Why You Will Want The BBC Micro:Bit

DSC_0026
Article by Suzie Murray


Computers are great. They can save lives, change lives, and sometimes they’re responsible for wasting lives. What could be better?

Microcomputers. Like computers but smaller, sturdier, more accessible. The joy of the Raspberry Pi is not just that ‘A Scientist shrunk your computer’, but the ease with which you can plug in anything you like, and make it do whatever you’d like. By stripping back the surface, microcomputers become much more versatile.

However the smaller size demands compromise on features, and the Pi treads a fine line. The Raspberry Pi errs on the side of complexity, but it comes at the cost of some educational benefit: they’re fantastic machines but they aren’t quick to use without a background in computer science. The Makey Makey Go leans the other way, and opts for über simplistic crocodile clip connections, which I’ll come to later.

The BBC microbit does everything the Raspberry Pi set out to achieve. It’s easy to code, easy to use, and super cute. I thought I was appreciating the microbit, and then I showed mine to two 10 year old girls. I did not give the 4×5 rectangle of magic half of the credit it deserved. If Harry Potter rode in on a unicorn, carrying a candy floss machine, I’m fairly confident they would continue to modify the microbit code. The clear connection between the code they wrote and the results they got made it satisfying to learn with.

DSC_0025

The documentation makes it really easy to learn the ropes. Straying from the usual program doc format, it’s almost bizarrely easy to stay awake during and after reading. These are written for people to learn from. The docs are also a good go-to for if you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve. The code included is easy to modify and learn from, whether you’re happy with computers or technically challenged. Because everything is online (including the program GUI and compiler), everything is in one place and it’s difficult to lose files when they’re auto-saved onto a cloud.

My biggest gripe would be the output pins. Initially I was impressed by the tickling project, and so enthusiastically, naïvely, I made the pilgrimage across school to the physics department to haggle for some spare crocodile clips. Woe is me. Nothing I tried worked. Energy which could have been spent catching Pokémon, wasted. If you’re looking for devices to network, the micro might not be for you.

That said, the microbit is my favourite toy of the summer. I feel that I’m being fair in calling it a toy; not demeaningly but because I truly enjoy using it. The process of investigating, writing, and importing your code is not just satisfying, but painless. I haven’t seen a bad review yet.

If you want to buy a microbit, the best spot to preorder looks to be from Tech Will Save Us for £15.

Advertisements

New Irish Music: The Clockworks – ‘Girls Like You’ Review

The Clockworks are an up-and-coming Irish indie band based in Galway. Their debut single Girls Like You was released on July 2nd, and it is definitely a song that cannot be missed.

Irish music has dominated the charts worldwide over the past few years- from Hosier to Walking On Cars, Kodaline to The Academic. Despite the plethora of Irish acts that have achieved international recognition, there are always new up-and- coming Irish bands with truly remarkable music to offer. The Clockworks are a prime example of this.

An EP is due to be released soon, so currently we have only one song from this band: Girls Like You. Luckily for them- and us!- this song is extremely catchy and well-crafted, with a unique twist that’s always promising for a band so early in their career.

The song is indie-rock, almost The Smiths meet Neutral Milk Hotel meet She & Him. Maybe.

London born James McGregor’s vocals are impeccable, with a raw touch that adds to the song and works really well with the powerful guitar chords and hard-hitting lyrics. The lyrics are sarcastic, cynical, anecdotal, almost tongue-in- cheek; in the best possible way.

The real beauty of the song, however, is in its subtleties, the melodious line hidden underneath the loud guitars after the chorus, the impeccable cymbal work by drummer Damian Greaney. The guitar solo at around 2:20 by Sean Connelly is amazing and the song is guaranteed to have you nodding along by the end of it. The final verse finishes the song in an unexpected way that really shows that The Clockworks are bringing something a bit different to the music table.

