Smart Home Expo Showcasing Student's Microbit and Coding Skills

St. John Brebeuf Catholic School, St. Michael Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic School in Elora competed in a Microbit Coding Project in Cooperation with Fair Chance Learning last week.

Grade 6-8 coding and robotics clubs from each school participated in a Virtual Model Smart-home contest hosted by St. John Brebeuf’s club.

The idea behind the Smart Home Expo was to share ideas and designs of how to apply Microbit coding to everyday life. After spending time on their Microbit applications, during the virtual event, students had 10 minutes to present their projects with comments and a question period to follow.

“The idea of combining a Smart Home project-based activity with the BBC Microbit was developed as an extension of the coding and robotics training that our Grade 6-8 classes have undergone this year,” shared Lowell Butts, principal of St. John Brebeuf. “Working with Fair Chance Learning, our teachers and students at St. John Brebeuf, St. Mary, Elora and St. Michael’s, Guelph were able to get first hand training in coding and programming of the BBC Microbit platform.  The Microbit is a small PLC- programmable logic controller, that has the ability to store code, and direct it to output devices like automatic doors, motion sensors, lights and thermostats. Our students learned how to code the Microbits to perform various tasks and then built a mock up model home to demonstrate their learning and the ability to automate many of these household tasks.”

St. John Brebeuf had previously been involved in Skills Canada Competitions at the local and provincial levels. Using this experience with coding and robotics, the idea of applying the Microbit code to the model home, was an extension of our robotic cars and Microbit programming.

“Building a model home was a new activity for our students in the Robotics and Coding Club, but one that they embraced with persistence, curiosity and determination,” he shared. “The challenge of programming controllers to execute coded functions, is a  21stcentury STEM learning skill that many will carry on into secondary as well as post secondary education . Therefore, the Microbit is a very affordable and easily accessible way for student in grade 6-8 to enter into the world of coding with real hands on learning STEM applications.”

The students came up with a wide cross section of programming applications for the Smart Home and Microbit project. One application was a soil moisture detector which was installed in a model garden. By programming the Microbit as a continuity tester to measure electrical current, students were able to write code that would accurately measure the moisture content in soil on a numerical scale. When the soil becomes too dry, an alarm will sound, alerting the need to water the garden. Additionally, students developed a temperature activated Automatic Window, that was connected to a servo motor and programmed to open at 25 degrees Celsius. 

“The programming code required for this application was quite good, and our students were able to add it to the model home: The lights for the home and the ceiling fans were also connected to the Smart Home. These features were activated by push buttons to run for 30 seconds, but could also be activated by motion activated coding sequences,” shared Butts.

Following presentations, the day capped off with guest speaker, Dr. Jim Egenrieder, where students learned about his experience on the Education and Engineering Research Faculty with Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity and his varying STEM education programs.

To follow along with the St. John Brebeuf Coding and Robotics Club, please visit their Twitter.