To use the Finch Robot with Python, you should first complete the Set Up Finch steps below. Your computer must have Bluetooth capability to program the Finch in Python.

From there, you have two choices:

  • Run in Browser: The easiest option is to program the Finch in the browser through brython.birdbraintechnologies.com, as shown in the Run in Browser instructions. This website is compatible with Chromebooks as well as Mac/Windows/Linux computers. Choose this option if you are using a Chromebook, are unable to download software, or just want to keep things simple.
  • Download Software: These instructions will show you how to use the Finch with an offline Python IDE on Mac/Windows computers. Choose this option to use an IDE such as IDLE that will enable you to use the Finch with a wider range of Python libraries.

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This module will show you how to set up your Finch to program in Python. Everyone should complete this module.

 

Slide the micro:bit into the Finch tail. Make sure your micro:bit is facing the correct direction, with the A and B buttons facing up and the five holes towards the bottom. Push the micro:bit into place. The five holes will be partially covered when the micro:bit is correctly in place.

To use your Finch wirelessly, you will need to put the micro:bit into Bluetooth Mode. Connect the micro:bit to the computer with the USB cable. 

The micro:bit will appear as an external device on your computer. Download this .hex file and drag it onto the micro:bit.

DOWNLOAD HEX FILE

Once you’ve put the .hex file onto your micro:bit, your micro:bit should start to flash three letters on its display. You will only need to complete this step once for each Finch – as long as your device is flashing its initials, you are ready to connect via Bluetooth.

You can now unplug the USB cable from the micro:bit. You won’t need the cable any longer because you will be using Bluetooth to connect to the Finch Robot.

To turn on the Finch press and hold the power button on the bottom of your Finch until until one or more of the LEDs in the tail turn on. This should take about 2 seconds. Three letters should now be flashing on the micro:bit.

When you turn on your Finch the color of the tail LEDs will indicate the battery charge level.

– If all 4 tail LEDs are GREEN this means your Finch is fully charged.

– If 3 tail LEDs are GREEN this means your Finch is partially charged.

– If tail LEDs are YELLOW this means you have about 2 hours of charge left on your Finch.

– If 1 tail LED is RED this means you should charge your Finch immediately. You may lose Bluetooth connection at this point.

If the Finch battery becomes very low while you are programming, all the tail LEDs will quickly blink RED 5 times, once per minute until you plug the Finch in for charging.

To charge the Finch, plug the micro USB into the charging slot beneath the Finch’s tail.

Plugging the micro USB into the micro:bit will NOT charge the Finch!

Fully charging the Finch takes 7 hours. We suggest charging the Finch overnight.

The micro:bit is not needed to charge the Finch.

To turn off the Finch after you are done using it, hold down the power button until the beak turns red. 

The Finch will turn itself off to save battery power if it is inactive for 10 minutes without connecting to Bluetooth, or for 20 minutes while connected to Bluetooth.

When turning off, the Finch will play a disconnecting sound and the beak LED will be red. The Finch will also show its battery status using the tail LEDs.

From here, you have two choices:

  • The easiest option is to program the Finch in the browser through brython.birdbraintechnologies.com, as shown in the Run in Browser instructions. This website is compatible with Chromebooks as well as Mac/Windows/Linux computers.
  • The Download Software instructions will show you how to use the Finch with an offline Python IDE on Mac/Windows computers.

This module will show you how to use a browser-based web app to program the Finch. Start by going to brython.birdbraintechnologies.com. You can use this website with Chromebooks or any Windows/Mac/Linux computer with built-in Bluetooth.

Click Find Robots. You will see a list of devices that start with FN (Finch), BB (Hummingbird), or MB (micro:bit). You may see one robot or many, depending on how many are nearby. If you don’t know which robot is yours, write down the first device name on the list, i.e. FN5AE67. Then click that device. Once you know which Finch is connected, use masking tape to label it with the device name you wrote down. This will help you connect to the correct device in the future.

You will hear a sound as the Finch connects, and the initials will stop flashing on the micro:bit. Once you have connected to a Finch, the name of your robot will appear on the screen, along with a battery indicator. Brython will load automatically.

Brython loads with a sample program. To run the program on your Finch, click the play button. There are also buttons to stop the program and upload or download Brython code.

If you become disconnected while programming your Finch, click the expand button to see the Find Robots button and reconnect.

You can use Brython online or offline. To use Brython offline with the Finch, install it on your Chromebook using the orange install button.

Now you are ready to start writing your own Python programs with the Finch! These lessons will help you to get started, and this reference summarizes the functions that are available in the Finch library.

This section will show you how to use an offline Python editor with the Finch on Mac/Windows computers. Start by installing Python and any offline Python editor. The screenshots here will show the IDLE Python editor, which is automatically installed on your computer with Python.

Next, install the BlueBird Connector. This software will handle the Bluetooth connection with the Finch robot. You must run it in the background while you are programming the Finch in Python.

Open the BlueBird Connector. It will begin finding the robots around you. Click on the name of your robot. Each robot is flashing its initials on the micro:bit to help you figure out which is which.

When you connect to your Finch, you will hear a series of tones, and the robot will show up in the purple “CONNECTED” section of the BlueBird Connector.

You can minimize the BlueBird Connector, but you should leave it open the entire time that you are using the Finch. If at any point you have trouble with your robot, you should come back to the BlueBird Connector, check your Bluetooth connection, and reconnect if necessary. You can also check your battery level in the BlueBird Connector.

The BirdBrain Python folder contains the main library (BirdBrain.py) and a test file (FinchTest.py). To test that everything is working properly, open FinchTest.py in your IDE. To run the test program in IDLE, choose Run/Run Module. The Finch’s beak should blink 10 times.

Now you are ready to start writing your own Python programs with the Finch! These lessons will help you to get started, and this reference summarizes the functions that are available in the Finch library.

Make sure to store your programs in the BirdBrainPython folder so that they can find the Finch library (BirdBrain.py). If you wish to store programs in a different folder, just make a copy of BirdBrain.py and move it to the desired folder.