This is the first song from The Clockworks but it has a lot of promise and definitely looks like a good indicator that there are big things ahead for this Galway group. Hop on the bandwagon now, and check them out on some of the smaller shows they’re playing this summer before you have to queue up for their sold out shows.

The Clockworks play Whelan’s Summer Ones To Watch this week. You can keep up to date with them on twitter or on Facebook.

You can listen to Girls Like You on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud.

https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1120262323?ls=1&app=itunes

 


Article by Aoife Kearins.

Was The Ghostbusters Reboot Needed?

There has been plenty of criticism surrounding the remake of the all-around classic, Ghostbusters. I for one was skeptical of it, would it live up to the original? will changing the leads genders work? Is a remake needed?

Article by Vanessa Greene


Having finally seen the film I must admit that I now understand why this remake was needed. It wasn’t for the graphics, technology or refreshing the story line, it was the characters. We still lack the presence of strong heroines in the film industry for young girls to look up to. Personally, I don’t see why we aren’t creating more badass female characters all of the time.

As a child I always liked Ghostbusters, it was good. However I never really felt an attachment to it, I could never aspire to be like any of these ‘middle-aged guys with Ph.D.’s’, how could I relate to them? This time around I walked away with a completely different opinion, one that went something like “Can I please be Jillian Holtzmann! like right now!”, an opinion shared with both my sisters.

Admittedly I got slightly emotionally attached to each character as the film went on. These women are epic, realistic, funny, smart, dedicated, the list goes on. It hurts to see the backlash of comments towards the cast, they were perfect.

We need these women! We need our young girls to be able to look up to strong characters in a time when most are looking up to the next Kardashian beauty trick. Ghostbusters did a damn right good job at not stereotyping these characters to ‘pretty skinny blondes’. All I hope is that we can continue to create quirky food loving scientists like Abby, career driven women like Erin, badass inventors like Jillian and intelligent quirky women like Patty.

On a side note, I must admit I did find the reverse sexism of Kevin’s character rather humorous. It definitely highlighted the way we usually see lead females portrayed and I’d like to see that open minds to how ‘stupid’ those stereotypes are.

So regardless of all the disagreements floating around, Ghostbusters definitely gets a thumbs up from me. May we see much more of these strong heroines in the future.

Introducing Aoife

To help our blog run smoothly we put a call out for young writers whom are interested in either STEM and or music, Aoife is one of them. Aoife will be writing about upcoming pop-punk artists and general STEM topics. Needless to say we are very excited to read her articles.

So who is Aoife? We’ve asked our new authors to answers a few questions to introduce themselves.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Aoife, and I love maths, music and untranslatable words. I run my own music website Mixtape ’94, and spend lots of time working to prevent drowsy driving road accidents with my technology project Eye Opener. I am also a competitive tea drinker.

What is your favourite STEM subject?

Maths is definitely my favourite STEM subject. I absolutely adore the beauty and abstract nature of pure maths, and also love the numerous applications maths has in all of the other STEM areas, especially technology.

Why do you think the gender gap in STEM needs to close?

I am a big believer in the importance of STEM as a tool to make things happen. If girls aren’t equipped with the necessary STEM skills, so many of the incredible ideas and projects they have will never come to fruition and the world will miss out on them.

Do you have a role model? If so whom?

Sophie Germain, the French mathematician and physicist, is such a role model for me as she didn’t allow any of the limitations she faced prevent her from achieving her goals. All of the girls I met at Outbox Incubator never fail to inspire me with their drive, passion and determination also.

What do you work as / study?

I’m a secondary school student, currently about to enter my last year of school. I also run Mixtape ’94 and Eye-Opener, and work on far too many other projects as well.

Can you describe yourself in 6 words? 

Ambitious, diligent, creative, caffeinated, loyal, pluviophile (rain-lover).   (when I asked my sister my help with this question she suggested “very, very, very, very, very sarcastic.”)
If you’d like to join the Echoing STEM blogging team please email echoingstem@gmail.com