How to master...the BBC micro:bit

The BBC's mini-puter is finally out in the wild – here's how to turn its many skills into amazing DIY gadgets...

BBC Microbit

Making gadgets is no longer just for super-nerds. And to prove that we're entering a golden age of tinkering, the BBC last week started sending its micro:bit computers to one million lucky UK students.

Co-developed by Microsoft, ARM and Samsung, the micro:bit has a bunch of built-in sensors, including an accelerometer and compass, plus a matrix of 25 individually programmable LEDS. Put this together with Microsoft's Touch Develop editor, and you have enough tech to hack NASA (possibly).

Luckily, we've put together this list of nine fun-but-legal micro:bit projects to try instead, ranging from simple to satisfyingly tricky. And if you're not one of those lucky year seven students, it's still well worth a read - the micro:bit will be available to buy later this year from a BBC non-profit organisation.

We'll let you know as soon as that happens - until then, it's time to get planning and making...


Best starter projects: 1) Compass

BBC micro:bit compass

If the question “Dad, how do digital compasses work?” has seen you attempt to change the subject onto whether cereal is a type of soup, this project’s for you. The micro:bit has a built-in magnetometer – all you need to get it to display its direction is a little code, the contents of which will handily introduce you both to the handy concept of conditional statements.

Learn how to make a micro:bit compass 

2) Game counter

BBC micro:bit game counter

In the micro:bit age there’s no excuse for keeping score with an abacus, so upgrade your table football with this easy project. The initial code lets you add numbers to the micro:bit’s LED display via button presses. But from there you learn how to add ‘shake-to-reset’ functionality, all of which will come in handy when you build your own table football game (see next page).

Learn how to make a micro:bit game counter