Technology is always evolving, and the field of electronics is no exception. MicroPython is a lightweight, open-source programming language based on Python that was designed to run on microcontrollers.
Its history is an interesting one, from its humble beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign to its current standing as a popular language for electronics enthusiasts and professionals alike. In this article, we will explore the history of MicroPython and its advantages over other programming languages.
We will also delve into how it can benefit individuals looking to pursue electronics as a hobby or career path.
History of MicroPython
MicroPython was first created in 2013 by Damien George, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge. It started as a Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $15,000.
The initial goal was to make Python accessible to microcontrollers, which are small computers that can be embedded into various devices. The idea was to make it easier for hobbyists and professionals alike to program microcontrollers, without the need for specialized knowledge, costly software or hardware, or extensive programming experience.
In 2014, MicroPython was released as an open-source project. It was designed to be a low-level system language, with a focus on efficiency, ease of use, and rapid prototyping.
It was initially targeted at ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers, but since then, it has been ported to a variety of microcontroller architectures, including the ESP8266 and ESP32.
Advantages of MicroPython over Other Programming Languages
Python is a popular programming language for a variety of applications, including web development, data analysis, machine learning, and more. MicroPython is a variant of Python, but it is optimized for microcontrollers.
Here are some of the advantages of MicroPython over other programming languages commonly used for microcontrollers.
One of the biggest advantages of MicroPython is its Python-like syntax. Python is known for its simplicity, readability, and ease of use.
MicroPython uses the same syntax as Python, so anyone who knows Python can quickly learn MicroPython. This makes it easy for people without a programming background to get started with MicroPython.
Efficiency and Speed
MicroPython is designed to be efficient and fast, even on microcontroller platforms with limited resources. It is constructed on the C language, which is a low-level system language that offers good performance.
MicroPython programs are compiled to machine code, which results in faster execution times than interpreted languages like Python.
MicroPython has a small footprint, meaning it takes up less space on the microcontroller than other programming languages. This is important because microcontrollers often have limited memory and storage, so using a language that takes up less space can be beneficial.
As MicroPython is a lightweight language, its compilation needs less storage space and execution speed is faster than interpreted languages.
Debugging in MicroPython is easy, as it supports serial communication that allows developers to use print statements for debugging. Developers using MicroPython can print out the variables and values to debug the program.
Serial communication makes it simple to connect to the computers terminal for debugging, which eliminates the need for expensive hardware or software.
MicroPython is a versatile language that can be used with different microcontrollers and peripherals. It supports a range of hardware, including sensors, displays, and communicators, and can interface with hardware using simple protocols like I2C and SPI.
This flexibility makes it a preferred choice for prototyping.
Electronics as a Hobby and a Career Path
MicroPython has gained a strong following within the electronics community over the years. Here are some of its benefits for hobbyists and professionals.
MicroPython Community and Contributions
The MicroPython community is active and supportive, with users from all around the world. There are many forums and websites dedicated to sharing knowledge and ideas about MicroPython.
This community is a great source of information and support for anyone interested in learning about or using MicroPython. The open-source nature of MicroPython means that developers contribute to the project by creating libraries that offer additional functionality.
This saves time and effort when developing new projects, as developers can leverage existing libraries.
MicroPython for Rapid Prototyping and Faster Time-to-Market
MicroPython’s design makes it an excellent choice for rapid prototyping, which has become a critical aspect of electronics development. Traditionally, it takes a lot of time to program microcontrollers using languages like C++, Assembler, or BASIC, which require extensive knowledge of the language and low-level hardware details.
MicroPython, however, abstracts away these low-level details and allows developers to quickly write code in a high-level language, reducing the time-to-market.
MicroPython for Mission-Critical Work
MicroPython is not just suitable for rapid prototyping; it can also be used for mission-critical work applications. MicroPython programs can be made reliable and robust by following coding standards and testing rigorously.
Because of its efficiency, speed, and support for many different peripherals, MicroPython can be used in various mission-critical systems like automation systems, controllers, and industrial equipment.
In conclusion, MicroPython has made significant strides since its inception in 2013. It is a powerful, versatile, and efficient language that has transformed microcontroller programming by making it more accessible to hobbyists and professionals alike.
Its Python-like syntax, efficiency, speed, small footprint, easy debugging, and flexibility make it the preferred choice for rapid prototyping and mission-critical systems. If you are interested in pursuing electronics as a hobby or career path, MicroPython is a language worth exploring.
