CodeBug Blog

News and stories from The CodeBug Team

CodeBug at Oldham Gallery

CodeBug had fun this weekend at Oldham Gallery teaching kids from the local area how to code. The event, MAKE STUFF, was organised by MadLab, a Manchester based non-profit dedicated to teaching the public how to be creative with technology.

Hundreds of children and parents passed through the gallery which housed amazing projects from punchcard Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi to laser harps! We spotted this young maker in action, making a light-up CodeBug bag with some help from Rachel at CPC.

CodeBug bag

The workshop on Saturday was the third of six planned events in the MAKE STUFF series in the Greater Manchester area. The next events are:

St Johns Centre Trafford - Saturday 10th September
Leigh Hack Space - Saturday 17th September
Portland Basin Museum, Ashton - Saturday 24th September

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CodeBug at MakeFest Manchester

Last weekend CodeBug made its home in the spectacular Power Hall at the Museum of Science and Industry for Manchester’s annual MakeFest.

The two day event saw hundreds of children (and some adults!) scroll their names across CodeBug, while learning how to code.

Visitors to the festival also got the chance to play with our two big CodeBugs (known as the twins) which are controlled by regular CodeBugs! They also experimented with projects made with CodeBug, such as the Dial-A-Star which you can control the colour of using the three potentiometer dials.

Thank you to the MakeFest team, all the museum’s staff and everyone who helped make the weekend such a success.

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CodeBug at EMF camp

The UK’s EMF (ElectroMagnetic Field) festival has just finished, and CodeBug had a great time observing some of the strangest contraptions and brightest lights ever put in a field. EMF is a great festival where hundreds of geeks pitch their tents (with power and WiFi provided of course) to talk about their creations and teach others their unique skills.

The weekend saw all manner of activities and events taking place, from blacksmithing and silversmithing, to "deliberately terrible robot fighting".

Microsoft kindly hosted a CodeBug workshop in their tent, where budding young programmers were able to create amazingly colourful patterns with CodeBugs and ColourStars.

On the second day of camp, attendees were given their very own EMF badge, packed full of features including a colour screen, WiFi and an accelerometer. The badge was also sporting an RGB LED, with pins to connect more colour lights. You can connect jumper cables to this to control your ColourStar or GlowBugs!

EMF badge

The last day of camp saw Dr Lucy Rogers giving a talk about Raspberry Pi controlling animatronic dinosaurs (amazing right?!). In the talk one of CodeBug's sister products, PiFace Digital, made an appearance (the board with orange and green connectors on it) as it was used in the early stages of the project to prototype the electronics systems.

Visit EMF's Twitter to see more of the weekend's strange goings-on.

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Feltron - the lovable CodeBug android

Over the past year we have seen people get increasingly creative with their CodeBug projects, including loads of CodeBug costumes. CodeBug enthusiast, Katie Steckles, has stepped it up a notch by creating a cuddly toy robot that would send any kid (or big kid) into overload! Say hello to Feltron…


Feltron is an interactive lovable toy android powered by CodeBug. Katie gave a talk about Feltron at Manchester Girl Geeks’ BarCamp earlier this month where she told the, now stunned, audience what makes Feltron tick.

Feltron displays such strong human emotions and is so cute that is impossible not to love him. His secret pocket and chest door are held closed with metal popper studs which double as switches, so when you go in his pocket or open him up, he gets understandably upset. But let’s hear more about Feltron from Katie, who has kindly written about Feltron and her experiences in creating him:

Feltron is a felt robot I made using a CodeBug, a set of five GlowBugs, some metal fabric connectors, conductive thread and a few other bits and pieces. He has various features including a beating heart, and a display inside his chest and he responds when you open and touch different things on his chassis.

