[Covid-19 Series] DIY Thermometer Using Microbit – Workshop by C-Lab

Message from Seeed: We are starting a series of articles featuring projects that have arisen recently in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in combating Covid-19. These projects are mostly collaborative community efforts, and are constantly evolving and upgrading as a result of open discussion on online platforms. While some of the science or technology in these projects are not yet 100% proven to be effective or sufficient for their purpose, we applaud the spirit, ingenuity and research behind these projects, which reaffirm the belief that makers can make immense impact at times like this. The projects we feature do not necessarily contain Seeed products, however we will constantly review and source parts for certain projects, to be made available on seeedstudio.com

Fever is one of the most common and predominant symptoms shown by patients of Covid-19. In Asia where most places have remained open, other than wearing masks, precautionary measures are also taken by shops and restaurants, schools and offices, residential buildings and other public places to ensure that people entering are not displaying this symptom. While someone with fever is not necessarily infected with coronavirus, these implementations help to reduce the risk of the spread and encourage those with a high temperature to stay home until they get better.

Seeing as how these measures may stay with us for quite some time, and so non-contact thermometers will be widely needed, C-Lab (Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab) in Taipei organized a workshop to teach people how to make a thermometer using BBC’s education-friendly micro:bit. The workshop was co-created by a team of professionals with expertise in biomedical and electronic engineering, media art and architecture.

What’s Needed Inside, Outside, and the Code

The workshop was designed with the intention to create a thermometer that is simple to make (so that kids can make it too), low cost, and with easily accessible materials. The team explained it all in their workship slides. First they took apart what a infrared thermometer consists of, and break them down into DIY terms:

Since the micro:bit comes with a LED display and buttons, it perfectly replaces the gun-shaped mold of these store-bought thermometers. Adding an expansion board, you can easy connect an infrared temperature sensor and the batteries to the micro:bit. The team used the MLX90614 sensor module, which has an accuracy +/- 5°C, an important factor to take into account.

Then, the team pre-wrote the code for the thermometer using Microsoft’s MakeCode, so that it’s easier to facilitate in a workshop setting. While it’s easy with the code pre-written, the workshop does take everyone through a sensor recalibration process in MakeCode.

And last but not least, since artists were involved in this project, it was important to tuck all these hardware parts into a nicely designed package that would also allow the buttons to be reset and the display to clearly show the temperature detected. The team designed a foldable paper box that would do just that.

The participants then cut out the pattern from the 1mm-thick paper on which the design was printed. It’s important that the paper has certain thickness so that it’s strong and structural enough to be held in the hand. Then, after the box is folded into shape, the hardware is placed inside with tape to attach the different parts.

Then, it’s done!

Here Are the Links!

This is a great project for schools that are already in possession of some micro:bits, or for parents to make into an afternoon project for those who are staying at home. Another fun thing is that kids (or adults) can design the exterior as they like, and with different materials like:

The project is open source and available on GitHub now in Chinese, but the team is working hard to translate everything into English and Spanish. Here are the links in the meantime:

Project on GitHub: https://github.com/clab-cetm/DIY-Thermometer-Using-Microbit

A nice little video that shows you all the steps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCqsc6fpm-8

The workshop was organized by C-Lab, led by Andrew Lin and Chi-hung Tsai, and co-created by many others listed in the GitHub. If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with the creators, please email to [email protected]

Stay tuned for more project stories. Questions? Comments? Got a Covid-19 project to share? Please email Monica at [email protected] because she is waiting at home 🙂

About Author


April 2020