Python and STEM
In recent years, Python has become an essential language for students and professionals in many STEM fields. This is due to its ease of use, versatility, and wide range of applications.
In this article, we will explore how Python and its variant MicroPython are being used in education to create effective learning environments. We will also delve into the use of Micro:Bit in classrooms and the role of Edublocks in promoting MicroPython in education.
Python and MicroPython for Effective Learning Environments
Python’s popularity in STEM fields is evident as it is easy to learn and teach effectively, making it a valuable tool for creating effective learning environments. Python is also widely used in data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and many other fields that have become essential to the working world.
This versatility of Python makes it an excellent choice for teaching students how to write code that is practical and useful. MicroPython is a variant of Python that has been optimized for microcontrollers, such as the ones found in many electronic devices.
MicroPython has also become key in the educational field, as it offers a simple way to connect programming and practical projects. The use of Python and MicroPython for teaching can lead to effective learning environments as these languages are user-friendly and easily customizable.
Python and MicroPython’s readability allow students to learn basic programming concepts while engaging in hands-on, project-based activities. Additionally, students can build complex projects with Python and MicroPython, allowing them to develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking, which are necessary for future STEM careers.
Micro:Bit Project and Use of Python in Classrooms
Micro:Bit is a development board used in classrooms to teach physical computing. It is a small digital board with sensors and LEDs and can be used in various IoT projects.
Micro:Bit is also capable of running MicroPython and has become an essential tool for teaching Python and MicroPython in classrooms. The use of Micro:Bit in the classroom provides an authentic learning experience for students.
Students can use Micro:Bit to experiment with the hardware and software while learning programming concepts. This hands-on approach offers engagement and allows students to see the practical applications of Python and MicroPython.
Micro:Bit is a popular tool in many schools, and there are numerous online resources available that teachers can use to teach Python and MicroPython with a Micro:Bit. The resources usually contain lesson plans and step by step tutorials, making it easy for teachers to integrate Micro:Bit into their lessons with minimal preparation.
Edublocks and MicroPython in Education
Edublocks is a programming platform designed to teach students coding in a more accessible and interactive way. Edublocks uses an intuitive drag-and-drop visual coding environment, making it easy for students to understand programming concepts that were previously thought to be complicated.
Edublocks uses MicroPython as the primary language for teaching physical computing. This is because MicroPython is an accessible and versatile language that allows students to create projects that control their environment, such as projects that control lights or sound.
The use of MicroPython in Edublocks allows students to easily create programs and prototype devices without the need for extensive knowledge of programming languages. Edublocks provides numerous examples that teachers can use to introduce their students to MicroPython and physical computing.
Elements of a MicroPython Project
Every MicroPython project has several key elements that must be considered before creating the project. These elements include:
Hardware – The hardware needed for the project, such as a microcontroller, sensors, and actuators
Software – The software development environment used to create the project
Code – The code that runs on the microcontroller
Power – How power is supplied to the project, such as batteries or power supplies
Circuit – The circuit design and its implementation
MicroPython is now widely used for creating embedded systems. With its ability to control hardware as well as provide an easy-to-learn, scalable programming language, it has become an essential tool for many STEM fields.
Definition and Examples of Microcontrollers
Microcontrollers are small computers that can be embedded into various devices. Microcontrollers are specialized for tasks that require interaction with hardware, such as an automatic door opener or microwave oven.
They have limited power and memory when compared to a general-purpose computer. Nevertheless, they can perform real-time computing and have hardware communication interfaces.
There are numerous examples of microcontrollers, including the Arduino, PIC, ESP32, STM32F, and the Raspberry Pi Pico. These microcontrollers are widely used in many industries such as automotive, industry automation, aerospace, and consumer electronics.
Python and MicroPython have revolutionized the way we teach and learn programming. With their simplicity, versatility, and effectiveness, they have become essential tools for education and problem-solving.
As technology continues to evolve, it is imperative that we as educators incorporate tools such as MicroPython and Micro:Bit into our lessons. Doing so can help students develop the required skillsets for future STEM careers while offering a fun and engaging learning experience.
What is MicroPython? MicroPython is a lightweight, open-source programming language based on Python that was designed to run on microcontrollers, making it ideal for building tiny embedded systems.
MicroPython enables faster development times and reduces the learning curve for beginners through its accessibility and broad compatibility with a variety of hardware options.
