwiic, STEMMA QT, […]

Banana BPI-Bit-S2 BBC Micro:bit compatible board supports WiFi

Banana BPI-Bit-S2 is a board for the education market that’s compatible with the BBC Micro:bit V2, but offers WiFi connectivity instead of Bluetooth LE through an Espressif Systems ESP32-S2 wireless microcontroller. The BPI-Bit-S2 succeeds the earlier Banana Pi BPI-Bit with ESP32 WiFi & BLE microcontroller that was a closer match to the original BBC Micro:bit than the new ESP32-S2 board for which I see little benefit, except for the slightly lower price tag. Banana BPI-Bit-S2 specifications: Wireless MCU – Espressif Systems ESP32-S2FN4R2 single core LX7 microcontroller with 320 kB SRAM, 2MB PSRAM, 4MB flash, 2.4 GHz WiFi connectivity LEDs – 25x RGB LED matrix USB – 1x USB Type-C port for power and programming Sensors – 2x light sensors, 1x thermistor sensor Expansion – 3x I/O rings, 3V/GND rings, 20-pin edge connector (compatible with BBC Micro:bit V2 design) with up to 16x GPIO, I2C, SPI, 3.3V, and GND Misc – […]

Open AI Lab EAIDK-610 devkit targets computer vision education with OpenCV

Open AI Lab EAIDK-610 is an embedded AI development kit powered by a Rockchip RK3399 processor, recently added to Linux 6.1 and described as “popularly used by university students” in the kernel changelog. But I had never heard about it, and it turns out it’s because it’s popular with students in China, and most documentation is written in Chinese. The development board is equipped with 4GB LPDDR3, a 16GB eMMC flash, HDMI video output, Gigabit Ethernet and WiFi 5, a few USB ports, a 40-pin GPIO header, and more. EAIDK-610 specifications: SoC – Rockchip RK3399 System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3 Storage – 16GB eMMC flash and MicroSD card slot Video Output HDMI 2.0 up to 4Kp60 MIPI DSI up to 1280×720 @ 60 fps 4-lane eDP 1.3 Audio – Speaker header, built-in microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, I2S header, digital audio via HDMI Camera I/F – 2x MIPI CSI up to […]

UniHiker education platform teaches STEM with Mind+ and Jupyter (in China)

DFRobot UniHiker is a STEM education platform with a 2.8-inch touchscreen display, a Rockchip RK3308 quad-core Cortex-A35 processor, a GD32V RISC-V microcontroller, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as various headers for expansion, and a BBC Micro:bit compatible edge connector. The UniHiker runs Debian 10 Linux and can be used to teach programming using Mind+ visual programming IDE or Jupyter open-source interface, as well as IoT and AI basics thanks to tutorials and lessons available in Chinese only as the platform clearly targets the education market in mainland China at this point in time.   Unihiker specifications: SoC – Rockchip RK3308 Quad-core Arm Cortex-A35 processor @ 1.2GHz with MCU – Gigadevice GD32VF103C8T6 RISC-V microcontroller @ 108MHz with 64KB flash, 32KB SRAM System Memory – 512MB DDR3 Storage – 16GB eMMC flash, MicroSD card socket Display – 2.8-inch touchscreen color display with 320×240 resolution Connectivity – 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi & Bluetooth […]

Getting Started with CrowBot BOLT smart robot car

CrowBot BOLT is a smart robot car based on an ESP32 wireless microcontroller and designed for the education market with the ability to program the robot with visual programming, Arduino, or MicroPython. Elecrow sent me a sample of the CrowBot BOLT kit for evaluation so I’ll have a look at the hardware, show how to assemble it, showcase the features of the built-in firmware, and demonstrate how to program the robot with visual programming, Arduino, and MicroPython using some of the provided code samples. CrowBot BOLT unboxing The package lists some of the highlights with 16 teaching courses, support for multiple programming platforms, scalability with Grove connectors, and the inclusion of the Joystick that’s also programmable. The CrowBot BOLT comes as a kit so there will need to be some work to do to assemble the robot, but no soldering is required (in normal cases, more on that later). The […]

Giveaway Week 2022 – Pico:ed Smart Cutebot Kit

The third prize of this year’s giveaway week comes courtesy of ELECFREAKS which offers a Cutebot Pico:ed kit based on the Pico:ed board with a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller and following BBC Micro:bit form factor. The kit also includes two high-speed motors to drive two wheels, ultrasonic & distance sensors, two RGB LED lights and clearance lamps on the bottom, two line-tracking probes, and an active buzzer used as a horn. It is powered by three AAA batteries. The company initially me asked me if I wanted to review the board/robot, but since I may not have the time to do so, I asked whether they wanted to be included in our yearly giveaway week which they accepted. The company provides instructions to program the robot with “Micro block” visual programming IDE, C++, and CircuitPython. You’ll find resources to get started and eight projects for the robot in the Wiki. […]