Micro:bit Extensions: Add extra sensors and devices

I have been using the BBC Micro:bit modules (~$20) with our kids to teach them basic hardware and software. The platform offers a block programming interface (very much like Scratch) and Python programming. The interesting thing is that the interface will toggle seamlessly between the two programming languages.

To add functionality to your projects Micro:bit supports extensions. This feature allows Arduino and Raspberry Pi sensors and devices to be connected to the basic module.

In this blog I wanted to:

  • Show a extensions example with deviices that are not directly available in the basic list
  • Comment on some limitations
  • Document how to add Micro:bit parts in Fritzing wire drawing tool

An Extension Example

Use the Extension menu item to add a new set of functionality to your Micro:bit’s project.

For this example I wanted to use some devices/sensors that I was using on my Arduino projects. These devices included:

It is important to note that the extension may not be readily available from the Microbit web page. For my project I did an Internet search to find the required github links. Once you have the URL it can be pasted into the Extension’s page:

Below is a picture of the Micro:bit with the three added devices

The Micro:bit logic used an on_start block to setup the pins for the TM1637 4-digit display, and initialize the OLED display.

The forever block:

  • queried the DHT11 sensor (on Pin 0)
  • showed the humidity on the Micro:bit display
  • showed the temperature on the TM1637 display
  • showed both the temperature and humidity on the 0.91″ OLED
  • cycled every 5 seconds

The block code can be viewed (or edited)in Python:



DHT11 Temperature/Humidity Sensor 

TM1637 4-Digit Display 

I2C 9.91" OLED Display

Show Temperature on TM1637

Show Humidity on Microbit screen

Show both Temperature and Humidity on the the OLED

tm = TM1637.create(DigitalPin.P13, DigitalPin.P14, 7, 4)

def on_forever():
    dht11_dht22.query_data(DHTtype.DHT11, DigitalPin.P0, True, False, True)
    basic.show_string("H: " + str(dht11_dht22.read_data(dataType.HUMIDITY)) + " %")
    MuseOLED.write_string("Temperature: " + str(dht11_dht22.read_data(dataType.TEMPERATURE)) + " C")
    MuseOLED.write_string("Humidity: " + str(dht11_dht22.read_data(dataType.HUMIDITY)) + " %")


Some of the limitations that I found were:

  • Not all Arduino sensors and devices were supported
  • Not all Arduino functionality is available with Micro:Bit. For example fonts on OLED devices.
  • Finding the correct extension can be tricky. For example searching 0.91 OLED doesn’t return any hits.
  • Some devices were supported in software, however they required 5V. A good example of this is the 2×16 LCD display

Documenting Wiring in Fritzing

Fritzing is an excellent free tool for wiring drawings (Note: for some platforms a donation might be required).

To add some Micro:bit parts to Fritzing see:

Once a parts file is downloaded it is imported into a “My Parts” grouping.


By adding extension you can greatly extend the usability of Micro:bits.

I found that for many simple projects block programming was quicker to create than Python, but it nice that the Python code gets autogenerated.

Pi Thermometer using Python Turtles

Python Turtles are a great way to start kids in programming. Turtles offer a simple step-by-step graphical presentation that has tons of tutorials and examples.

Turtles can also be used on Raspberry Pi projects. In this blog I wanted to look at a Turtle example that reads a temperature sensor and graphically shows the result as an “old style” thermometer.

Getting Started

Python Turtles is probably already  loaded on your system, if not enter:

pip install turtles

The turtle library opens a graphic screen with the very center of the screen being (0,0). This is a little different than many other graphic systems (like PyGame) where the top left  is (0,0).

Different turtle objects can be defined and moved around the screen. A useful feature of turtles is that you can clear all the drawing from one turtle without effecting what the other turtles have done. (Note: this is useful in this thermometer example where we can have a static background turtle and a dynamic turtle that updates with new information).

Below is an example with 3 turtles. The first turtle (t1) is set to red and then moved forward, left, forward and then sent home. The second turtle (t2) is set to purple and given a turtle symbol. The third turtle (t3) is set to green and then moved to a position and a thick circle is drawn.

from turtle import *

setup(500, 400)
title(" 3 Turtles")

# First red turtle goes forward, left, forward and back home

# Second purple turtle has a turtle shape

# Third green turtle goes to a location and makes a thick circle


Drawing an “Old Style” Thermometer

For this project we wanted to draw an “old style” mercury thermometer, with a bulb of red mercury at the bottom and a tube above it.