Accessibility for Beginners and Industrial Use Cases
MicroPython is accessible to beginners with no prior programming experience due to its ease-of-use and simplified syntax, which closely mirrors Python. Python has long been considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn due to its syntax and readability, which enables users to view and comprehend code blocks more readily than those written in other languages.
The use of MicroPython is not limited to beginners. It has become a popular choice for industrial and high-performance applications due to its performance and accuracy in handling low-level hardware functions.
Its compatibility with a range of microcontroller families has made it an essential tool for the development of various devices, including IoT solutions, drones, wearables, and many more.
Rapid Feedback using the REPL
REPL stands for ReadEvalPrint Loop. It’s a programming environment encapsulated in a single interactive session that provides real-time feedback to the user by evaluating individual statements that are typed, giving immediate reactions to the inputs.
MicroPython integrates the REPL into its toolchain, enabling users to experience rapid development and easier debugging. This feature provides developers with immediate diagnostics of their code and helps them pinpoint errors in the code more efficiently.
Advantages of Python Code and Experience
The use of Python code in the development of MicroPython projects has obvious advantages for users. As a scripting language, Python is simpler to learn than lower-level languages like C or C++.
Python’s high-level syntax streamlines the coding process, allowing developers to build robust applications in less time. Python’s usefulness in data analysis and machine learning is also an advantage in MicroPython development.
MicroPython with machine learning libraries, such as TensorFlow Lite, provides a rich ecosystem for machine learning applications in microcontrollers.
One of the significant advantages of MicroPython is that it is compatible with many types of hardware. Here are some of the most popular MicroPython-compatible boards.
Pyboard and Other Well-Specified Boards
Pyboard is the most popular MicroPython-supported board and is designed specifically for MicroPython programming. It provides a built-in hardware interaction module, which reduces the development time of embedded systems.
The board is well-specified with high-speed USB, MicroSD socket, 2.4 GHz radio module, and numerous peripherals. There are various other Pyboard-compatible boards with different configurations designed specifically for various industrial and hobby applications, such as the WiPy, LoPy, FiPy, and GPy.
ESP8266 and ESP32 Boards
The ESP8266 and ESP32 are Wi-Fi-enabled microcontrollers that are well-supported by MicroPython. As a result, these boards are popular in IoT applications, as they offer low power consumption and a high degree of integration with external hardware.
The ESP-based boards are also much less expensive than other options like the Pyboard. BBC Micro:Bit Board
The BBC Micro:Bit board is a tiny, programmable computer that is compatible with MicroPython.
It has a 5×5 LED matrix display, accelerometer, and temperature sensor. The Micro:Bit is a popular choice for teaching embedded systems and electronics to children.
Adafruit and CircuitPython-powered Boards
Adafruit produces an extensive range of hardware that is supported by CircuitPython, a fork of MicroPython. CircuitPython is similar to MicroPython but with different libraries and a focus on beginner-friendly development.
Adafruit has developed a variety of boards that are powered by CircuitPython, such as the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express.
MicroPython has become a popular option for programming microcontrollers due to its lightweight design and ease-of-use. It has a wide range of compatibility with different hardware platforms, making it accessible to everyone from beginners to experienced developers.
The Python-like syntax and support for hardware interaction, combined with the speed and accuracy of low-level code, make MicroPython an ideal language for developers operating in the field of physical computing.
MicroPython, a lightweight implementation of the Python 3 programming language, is an ideal choice for embedded systems and microcontrollers. Integrating MicroPython into a project typically involves a defined flow of steps that can be followed seamlessly to ensure a successful workflow.
In this article, we will explore the MicroPython workflow, taking a closer look at the interactive options, setting up MicroPython on a board, and creating and deploying MicroPython code. Interactive Session Options: Serial Terminal and WebREPL
One of the most significant advantages of MicroPython is its support for interactive programming.
MicroPython enables this with two different options – the Serial Terminal and the WebREPL. The Serial Terminal is a command-line interface tool that typically utilizes MicroPython’s serial communication capabilities.
It enables developers to interact with the MicroPython REPL and run Python code in real-time via a console interface. WebREPL is another interaction method that allows developers to control a MicroPython board remotely via a web page.
This interactive method is much more accessible than using the Serial Terminal, even allowing remote control through a browser interface.
MicroPython IDEs for Development
IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) are software platforms or applications that provide a comprehensive set of development tools and features for creating, testing, and deploying code. Using a good IDE designed for MicroPython development can simplify the development process and help reduce the possibilities of errors.