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Micro:Bit: Make a Tsunami Warning lesson

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

What is a Micro:Bit?

The Micro:Bit is a pocket-sized computer 70 times smaller and 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro computers used in schools. It has 25 red LED lights that can flash messages and be used to create games. Alongside the LED's there are 2 buttons, a compass, a thermometer, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, Radio Frequency and pin connectors which can be used to add external components.


How might we help inform people of a possible natural disaster?

Task: Create an earthquake & tsunami warning system!

Student Level: Year 7+ Can be adapted to suit Level 3 or 4 of the NZ Curriculum

Beginner Intermediate Advanced

Time and Resources:

  • 3 hours Per group or pair:

  • 1 x Micro:Bit

  • 1 x Micro:Bit USB Cable

  • 1 x Micro:Bit Battery Pack

  • 2 x Crocodile Clips

  • 1 x Piezo Speaker

  • Materials to build the alarm holder- cardboard etc

Curriculum links:

This is an integrated unit involving a number of curriculum areas such as science, social sciences, reading, digital technologies and mathematics. The following curriculum achievement objectives are Levels 3.

Computational thinking progress outcome 2: In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students give, follow and debug simple algorithms in computerised and non-computerised contexts. They use these algorithms to create simple programs involving outputs and sequencing (putting instructions one after the other) in age-appropriate programming environments.

Computational thinking progress outcome 3: In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students decompose problems into step-by-step instructions to create algorithms for computer programs. They use logical thinking to predict the behaviour of the programs, and they understand that there can be more than one algorithm for the same problem. They develop and debug simple programs that use inputs, outputs, sequence and iteration (repeating part of the algorithm with a loop). They understand that digital devices store data using just two states represented by binary digits (bits).

Designing and developing digital outcomes progress outcome 1: In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students participate in teacher-led activities to develop, manipulate, store, retrieve and share digital content in order to meet technological challenges. In doing so, they identify digital devices and their purposes and understand that humans make them. They know how to use some applications, they can identify the inputs and outputs of a system, and they understand that digital devices store content, which can be retrieved later.

Social Sciences Level 3: Understand how people make decisions about access to and use of resources.

Science Level 3: Physical inquiry and physics concepts: Explore, describe, and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena, such as movement, forces, electricity and magnetism, light, sound, waves, and heat. For example, identify and describe the effect of forces (contact and non-contact) on the motion of objects; identify and describe everyday examples of sources of energy, forms of energy, and energy transformations.

Mathematics Level 3: Probability: Investigate simple situations that involve elements of chance by comparing experimental results with expectations from models of all the outcomes, acknowledging that samples vary.

Links to localised curriculum and historical events:

Napier 193, Christchurch 2010/2011, Haiti 2010, 2011 Tōhoku & tsunami in Japan.

Key Competency Links:

Thinking: Planning and design process for the outcome: A warning system for a natural disaster. How will the system work? Who is the system for?

Using language, text and symbols: Natural disasters, process, warning systems, alert.

Coding Languages using block coding: input, variables, outputs, loops, LED, algorithm, bug, debug, iteration, sensors, piezo.

Managing self: identifying what jobs need to be done, what tools are needed and when and where to seek help or further learning.

Relating to others: making links, building connections and developing empathy for communities who have experienced natural disasters.

Participating and contributing: Sharing ideas and allocating roles and jobs to complete the task.

Step by Step Lesson:

  1. Students need to be familiar with the very basics of the Micro:Bit. Find the student friendly intro lesson here.

  2. After students have completed the Micro:Bit intro and have been introduced to the task/problem, students will need to research and decide which one of the Micro:Bits built in sensors will be used to detect an earthquake.

  3. Students must attach a Piezo to their Micro:Bit and create an algorithm that plays an alarm when an earthquake is detected. Find the student friendly Piezo lesson here.

4. Students are to plan, design and build something to house their earthquake alarm system.

5. Test, trial, debug and share your ideas with others!


How else could you do that?

  • More features: The Micro:Bit has radio frequency built in, this means multiple Micro:Bits can talk to each other. Could you make a friends earthquake alarm sound when your sensor feels an earthquake?

  • Add lights: Using more crocodile clips, you can add LED’s to your project. Could you code your LED’s to flash with your alarm?

  • Visual presentation: Create a video documenting the process, including a voice over.


Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure that your crocodile clips don’t come into contact with each other directly, this may stop all sound.

  • Remember that a small battery pack will need to be housed with your Micro:Bit, so make space!

  • Students will need to have had a tinker and know the basics of a Micro:Bit before doing this project.

  • Find the list of sensors on a Micro:Bit here:



More ideas and lessons:

Buy a Micro:bit here:

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