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Summer of MakeCode for kids

July 25, 2018 | By Jacqueline Russell, Principal Program Manager

MakeCode Office Space

Introduction

Microsoft MakeCode (makecode.com) is a web-based learning environment for kids and teens to create with technology. MakeCode takes a unique approach to computing education by combining the magic of making with the power of code as a way to make learning about computers and technology more accessible and interesting to a wider audience.

The MakeCode team at Microsoft is small, but mighty! We are passionate about making technology fun, exciting and accessible for all kids. We work in a fun office space at Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington and love coming to work every day!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing some easy MakeCode projects that you can do with your kids at home over the summer using a different MakeCode product each week.

Grab your kids and a glue gun and come on the Summer of MakeCode tour with us!

– The MakeCode Team

Weekly Projects

Week 1: Micro:Pet

Week 1: Micro:Pet

If your kids are like mine, they’ll spend a few minutes playing with their fancy toys, and a few hours playing with good old-fashioned cardboard boxes, string and markers in the garage!

Micro:Pet is a fun project that gets your kids’ creativity flowing using materials you can find around the house while incorporating electronics and coding concepts and activities with the micro:bit.

For the Micro:Pet project, you’ll need:

  • A computer with internet connection and USB port
  • A micro:bit Go Kit (available at Microcenter.com) that includes a micro:bit, a USB cable, a battery pack and batteries
  • Small cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper cups/bowls or anything you have around the house to construct your pet with
  • Markers, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, colored paper, feathers and anything else you have on hand to decorate your pet!

Check out our fun video about our micro:pets!

Step 1: What’s your dream pet?

The first thing you’ll want to do is think about what kind of pet you want to create. It could be something you’ve always wanted to have as a pet, but couldn’t – say a unicorn, a dragon or a skunk.

Step 2: Make your pet

Using the materials at hand, create your dream Pet. Remember to include enough space in your design to attach your micro:bit and the battery pack.

Step 3: Code the micro:bit

If you have a Windows 10 computer, you can download and install the micro:bit app at http://aka.ms/microbitapp. Otherwise, go to https://makecode.microbit.org/.

You can use your micro:bit in many different ways on your pet. Here is an example of a program for your Micro:Pet, but be creative and come up with your own unique project!

Figure 1 – An example of a Micro:Pet program. Don’t miss the video at https://youtu.be/Sd_hB4nyUXI

Optional steps:

1. Adding audio

You can add audio and play sounds through your micro:bit by connecting it to headphones, earbuds or an external speaker. Note: there is only one volume level at which the micro:bit plays – and it is very loud! Don’t put earbuds in your ear when you run your program. In addition to the micro:bit, you will need:

Figure 2 – What you’ll need for sound. Don’t miss the video at https://youtu.be/Wx73kbW5s9E

Figure 3 – Example program using sounds.

2. Adding motion

You can add motion to your Micro:Pet – for example, wagging its tail when your pet is fed. To do this, you will need to attach a servo motor to your micro:bit. You will need:

Figure 4 – What you’ll need to put your pet in motion. Don’t miss the video at https://youtu.be/qdX86in2YXo

Figure 5 – Example program using a servo motor.

Week 2: Fortune Teller

Week 2: Fortune Teller

This project generated hours of fun for my kids! They spent the next few days consulting their Fortune Teller machines – “What should I do today?” “Will I get ice cream for dessert?” “What game should my brother play next?” “Do I have to go to bed now?”

Fortune Teller is a fun, easy project you can do with your kids using the Circuit Playground Express and some simple crafting materials.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • A computer with internet connection and a USB port
  • A Circuit Playground Express Base Kit (see https://www.adafruit.com/product/3517) that includes the Circuit Playground Express board, a USB cable, batteries and a battery pack
  • Paper – slightly thicker cardstock paper works better
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Colored Markers and/or Pencils or Pens
  • Stickers or anything else you want to use to decorate your Fortune Telling Machine

Step 1: Envision your Fortune Telling Machine

Will it give simple Yes/No/Maybe answers? Will it be a random number generator? Or will it give specialized responses – like types of games to play, ice cream flavors, or books to read? Use your imagination to come up with a unique Fortune Telling Machine!

Step 2: Make your Fortune Telling Machine

Watch the video.

