A micro:bit stopwatch toon image

This project turns the micro:bit into a simple stopwatch. Pressing A will start the timer. Pressing A again will show the amount of elapsed time and reset the timer. Let’s get started.

If you built a watch in the make portion of the of the Watch project, you can use the code from this project with it too.

Program state

When coding we often use the idea of state to decide what action needs to happen next. The state of the program is the condition or situation of the program depending on what events it’s concerned about. It may decide to remain in its current state or take an action to change the state.

We do this in real life too. For example, if you feel hungry, your present state is hunger. Eating a meal will change your state from hunger to satisfied. Also, if you’re thirsty, drinking enough water might change your state from thirst to satisfied. But, if you wait too long to eat or drink, you’re state could change back to hunger or thirst.

The stopwatch has two states: it is either (1) stopped or (2) measuring time. Let’s create a new variable start_time to track the state:

  • if start_time is equal to 0, the watch is stopped - state 1
  • if start_time is not equal to 0, the watch is running and the value of start_time is the time recorded when started - state 2

Pseudo code

This is the rough outline of the code:

When a user presses A, we start by determining which state we’re in.

If the watch is stopped, (start_time is 0 and this means we’re in state 1), we start the counter and store the current time. The watch now goes from state 1 to state 2.

If the watch is running (start_time is not 0 and this means we’re in state 2), we calculate the time duration and reset start_time to 0. The watch goes back from state 2 to state 1.

The ||input:running time|| block returns the number of milli-seconds elapsed since the micro:bit was turned on. To compute the duration in seconds, we use the following formula:

duration in seconds = (current time - start time) / 1000.0

In pseudo code, it could look like this:

on button pressed
    if start time is 0
        store current time into start time      
        show duration
        reset start time

Real code

If you translate the pseudo-code line by line into blocks, it might end up like this.

let start_time = 0
input.onButtonPressed(Button.A, function () {
    // is the watch running?
    if (start_time == 0) {
        // store current time
        start_time = input.runningTime()
    } else {
        // compute duration and display it
        basic.showNumber(Math.idiv(input.runningTime() - start_time, 1000))
        // reset watch state
        start_time = 0
start_time = 0