Itty Bitty Buggy: Getting Started (mDesigner)

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mDesigner software installation must be completed before proceeding to this guide.

The mDesigner software installation guide can be found here for Windows / for Mac

This tutorial will get you getting started with programming Itty Bitty Buggy with mDesigner.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Hardware preparation
  • Overview of mDesigner's user interface.
  • Configuring mDesigner for use with Itty Bitty Buggy.
  • Assembling code blocks (creating a program)
  • Online vs. Offline Mode

Hardware Preparation

Assemble Itty Bitty Buggy into it's default Buggy mode with mCenter+ on top of Buggy Base. Ensure the cable is connected to pin D2/D3 on mCenter+ and the other end connected to to Buggy Base. Attached the wheels onto Buggy Base. This hardware configuration will be used in the remaining tutorials.

Ibb projects buggy.png

Connect the USB cable to Buggy and the other end to your computer's USB port. Switch on Buggy with the power switch.

mDesigner's User Interface

Here is a quick overview of mDesigner's User Interface. A more in-depth description can be found here.

MDesigner v1.6 Live Mode UI.png


The Tool Bar in mDesigner provides many useful functions and configuration options.

  • New Project - creates a new blank project.
  • Open Project - open a saved project.
  • Save / Save As (arrow) - save / save as the current project.
  • Undo - undo the most recent change int the project.
  • Redo - redo the most recent undo in the project.
  • KIt - select the current Microduino kit being used.
  • Serial Port - select serial port that the Microduino hardware (mBattery / mCenter+) is connected to.
  • Mode Selection - select different usage modes for mDesigner.
    • Online mode - control Microduino hardware in real time using mDesigner blocks. Microduino hardware requires a constant connection to the computer running mDesigner in order to function.
    • Offline mode - complies and uploads script onto Microduino hardware. Microduino hardware can be ran independently without a computer after the script has been compiled and uploaded.
  • Settings - change settings for mDesigner such as switching languages, help, updates, issue report, and about the program.
  • Account


mDesigner (based on Scratch) can be though as a school play. The Stage is where the viewer sees the play. Sprites can be thought as actors or characters in a play. The Backdrop is the background. Together they make the Stage. Below is a quick overview.

  • Green Flag - when clicked, all (When Green Flag clicked blocks activate).
  • Stop Sign - when clicked, stops all blocks that are running. Blocks that are running have a yellow "glow".
  • Sprite - sprites can be thought as actors or characters. There can be multiple sprites on the Stage. It is possible to customize unique sprites.
  • Backdrop - is the background of the Stage. There can only be one backdrop active at a time. It is possible to customize or create backdrops.

The Stage includes Sprite(s) and a Backdrop.

Sprites & Backdrops

This section allow selecting, editing, or creating sprites and backdrops. Selecting a sprite or backdrop is done by clicking on it from this section.

Palettes & Panes

This section of the interfere contains the Sprite Pane, Costume Pane / Backdrop Pane, and Sound Pane. Switch between the panes by clicking on the appropriate tabs.

Script Pane

The Script pane contains the tools needed to make sprites and backdrops to do things. A Script can be thought of as the instruction your sprite or backdrop follows. Similiar to a school plays' script which instructs the actor what to do.

  • Blocks - Blocks are instructions for sprites and backdrops to follow. There are many blocks each with their own type. Blocks are categorized into different categories based on their functionality or purpose.
  • Block Categories - Blocks are sorted into different categories for quicker access and organization. Each category has its own color and blocks contained within are the same color. For example, "Motion" blocks are all blue.

Script Area

The Script Area is one of the most important parts of the mDesigner interface. It is the place to create and assemble the script for the currently selected sprite or backdrop. Dragging a block from the "Script Pane" into the "Script Area" duplicates that block into the script. Each sprite or backdrop has its own personal "script area". A script can be thought of as the instructions that your sprite or backdrop follows.

Configuring mDesigner for Itty Bitty Buggy

Under the kit selection, select Buggy.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Setup.png

This allows access to the Buggy control blocks.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Blocks.png

Connecting to Itty Bitty Buggy to mDesigner (Online mode)

Ensure Itty Bitty Buggy is connected to your computer with the USB cable and powered on.

