David Whale holding BBC micro:bit

Micro:bit Gadgets Chat with David Whale

 

micro:chat

Let’s get inside the great mind of BBC micro:bit evangelist David Whale. He's the genius behind our micro:bit theremin code. If you're playing the Perfect Pancake game, that's also one of his. Over to the man himself.

 

MBG
What's the code you're most proud of?

BBC micro:bit coder deep sea tracker

The mysterious TRIG deep sea tracker. Photo courtesy of Trident Sensors.

DW
The code I am most proud of is inside a deep sea tracker product that I wrote the software for many years ago. It's currently being used by NASA to track parachute test deployments in the ocean.

 

MBG
And the code you most wish you'd written

Ooo, that's a good question! Something like the HTTP protocol that was written by Sir Tim Berners Lee and drives the whole of the web. It's such an elegant piece of design work….and it affects so many people's lives in such a positive way.

 

MBG
OK what’s your dream BBC micro:bit project?

DW
I read about a project a few years ago, where over in the US there was a little messaging device that used mesh wireless networking to transmit messages to nearby devices. Enough people bought these devices that they transmitted a message across large parts of America, not by the internet, just device to device. I'd like to think that with 1 million micro:bits we could transmit a message from Lands End to John O'Groats using just micro:bits and the onboard Bluetooth.

 

MBG
Yes! Love it? But wait, is this possible?

DW
I've done the maths, it’s possible! It's 970km as the crow flies. If each micro:bit can transmit a message 5 meters, we'd only need 194,000 micro:bits, which is a little under 20 percent of the actual number of micro:bits that will be in the UK by the time you read this online.

 

David Whale holding BBC micro:bit

The man and the micro:bit. Image courtesy of @digitaldivageek

MBG
A micro:bit has already been sent into space. What will the final frontier be?

DW
Well, there is already a Raspberry Pi on the International Space Station. One day I think we will send a micro:bit to Mars. I think a good first step towards that would be to look at a crowd sourced cube-sat made from micro:bits. You could probably fit quite a few micro:bits into a CubeSat, each one coded with a tiny science experiment written by different children. I think we'd need an industrialised version of the board though, as I understand that the temperature extremes in space are quite challenging!

 

MBG
Outside of school, how do young people get involved in STEM activities?

DW
Firstly, there is the excellent Raspberry Jam network, where people get together and share project ideas using the Raspberry Pi computer. Also in many regions, there are Code Clubs that run in schools and other centres, that are a really good way to learn coding. Some schools run after school computer or STEM clubs . These are great ways to get into technology.

MBG
You heard the man! Let’s get going micro:bitters!

Interview by Micro:bit Gadget's Sam Rowe