Which is best for teaching BBC micro:bit or Arduino?

The new kid on the block (BBC Micro:Bit) is really making some moves.  However, the Arduino has made a great impact in the not so distant past and is considered the learning and makers platform of choice.  So why use the micro:bit?

Well, simply because the micro:bit is accessible.  Now let me tell you why.

The Arduino entry point, for the most part, is the Arduino UNO. An 8 bit processor, yip that's right, 1970's pixelated arcade games technology.  Start trying to do anything that involves math calculations and you are soon looking for a 32bit core. The micro:bit has one of these! Some Arduino processor do too, and they come with lots of pins, but they don't actually do anything unless you build something and that costs more.

micro:bit vs arduino table

So, if you are a teacher, like me, you probably want the students to experience instant success so there is buy-in.  The micro:bit has LED’s on the board, buttons and Bluetooth as well as a compass and accelerometer.  You can control a robot with this thing almost out of the box, all you need it some code.  Rock, Paper, Scissors games are easy to get going and require no add-on parts. In fact, you can run a whole 10-week program without buying anything else! The Arduino, on the other hand, is just a board, without the electronics attached to it, it may as well be a paperweight.

When you look at most information about the Arduino it is all about the pins. Now granted the Arduino's usually do have many. But what about I2C and SPI, oh and that all-important processor.  A micro:bit with lesser pins and a lower cost has I2C and SPI as well as PWM and digital I/O which all adds up to power and extensibility.  So, which, Arduino, do you use? There are so many. This is confusing for teachers and students. I can tell you that the entry point Arduino is basic in comparison to the micro:bit and when you start moving up to the 32bit Arduino's the price is double or triple of that of the micro:bit and they still don't' have anything on board to interact with!

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