Getting kids interested in programming is all the rage right now, and the UK is certainly taking pole position with its BBC micro:bit, just recently distributed to every seventh-grader in the land. Germany, proud of its education system and technological prowess, is caught playing catch-up. Until now.
The Calliope Mini (translated here) is essentially a micro:bit clone, but one that has learned from the experience of its spiritual forefather — the connection points are spread around the outside of the board where the crocodile clips won’t accidentally touch each other.
Not content to simply copy, the Calliope also adds additional functionality. A microphone and speaker are integrated onboard, as is a Grove-style I2C connector. They’ve even added a TI DRV8837 H-bridge motor driver, so students could make a rolling robot straight out of the box.
But the real secret ingredient here is piggy-backing on the existing BBC micro:bit codebase and infrastructure. Freed from having to re-develop all of the essentials, the Calliope team should be able to work on coding and examples for their shiny new hardware. That’s the great thing about open-source software.
We’re left wondering if the micro:bit platform will become as important as the Arduino has. If Calliope gets adopted wide-scale in Germany, that would be a harbinger. Having two countries’ kids all familiar with the same platform will certainly give it a boost.
… But not Open Hardware
[Edit: Stop the presses! Just hours after running this story, the micro:bit foundation was announced and an open hardware reference design was published. Talk about coincidences!]
But why aren’t the designs for either the micro:bit or the Calliope open-sourced? There’s not enough going on that it would take an average hacker more than an afternoon to reverse engineer either of the boards, so there’s little to gain by not opening up to the community. And many of the people contributing software would also like to contribute hardware hacks to the device’s ecosystem.
If these platforms are going to become important to future generations of hacker kids, isn’t it also important to teach them a little engineering along the way? Shouldn’t that be part of the educational package? And if getting the boards cloned and produced cheaper is the “cost”, isn’t that a win for kids who want a second micro:bit but don’t have money burning a hole in their pocket?
Hackaday kudos (and a writeup) to the first open reversing. And if you’re using the micro:bit, or its software ecosystem, here’s your call to let us know in the comments.
Thanks [Felix] for the tip!