RoadTest: ACCESS:bit for micro:bit
Evaluation Type: Electromechanical
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Microcontrollers like Arduino
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Difficult to find documentation that enabled programming of the micro:bit with the ACCESS:bit installed.
This review is a summary of the details contained in the following series of blog created during the RoadTest Review process.
The RoadTest Review accomplished the objectives that were listed in the application. The review was conducted by a 16 year old high school student with mentoring from the students very old Computer Club coach. The details of how the review was conducted can be found in blogRoadTest Support: ACCESS:bit for micro:bit The Application
The content of this post was formulated after the student and coach met for a student demonstration of the product and a post project review. The quoted lines of text in the review, are from the student taken during that discussion.
Getting the micro:bit working was not as difficult as getting the ACCESS:bit working. On an initial conversation after receiving the product the student had discovered the micro:bit demo. That created some appeal.
One of the students first objectives was to research the project. RoadTest Support: ACCESS:bit for micro:bit Introduction (Research and Unboxing) . The student assumed the datasheet 2787953.pdf provided from the RoadTest Review site was correct and only research other documentation. "Why give me a document that is not right?" The assumption that the pdf was the appropriate was the start of the struggles of getting the device to work.
"I have experience with computer hardware and electronics. I had to do a lot of trial and error to get the ACCESS:bit working. I found it difficult to find stuff on the device. The documentation provided a link that was dead. I'm not willing to give up."
The student continued to struggle until the mentor provided an updated version of the ACCESS:bit datasheet, 5646-access-bit-microbit-pedestrian-crossing-datsheet.pdf. The revised datasheet contained the instructions for the hardware version that was provided in the RoadTest. In addition the datasheet contained the revision to the block code required to run the device.
The other step required to get the ACCESS:bit working was to ask the student to become myopic in their focus. Only do what is in the documentation! Forget what you have discovered in your struggle. If it doesn't say it in the documentation then you can't use it. That was difficult because the student felt they had learned something it should be used.
I would also suggest the student became overwhelmed. The mentor did discuss the pinout of the servo motor yet the student still reversed the connection later when they worked independently. Granted the mentoring was remote, not face-to face but, that was understood from the application. There is no keying on the connector to prevent reversing the connection. Even the pins on the connector provide no indication of the order. I suggest if the student has close supervision this would reduce the problem."
"This is not a project to work on independently. To use the device you need foundation programming concept knowledge, mechanical skills to use tools like a screwdriver and basic understanding of electronics to make connections. Understanding and using documentation was something I had problems with. I used google search to find my information."
The student doesn't recommend this product. This I believe is reflected in the product scoring. The amount of effort invested to get teh ACCESS:bit working in comparison to what the student got out of it didn't seem worth it, according to them. This is surprising considering the student expanded the block code from the documentation to include micro:bit lighting for the gate going up and down.
The student agreed that with supervised professional guidance, while working in teams (learn from each other) the device could be used as a learning tool. The student didn't feel the device was an entry level kit for learning about computers. The student felt there are other devices much easier to get working and documentation to help the user than what they found for the ACCESS:bit.
"The buzzer blocks in coding to program the block code for the gate to go up and down caused the gate to stop working. It was frustrating it took so long to just move the arm."
The student indicated that working on this type of project the person really needs to be self motivated. The person needs to be interested in electronics and programming. A strong interest would hopefully help them overcome the frustration. They need a lot of patience. It is not easy to get working. "I'm not a person that gives up when I want to get something working. I could see some of my friends not wanting to keep working on this."
One of the student objectives was to look at the technology and explain what it could be used for. The student suggested a hand-held video game might be something this could be used for. The student found a project in his research that suggested that could be done.
When asked if the student would continue to use the product, the response was "No, I can do stuff on other devices with a lot less effort and get more out of it." Considering the price point for the devices wouldn't that give you more reason to purchase it? "No I would rather save my money and purchase a Arduino microcontroller knock-off and get more out of it."
Discussions about the micro:bit itself, at times peaked the students interest. "I could make a GPS with the direction finder on the micro:bit." I'm curious if this suggestion was just trying to get the most out of the device.
I have include two documents for the micro:bit to assist anyone considering investing in such a project.
I felt it was important to leave the reader on a more positive note regarding the product and this RoadTest. Many of the objectives of the RoadTest listed in application were successful.
The student's fortitude along with the ACCESS:bit, contributed to reaching the objectives. The review process had it's struggles but in the end all objectives were achieved. The review process did recruited the E14 Community a new member. I hope the student comes back often to look in on us. I suggest, in using the process to develop the knowledge to complete the review the student was exposed to a considerable bit of Engineering and a whole lot of learning.
The student and myself (Coach) would like to thank the product vendor and Element 14 for the opportunity to participate in this RoadTest Review.