The Arm School Program (ASP) recently had the pleasure of working with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation on a suite of teaching and learning resources to support the #GlobalGoals in partnership with #unicef and #worldslargestlesson.
The main aim of the resources was to support teachers in engaging their students in the Do Your :Bit Challenge as part of classroom learning. Learners would be tasked with designing and creating a project, using the BBC micro:bit, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which they could then enter into the competition. This year, the Do Your:Bit Challenge is focusing on ‘Life on Land’ and ‘Life Under Water’, both fertile ground for interesting physical computing projects.
In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone. Find out more here.
This collaboration is a fantastic opportunity to use the Arm School Program’s pedagogical approach to develop some engaging teaching and learning resources that will hopefully enthuse and inspire a generation of learners in a truly global context. The Arm School Program worked closely with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, which developed resources for primary schools. ASP developed parallel support for secondary schools and also helped our colleagues in the Micro:bit Educational Foundation to shape their resources by implementing a consistent, evidence-based pedagogy and structure. Find out more about how ASP supported the Micro:bit Educational Foundation in the upcoming blog from their Content Development Manager, Giles Booth.
Tasked with creating some activities aimed at older students (secondary school aged), the Arm School Program decided to use some IoT concepts and algorithmic challenges suitable for a typical GCSE learner. The physical nature of the BBC micro:bit and the use of additional peripherals lead to an interesting cross curricular approach with elements of all the STEM subjects across the various activities.
This goal is focused on reducing marine pollution, protecting the marine ecosystem and promoting sustainable fishing, as well as promoting research and implementing an international sea law to protect the oceans. To tackle these targets I looked at what causes large scale devastation to marine life after reading an article about how smart materials are being used to soak up oil spills and I thought about how a swarm of boat drones could be deployed to do this en-masse. The second project looks to gather long term data about the oceans health that could be used by ocean scientists. You can find out more about this goal on the Global Goals website, here.
Learners are tasked with designing and building an autonomous boat drone that can drag an absorbent ‘smart material’ that can soak up oil. This challenge involved programming the boat drone to cover a given area of water containing the oil spill and then adapting the program to use magnetometer to steer the boat drone more accurately given more turbulent sea conditions.
I recently tested these resources with a group of Arkwright scholars on a visit to Arm. They demonstrated some outstanding ingenuity and creativity in how they solved the problem and how they quickly developed a working solution in a very limited amount of time. Read more about this on the BBC micro:bit website.
This project uses the various sensors on the BBC micro:bit to create a floating sensor beacon to transmit data to a team of ocean scientists collecting data on climate change. This project could be extended to use other more sophisticated sensors, but they are relatively expensive and so wouldn’t be feasible for many learners in schools on limited budgets. The underlying theory however is accessible and draws upon learning in the sciences around measuring salinity, pH and electrical conductivity. Read more about the Ocean Health Monitor on the BBC micro:bit website.
Goal 15 is all about preserving out natural habitat on land through conservation, protecting biodiversity, eliminating poaching and eliminating invasive species as well as goals focussed on ending desertification, deforestation and incentivising sustainable forest management. The first project looks to apply IoT technology to protect rain forests by creating an early warning system to alert authorities to illegal logging. The second project utilises automation to reduce waste in farming. You can read more about Life on Land on the Global Goals website.
This project was designed as an introduction to IoT, GPS and network infrastructure and uses the BBC micro:bit’s accelerometer to detect if a tree in a protected forest has been felled illegally. The idea is a BBC micro:bit is put in a box and attached to the top of the tree and sends a distress signal (including GPS co-ordinates) to the authorities once felled. This project also introduces digital signal processing in a friendly way, as the learners need to determine the thresholds of movement that trigger the alert. Read more about Tree Protector on the BBC micro:bit website.
This project introduced some simple electronic components and concepts. Learners make a moisture sensor that triggers a relay, causing it to activate a watering pump/solenoid. When the light level drops below a given threshold, the BBC micro:bit’s light sensor is then used to trigger an LED grow light via the relay. Read more about Auto-Farmer on the BBC micro:bit website.
These projects are a great example of how to employ project-based learning, using engaging and authentic contexts, to inspire learners to engage with STEM. And they are just the start! The idea is that students will build upon the techniques and concepts they have learned to solve bigger and more complex problems: essentially, ‘lighting the STEM learning fuse’ and letting learners explore the possibilities.
The Arm School Program has also developed a suite of teaching and learning resources based on sound academic principles and cutting-edge classroom practice that use BBC micro:bits to explore STEM topics. These #doyourbit resources use the same approach and are good examples of our pedagogy and approach to project-based learning.
The resources are published on an open source Learning Management System (LMS), which will be piloted in schools next year. The LMS will contain accessible, high quality courses that deliver inclusive and effective learning. ‘Static’ versions of the courses – available to schools mainly as downloadable Word Documents and PowerPoints – are currently being piloted in about 30 schools in the UK and will be freely available thereafter. We are working with partners to measure the educational impact of the resources and we will publish our findings once the pilot is complete in summer 2020.
Learn more about the ASP pedagogical approach here.
You can get all the resources here including all the simpler projects aimed at younger learners.
Graduate George Wort describes how he worked with the Arm School Program and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation on project to create an in-browser simulation of the BBC micro:bit that could run MicroPython scripts, and to be used in the MicroPython online editor. See the blog here.
Watch this space for an upcoming blogs about how the Arm School Program has worked with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation:
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