Using the simple turtle commands like : move, left, right, forward etc. is great to learn but it can be awkward for more difficult drawings.

A more efficient approach is to define an array of x,y coordinates and then move to each position in the array. For example the upper tube can be drawn by:

# Define an array of x,y coordinates for the top tube
outline = ((0,-50),(25,-50),(25,210),(-25,210),(-25,-50),(0,-50))
for pos in outline: # move to each tube x,y point

Circles are created using a turtle.circle(width) command. To fill an object or a group of objects a turtle.begin_fill() and a turtle.end_fill() set of command is used.

For our example the filled circle for the bulb is created by:

# put the pen up and move to the circle starting
# draw the circle with fill

The complete code to draw the complete thermometer background would be:

# Create a background for an "old style" thermometer
from turtle import Turtle,Screen, mainloop
import random, time

# Define a Turtle object
thermo = Turtle()

# Define an array of x,y coordinates for the top tube
outline = ((0,-50),(25,-50),(25,210),(-25,210),(-25,-50),(0,-50))
for pos in outline: # move to each tube x,y point
# put the pen up and move to the circle starting
# draw the circle with fill


Raspberry Pi Hardware Setup

There are a number of different temperature sensors that can be used. For our example we used a low cost ($5) DHT11 temperature/humidity sensor. The DHT11 sensor that we used had 3 pins, (Signal, 5V and GND), and we wired the Signal pin to the Pi physical pin 7.


There is a DHT temperature/sensor Python library that is installed by:

sudo pip install Adafruit_DHT

A Python DHT test program would be:

import sys
import Adafruit_DHT

sensor_type = 11 # sensor type could also be 22, for DHT22

dht_pin = 4 # Note: BCM pin 4 = physical pin 7

humidity, temperature = Adafruit_DHT.read_retry(sensor_type, dht_pin)

print( "Temp: ", temperature, " deg C")

print( "humidity: ", humidity, " %")

Turtle Thermometer

Now for the final project we can start pulling things together.

For the thermometer project we used 2 turtles, a static background turtle (thermo) and a dynamic turtle (bar). The bar turtle is cleared and redrawn in the drawbar() function.

A screen object wn is used to resize the window and add a title.

For testing a random integer can be used. This is also useful for checking the 0-40C range of the bar.

The full code and an screen shot are below:

from turtle import Turtle,Screen, mainloop
import random, time
import Adafruit_DHT

# Update the temperature bar height and value
def drawbar(temp):
       top = (-50 + 260 * temp/40)
       boutline = ((0,-50),(20,-50),(20,top),(-20,top),(-20,-50),(0,-50))
       bar.clear()  # clear the old bar and text
       for pos in boutline:
       bar.write(str(temp) + " C",font=("Arial",24, "bold"))

# Setup a default screen size and Title
wn = Screen()
wn.setup(width = 500, height = 500)
wn.title("RaspPi Temperature Sensor")

# define a static thermo backgroup object and a dynamic bar object
thermo = Turtle()
bar = Turtle()

# define an array for the top tube
outline = ((0,-50),(25,-50),(25,210),(-25,210),(-25,-50),(0,-50))
for pos in outline:

# add some temperature labels
thermo.write("0 C")
thermo.write("40 C")

# draw the filled bulb at the bottom

# Update the temperature
while True:
       humidity, temperature = Adafruit_DHT.read_retry(11, 4)
       # use a random number for testing
       #temperature = random.randint(0,40)


Final Comments

Compared to other Python graphic libraries (like PyGame, Tkinter or Qt) Turtle graphics can be slow and perhaps limiting, but for kids Turtles projects are super easy to configure. If you are doing simple stuff Turtles requires a lot less code than the other graphic libraries (keyboard input is a good example of this).

There are a lot of possible fun Raspberry Pi projects that can be done with Turtle. Some of the other projects that we have done include:

  • use a Wii remote to draw pictures
  • create a Turtle drawing as you drive a rover (show the path)