  • Position the Circuit Playground Express in the center of a piece of paper
  • Trace the outline of the board and put tick marks around the board to mark segments for the 10 lights. If you want, you can also use fewer than 10 options for your Fortune Teller.

Figure 2 – Fitting your lights.

  • Draw the segments on your paper using a ruler or straight-edge.
  • Write the different answers or options for your Fortune Teller in each segment.
  • Cut out the shape of your fortune telling machine (round, triangle, square).
  • Using a loop of tape, or double-sided tape, stick your Circuit Playground Express board to the paper.
  • Poke a hole in the paper next to the battery port on the Circuit Playground Express.
  • Thread the wire from the battery pack through the hole and attach to the Circuit Playground Express.
  • Tape the battery pack onto the back of the paper.
  • Decorate your Fortune Telling Machine!

Step 3: Code the Circuit Playground Express

If you have a Windows 10 computer, you can download and install the MakeCode for Adafruit app at http://aka.ms/adafruitapp.  Or just go to https://makecode.adafruit.com/.

Figure 3 – Coding the Circle Playground Express.

Watch how to write the code.

Optional Step:

To add a bit more complexity to your code, you can change the color that is displayed depending on the position of the light on the board. For example, if the random number lands in the “Yes” segment, show the light as green; if the random number lands in the “No” segment, show the light as red. And if the random number lands in the “Maybe” segment, show the light as purple.

Figure 4 – Extending your code.

Week 3: Minecraft Obstacle Course

Week 3: Minecraft Obstacle Course

My kids absolutely love playing Minecraft! And when I have time, I love playing with them too. Incorporating coding activities with Minecraft is tons of fun – after all, who doesn’t love spawning hordes of sheep!

Here’s another fun summer project you can do with your kids using MakeCode for Minecraft to create an Obstacle Course in Minecraft that you can challenge other Players to go through.

Figure 1 – Minecraft Obstacle Course volunteers at the ready!

To learn more, watch the introductory video:

For this project, you’ll need:

  • A Windows 10 computer with an Internet connection.
  • The Setup instructions available at: https://minecraft.makecode.com/setup. You’ll want to download and install:
    • Minecraft for Windows 10, or Minecraft: Education Edition
    • Code Connection

Step 1: Plan your Obstacle Course

The first thing you’ll want to do is think about what kind of obstacle course you want to create. What will each of the different challenges be? What do you need to build in the world for each challenge? Think about using the different options in the On Player action block – walking, flying, swimming, climbing, and so on. You can even work with your kids to map out their obstacle courses on paper before diving into the game.

Step 2: Code your Obstacle Course

Be creative in building your obstacle courses! Glean some ideas from the obstacle courses we created by looking at our code:

Learn how to do it on your own. Check out our very kid-friendly coding video:

Step 3: Play!

Challenge your friends and family to get through your obstacle course. You can even use stop watch to see who can get through the fastest!

For other fun Minecraft projects to do with your kids see:

And be sure to check out our other MakeCode Summer 2018 projects.

Week 4: LEGO MINDSTORMS City

Week 4: LEGO MINDSTORMS City

For this summer project, my kids created a little LEGO city with superheroes and bad guys. We used the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robot as the bad guy who comes in to destroy the city! We built the driving base and attached the color sensor that the robot uses to stop and start – much like a red/green traffic light.

Defend our city, we will! Don’t miss the Introduction video available here.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • To purchase the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kit, either online or from a LEGO retailer
  • To update the EV3 brick firmware (instructions)
  • To build the driving base (instructions)
  • To attach the color sensor (instructions)
  • Some white paper
  • Colored markers
  • LEGO bricks
  • Colored index cards

Step 1: Build your LEGO city

  • Use a large piece of white paper (or several pieces) and tape it down to a table top.
  • Use colored markers to create roads, lakes and parks in your city.
  • Use LEGO bricks to create houses, cars, people and superheroes to protect your city,
  • We used colored cards to activate the Red light and Green light on our MINDSTORMS robot, but you can also use the colored parts on paper to trigger the color sensor.

Step 2: Code the Red Light/Green Light program

Here’s the code example of the Red Light Green Light program for the MINDSTORMS EV3 :

Coding your Red Light/Green Light program. Don’t miss the coding video available here.

You can also try the Line Following program to make your MINDSTORMS robot follow the roads in your LEGO City, or use the Ultrasonic sensor to detect objects.

Have fun with this exciting Make Code project!

 

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