Getting Started

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Getting Started

Python is a great text-based language for beginning programmers because it is powerful while also being easy to learn and use. This section will show you how to use the Finch with Python and Mac/Windows computers.

You must connect to the Finch via Bluetooth. We support native Mac Bluetooth for Macs with Bluetooth 4.0. To use Bluetooth with older Macs without Bluetooth or Windows machines, you will need a BLE bluetooth dongle.

You can use any offline Python editor with the Finch. If you don’t have a favorite, we suggest trying IDLE, which is an editor that is installed on your computer with Python.

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 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.

The Finch has a rechargeable battery located inside. To charge the Finch, plug the micro USB into the charging slot beneath the Finch’s tail. Plug the other end of the cord into a USB charging port.

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

To fully charge the Finch requires 7 hours of charging time. Charging overnight is a great option!

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.

Connecting

This section will show you how to connect to the Finch via Bluetooth. Start by installing the BlueBird Connector.

If you are using a Windows machine or a pre-2014 Mac, insert the BLE Bluetooth dongle into your computer. If you are using a Mac with Bluetooth 4.0 (all devices manufactured since 2014), you can skip this step.

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.

Now you are ready to start programming in Python! 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.

Programming

This section will show you how to start using Python with the Finch. Start by installing Python. You can use any offline Python editor with the Finch on Mac/Windows. The screenshots here will show IDLE as an example; IDLE is an editor that is installed on your computer with Python.

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.

Getting Started

Python is a great text-based language for beginning programmers because it is powerful while also being easy to learn and use. You can use Python in the Chrome browser using our BirdBrain Brython web app. Your Chromebook must have Bluetooth in order to connect to the Finch.

Insert a micro:bit into the Finch. 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 file and drag it onto the micro:bit.

The micro:bit will begin flashing three letters on its LED screen. At this point, you can unplug the USB cable from the micro:bit. You won’t need it 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.

  • Four green lights: Your Finch is fully charged.
  • Three green lights: Your Finch is partially charged.
  • Two yellow lights: You have about 2 hours of charge left on your Finch.
  • One red light: You should charge your Finch immediately. Your Finch will turn off soon.

The Finch has a rechargeable battery located inside. To charge the Finch, plug the micro USB into the charging slot beneath the Finch’s tail. Plug the other end of the cord into a USB charging port.

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

To fully charge the Finch requires 7 hours of charging time. Charging overnight is a great option!

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.

Connecting

You will use a browser-based web app to program the Finch with Brython, a browser-based version of Python. Start by going to brython.birdbraintechnologies.com.

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.

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.

Programming

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.

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.