nonprofit is to continue the micro:bit
experience in the U.K. and roll it out to
Europe, and then the world, to inspire
a global generation of young inventors.
(For more information, see www.
microbit.org.) The micro:bit and Magic
Cubes are two of a number of promising
projects that are providing new ways for
preparing children (and adults) to code,
create, and invent the future using Io T
toolkits in innovative ways.
In memory of Katy Jones, who died suddenly on
April 24, 2015 at age 51.
1. Blyth, B. Computing for the masses?
Figure 3. Students Jessica and Leila from West Ashtead Primary School in London coding
animations on their micro: bits to make a story book.
schools had begun (Figure 3); by the end
of the summer, most of the devices had
activities and more can enable children
to develop what we call the Four Cs of
digital fluency: computational, critical,
connected, and creative thinking.
Constructing a British culture of
computing in the home. In Reflections on the
History of Computing: Preserving Memories
and Sharing Stories A. Tatnall, ed. Springer,
Heidelberg, 2012, 231–242.
2. Livingstone, I. and Hope, A. Next Gen.
NESTA Report. 2011; http://www.nesta.
FROM MAKEME TO
THE MAGIC CUBES
Following the productive collaboration
with the BBC, the UCL team continued
its own research agenda, investigating
more extensively how to teach the Io T
to young children. They began working
on a second cube, SenseMe, that was
designed to have more sensing and
actuating functionality with scope for
on-board coding. These innovations
would enable the exploration and
measurement of many aspects of the
world. Following the same design
philosophy of MakeMe, the sides of the
cube provide different components of
a computing device, but with a much
more powerful microcontroller, more
sensors, and Bluetooth radio.
The kit got a new name: Magic
Cubes. The environmental and personal
sensors, in addition to being colorful
and engaging actuators, are intended to
enable children to explore the world of
data in everyday contexts. By connecting
several cubes together, children can
design their own Internet of Things
applications, discover mechanisms
for ensuring privacy and security, and
explore abstract systems-thinking
concepts, such as interdependence
and emergent system behaviors .
Further testing in classroom settings has
shown that the tangible and personally
meaningful nature of these activities can
facilitate thinking about the abstract
world of complex computational
concepts, motivating children to think
independently about the real-world
implications of modern technology and
inspiring higher levels of engagement
and creativity. The Magic Cubes are
also proving a hit in special school
settings, for children with autism and
3. Furber, F. Shut down or restart? Royal
Society Report. 2012; http://royalsociety.
4. Johnson, R, Shum, V., Rogers, Y., and
Marquardt, N. Make or shake: An
empirical study of the value of making
in learning about computing technology.
Proc. IDC’16. ACM, 2016, 440–451.
5. Lechelt, Z., Rogers, Y., Marquardt, N.,
and Shum, V. ConnectUs: A new toolkit
for teaching about the Internet of Things.
Proc. CHI EA'16. ACM, 2016, 3711–3714.
Yvonne Rogers is a professor of interaction
design and the director of UCLIC.
Venus Shum is a post doc research fellow
who developed the Endguino and Magic Cubes
toolkits at UCL.
The team switched their efforts to
conceptualize the coding, making,
and creating activities in terms of an
overarching framework called digital
fluency. This represents the core set of
skills necessary to empower people to
see themselves as creators and shapers
of modern technology, rather than just
its consumers. Whereas the initial
research with Engduino and MakeMe
demonstrated how children learn to
code, make, and create together, UCL’s
current research is pushing the envelope
further by exploring how extending these
Nicolai Marquardt is an associate professor
Susan Lechelt is a Ph.D. student at UCL.
Rose Johnson is a visiting researcher at UCL.
It had always been the ambition of
the BBC to hand the micro:bit over to
a foundation to handle the micro:bit
legacy. On the October 19, 2016, the
Microbit Educational Foundation was
launched in London. The aim of this
Howard Baker ran the Innovation team
within BBC Learning and developed the BBC
micro:bit. He is now a freelance consultant and
works for the Microbit Educational Foundation
as Chief Editor.
Matt Davies is an independent UX consultant.
DOI: 10.1145/3029601 © 2017 ACM 1072-5520/17/03 $15.00