Python is a great text-based language for beginning programmers because it is powerful while also being easy to learn and use. Our Python library allows students to use Python, to read the Finch sensors, and control the Finch wheels, lights, and buzzer. To use Python with the Finch, you must connect to the Finch via Bluetooth with the BlueBird Connector. To use Bluetooth with Windows, you will need a BLE bluetooth dongle. We support native Mac Bluetooth for Macs with Bluetooth 4.0. This includes all devices manufactured after 2014, and many devices from before that. Older Macs without Bluetooth 4.0 need to use the BLE bluetooth dongle.

Browser-based Python editors are not compatible with the Finch. 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.

Preparing 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!

If the Finch is inactive for 10 mins without connecting to Bluetooth, or for 20 minutes while connected to Bluetooth, it will switch off to save battery power. The Finch will play a disconnecting sound and also show its battery status using the tail LEDs as listed in the last step.

Connecting to the Finch

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 to check your bluetooth connection. You can also check your battery level in the BlueBird Connector.

Using Python with Finch

Start by installing Python. You can use any offline Python editor with the Finch. Browser-based Python editors are not compatible with the Finch. The screenshots here will show IDLE as an example; IDLE is an editor that is installed on your computer with Python.

Download the BirdBrain Python library. This 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.

Preparing for Next Time

Close the BlueBird Connector. You will hear a sound as your Finch disconnects.

Turn your Finch off by pressing the power button until you see the beak turn red and the battery indicator lights appear in the tail. If you see red or yellow lights, plug in your Finch to charge so that it is ready for next time!

Troubleshooting

If the is IDLE for 10 minutes when it is connected in BlueBird Connector, it will conserve power by turning itself off. When this happens, you will hear the disconnection sound and see the red beak and battery indicator lights that appear when you turn the Finch off.

If the Finch battery becomes very low while  you are programming, the Finch will flash its beak red a few times each minute to indicate that it needs to be charged. Remember, you can also check your battery status in the BlueBird Connector.