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Microbitchallenge
Secret Agent project for Y7 Micro:bit launch

Mission to get a secret message through tough terrain as quickly as possible to an agent trapped

Ian Phillips

Created by Ian Phillips
last edited Jun 21 2016 by Ian Phillips



The project Project based learning (PBL) activity for Y7 to launch micro:bit. Boys work in groups of three to carry out a top-secret mission to get a message through tough terrain to an agent trapped as quickly as possible. The message must be encrypted so only the agent can read it. Boys program a micro:bit to navigate and obstacle course and protect the message until the correct decryption code is used. It is possible to create an exciting competition at the end the day to race the micro:bits and assess if the message is easy to access.

The buggies were built without the included line sensor, so they are driven by manually turning the pins on within the program itself for a specified amount of time using pauses.

Level: Differentiated by outcome (Beginner - Advanced) plenty of capability for extension

Duration: possible to achieve something meaningful within a 2 one hour periods. This was delivered in a cross curricular day with 2 hours given to the boys to see what they could achieve. Time was allowed later at the end of the day to extend

Teaches: PBL, resilience, programming in TouchDevelop, logic

Have a look at some pictures of the launch. in our news article and in the video

Contributors: David Franks, Vaughan Connolly, Daniela Blyth

Resources Required:

  • We had the students in groups of threes with one buggy for each group.
  • The buggies were those made by Kitronik but we did not install the line following sensors at the bottom that required soldering, instead the buggies have to be hard-coded to move by turning on the pins for a specified amount of time. This drives the boys towards a problem-solving approach and forces them to use abstraction and decomposition to determine which pins to turn on, in which order and for how long.
  • We used 1 board for each group cut by our DT department which were 1200x1200cm
  • Each board required two L-shaped blocks for the obstacles which were approximately 40x30cm
  • Each buggy requires 4 batteries but we found that after a two hour session some of the batteries were running low and required replacing, with the small DC motors in the kit a low battery can affect the distances and speed the buggy can travel, so because we wanted to ensure fairness in the competition we changed the batteries for all of the buggies between the morning and the afternoon sessions.
  • Each group had two microbits to allow the boys to divide within their groups so that one student could work on creating a message with a password – a combination of button presses that would reveal the message whilst others could work on solving the obstacle course.
  • Long 1 metre rulers were provided if the boys wished to use them to determine distance from the length of time the motors are turned on for.
  • Stopclocks were required for the timing of the competition, there was enough so that a group could have a stopclock to find out how fast they can solve the course and work out if they could do it any faster before they competed in front of a teach and a stopclock to work out who would go to the “Grand final”
  • Each group had access to two PCs and if a group came up with two hex files, one for the buggy and one for the message, they could then copy and paste code from one to the other to create a single hex file for that group.
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