The Motor Control Kit

The school talks I recently gave on electronic toy hacking highlighted a problem that motor control for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit could be made a great deal simpler (and cheaper) when you see what’s already out there. It only took two prototypes of my pack before I was happy. Each pack contains example code, components and creativity.

First Coding - Motor Control Kit for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

I have made the component list, assembly instructions and sample Scratch block code available to download here: Motor control instructions for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

The Code Machine

I love hearing about the journeys pupils’ projects have taken them on, so I thought I would share one of my own.

At the end of last year I put together a little code machine in Scratch (you can see it here), it used a simple Caesar cipher to allow you to send secret messages. This got me into reading a great many books on codes and it wasn’t long before I wanted to create an unbreakable code of my own.

First Coding Spy Month - The Secret Code Machine
I also met a few people along the way, including someone at the Secret Army Museum who discussed with me methods to check whether a coded transmission had been tampered with. All really interesting.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy
I have now packaged up what I’ve learnt and built an app titled The Code Machine, soon to be available for free so all can enjoy.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy

Rain Soundboard

Here is a simple soundboard for you to try. Clicking on the numbers one at a time will play sound clips of rain. Pressing button 3 will allow you to add some wind chimes into the mix. My favourite combination of buttons is 2 and 3 together.

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/207593546/

Soundboards such as this one are fun and easy to put together. Take a look inside at the blocks to see how you would add more sounds and backgrounds to this project.

First Coding - Rain Soundboard

When Planets Collide

As part of Space Month I wanted to use these colliding planets to illustrate how easy it is to incorporate random behaviour into any game you make. Take a look at the blocks and think about how to make it truly random. Maybe randomise the starting position and trajectory of each planet when the green flag is ticked?

Have a play here: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/193035494

Space Month - When Planets Collide - Scratch

I love randomness in games, factoring it into the games you make means that even you (the game’s creator) doesn’t even know how the game is going to play out.

Scratch works best on a PC or laptop.

The Maze Challenge

Parents of pupils were invited this week to take part in the Maze Challenge. The mazes were built by the pupils and made good use of the randomisation techniques we’ve been learning about, meaning that even the game creators didn’t know how their games were going to play out, let alone the parents – who played really well by the way!

First Coding - Maze Challenge

Superhero Month: Masks

As it’s the start of Superhero Month, we first need to select the mask we’re going to wear on our adventures. This is an easy program to build in Scratch, take a look at the blocks to see how the masks are controlled by a simple variable. How would we go about adding more masks? You can view the Superhero Mask project here.

How can we take it a step further and add a superhero name generator? Clue: Take a look back through last month’s spy projects.

Scratch works best on a laptop or pc.

First Coding - Superhero Month: Superhero Masks

Spy Month: Maze Game

We have a maze challenge for you this time. Controlling the red block using the arrow keys, can you navigate the maze to reach the gold coin whilst avoiding touching the walls or moving grey blocks?

This game incorporates randomness with the grey obstacles making a random decision as to what turn to take when they reach a wall. This means that every attempt of the game is different. You can also take a look at the blocks used to make this game, how can this game be improved?

Play the game here: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/192157756/

Did you know we cover game design in our Introductory course? Why not take a look: http://www.firstcoding.co.uk/the-introductory-course/

First Coding - Spy Month Maze Game

Spy Month: The Secret Code Machine

Spy Month continues with the Secret Code Machine, a great little Caesar Cipher built in Scratch to help keep your secret messages a secret. https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/185866145/

It was a little tricky at first to work out how it was to function but like I’ve always told my pupils, if they can explain a concept clearly in plain English then building a project is made a great deal easier.

Incoming message…

gsv ivw ulc uorvh zg nrwmrtsg

The nice thing about the Secret Code Machine is that you can cut and paste the encoded messages into emails etc to send to people. Works best on laptops or desktop machines.

First Coding Spy Month - The Secret Code Machine