I designed the shape of the overall robot by sketching it out, I then cut pieces of grey felt to make nets of each of the shapes involved - mostly cuboids, and a wedge shape for his feet. I cut up a flexible plastic chopping board to make pieces to go inside the front and back of each shape to keep them rigid, and put these into the different body parts of Feltron with some toy stuffing. I used teddy bear arm hinges to attach his arms, so they can swivel and point in different directions.

Feltron waving hello

Once I'd decided where to put all the GlowBug LEDs, I sewed them into the robot and before finishing stuffing the torso, I stitched conductive thread to connect all the GlowBugs. It was a bit complicated to work out where all the wires had to go, and a few times I found I needed to cross two threads over to make everything connect up correctly - but I added in extra pieces of felt between the stitches, and stitched through inside the stuffing in places to make sure none of the conductive thread was touching anywhere.

Feltron's plans

I used three connectors to make inputs for the robot, including two sets of metal press studs (poppers) and one pair of metal eyelets you could make a connection across using two fingers. Each of these three inputs was connected to one of the three main CodeBug input legs (0, 1 and 2) and the other side of the popper/eyelet was wired back to ground. The data threads from the GlowBugs all joined to leg 3. I also fed a USB cable from the CodeBug through the back of Feltron so he could have a power lead that comes out of the back.

Once the wiring of the robot was finished I could stitch it all up and fill it with stuffing, and add some decorations like an antenna. I also used a piece of clear plastic packaging to make a window in the front of the robot, so you can see the CodeBug 5x5 display inside. Then all I needed to do was write my code!

Before I started writing it, I worked out exactly what I wanted to happen when no inputs are activated, and then what I wanted to happen when each of the inputs are activated, and wrote it all out carefully so I could make sure my program did everything I wanted it to. Some of the inputs were connected to popper studs, and the corresponding output needed to only activate when the input was not connected to GND (because the circuit is broken when the popper opens).

I used a variable to specify Feltron's heart rate, which meant his heart LED could flash on and off regularly, and use the number stored in that variable to determine how long the LED should stay on for. The value is reduced when Feltron's chest is opened, so his heart beats faster when you open it.

Feltron angry

I also added a secret message - if you touch both the eyelets on the front of Feltron and make a connection between them, he scrolls a message on the screen and his eyes turn purple.

I had a great time working out the program to make Feltron, and I'm very pleased with how the sewing came out. If I tried to make one again, I'd think more carefully about where to put all the LEDs to make the wiring a bit less complicated - because so much stuff was on the front half, all the wires had to come through the hinge of the chest cavity, and I needed to be careful not to cross anything over. Also, his eye LEDs were connected up so that all the wiring came out of the right side of his head, and once I'd done this I realised it would have been better to do it the other way so that they dropped down on the same side as the hinge.

I've already seen one project someone else has done which was inspired by Feltron, and it was also a CodeBug powered robot with different inputs and light up parts. I hope there are many more to come!

Great work Katie! I for one welcome our new robot overlords :) See Katie’s Feltron talk in the video below.

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Manchester Girl Geeks BarCamp 2016

Last weekend CodeBug had great fun at Manchester Girl Geeks’ BarCamp. MGG is a great organisation that arranges creative and technical events for young people across Manchester. BarCamp is an "unconference" where no talks are planned in advance, people just turn up on the day and put themselves down for a talk!

We gave a talk on why we developed CodeBug and how it all works, but we were not the only speakers to feature CodeBug at the event.

Katie Steckles, one of the event organisers, wowed the audience with her lovable huggable robot, Feltron! This fluffy little CodeBug powered android is so amazing that we are going to have to devote another blog post just for it, but here is a sneak peak!

Regular CodeBug helper Amy Mather also gave a talk at the event about how makerspaces and devices have given her lifelong friends and a powerful avenue to channel her creativity. Nothing shows this better than her entry into the bag design contest which received honourable mention. Never one to do things by halves, Amy painstakingly cut out an uncountable number of 1s and 0s within the iconic BarCamp flame logo.

Colour flame bag

The event was a great success and we look forward to attending again next year.

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