Micro:bit, Bots and Bubbles

We’ve been continuing experiments with micro:bit and moto:bit to create opportunities for playful engagement with computation and coding. Over the past couple weeks we’ve developed a series of bubble blowing robot exhibits and we shared our prototypes at the FIGMENT art festival in Oakland this past saturday.

The first iteration started when I traveled to Amazeum earlier in August for a tinkering residency and experimented with bubble machines using a cardboard automata base. It was a really rought draft of the idea and although it worked well, the cardboard box didn’t stand up to the messiness of the bubble solution.

In the meantime back at WICO headquarters, Nicole took a look at this MAKE guide for this gigantic bubble generator and made a prototype version using the micro:bit and a spare cake stand.

We also wanted to give kids and adults the chance to explore the programmed parts of the machines, so we started trying to figure out a way to provide more opportunities for personal experimentation. I imagined a circuit board like experience where participants could manually control the servo motors with potentiometers and push buttons to trigger motors.


As we built these prototype, we had the idea of using plastic tupperware as bubble proof enclosures. These containers also provided a base to mount the electronic components as they kept the microcontrollers dry.

After a little bit of testing on makecode website to get the potentiometers mapped correctly to the angle of the servo motors it became a fun challege to try to simulate the motions of the programmed mechanisms.

The last step for the preparations was making a huge batch of bubble solution based on the Tigerlily Preschool method and recipe. We poured the solution into plastic containers and packed them along with the rest of the materials for the weekend event.

On saturday morning we set up our tent at Mosswood park in Oakland under a large oak tree and in sight of a giant Ned Khan sculpture on the side of a hospital parking lot.


Untitled from WICO on Vimeo.

We had the two autonomous bubble machines up front and set up two sets of the tupperware bubble machines on the central table.


Kids and adults alike enjoyed watching the programmed contraptions, playing with the components and wondering how everything worked together.

There were lots of great conversations about where we bought the parts, how to program the motors and where to learn more about getting started. I think that while we tried microbit experiments in our summer camp this year, it would be great to offer some day long adult workshops using similar materials.

As always, a public event gives us a needed deadline to get some ideas that have been floating around in our heads to a physical prototype level. It was so much fun to share these half baked ideas and I’m excited about next steps for bubble robots, microbit explorations and computational tinkering themes.