Ensure mDesigner is in Online mode. (If mDesigner is in Offline mode, click on the slider to switch it to Online mode.)
Note: The difference between Online and Offline modes will be covered later.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Online Mode.png

Click on the Port Selector. This will list serial devices connected to your computer.

Windows Mac OS
Port will be listed as COM__ (w/ a number). Port will be listed as /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART

IBB mDesigner Configuration Port Selection.png

Click to select the port. The text box will now change from disconnected to connected (or ready).

Note: If you do not see any ports or similar ports, please check if Itty Bitty Buggy is connected to your computer and turned on.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Connected.png

A special program needs to be uploaded onto Itty Bitty Buggy in order to use it with mDesigner in Online mode.
To upload the special program, use your mouse to hover on the Connected text. This will bring up an option to Flash firmware. Click to upload the special program.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Flash Firmware.png

An upload dialog will appear and Upload Completed will appear when done. Click OK to close the dialog.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Flash Firmware Progress.png
IBB mDesigner Configuration Flash Firmware Completed.png

The Connected text will now change to Ready.

IBB mDesigner Configuration Online Mode Ready.png

Note: The text on the port selector determines the current status of Buggy's connectivity to your computer.

  • Disconnected: Port has not been selected.
  • Connected: Port has been selected. Not Online mode ready. Flash firmware if you wish to use Online mode.
  • Ready: Port has been selected and Online mode is ready to be used.

Itty Bitty Buggy is now connected and ready to be programmed in mDesigner!

Assembling A Program

To create a program in mDesigner. Simply drag blocks from the Blocks section into the Script section.

First Example

Clicking on a Block Category such as Events or Buggy will bring up the Blocks in that category. This allows you to quickly find the Blocks you need.

For this example, first click on Events under the Block Categories section. Then drag the MDesigner When Click Green Flag block new.png (When Green Flag clicked) block into the Scripts section.

IBB mDesigner First Example 01.png

Next, click on the Buggy category.
Then drag the IBB mDesigner ColorLED Set Color NoLabels.png (ColorLED - Set Color) block into the Scripts section and snap it under the MDesigner When Click Green Flag block new.png (When Green Flag clicked) block as shown.

IBB mDesigner First Example 02.png

Now, change the color on the IBB mDesigner ColorLED Set Color NoLabels.png (ColorLED - Set Color) block by clicking on the color. Set it to red or to a color of your liking.

IBB mDesigner First Example Blocks Assembled.png

Click anywhere on the assembled code Blocks to run it.

IBB mDesigner First Example 03.png

After activating the code Blocks, ColorLED "A" on Itty Bitty Buggy will turn on!

IBB mDesigner First Example Result1.png

Select a different color, and activate the code Blocks again. What happens?

IBB mDesigner First Example 04.png

IBB mDesigner First Example Result2.png

"Online" vs. "Offline" modes

mDesigner can operate in two different modes: "Online" and "Offline" modes.

In the example above, "Online" mode was demonstrated.

mDesigner can interact with Itty Bitty Buggy in two different modes. Each mode has its own pros and cons. It is recommended to use Online mode initially before exploring Offline mode.

Online mode is Scratch, but with added blocks which are designed to interact with Itty Bitty Buggy and Microduino modules. This means the user has access to the stage and actor blocks. Projects (hardware, such as Itty Bitty Buggy) need to be connected to the computer running mDesigner. mDesigner communicates with the project (hardware), namely the Core+ module (embedded inside mCenter+), in "real time" over the USB connection by sending commands for the Core+ module to perform. This means that "Online" mode requires a constant connection with the computer running mDesigner.

Offline mode acts as a "visual" drag and drop coding editor. The script (code) is converted to "Arduino" (text code) code and then compile and uploaded to the attached the Core+ module (embedded inside mCenter+). This means that code can run even when detached from the computer. The stage and actor are disabled in this mode since the code runs independent of mDesigner.

Capability Online Mode Offline Mode
Drag & Drop programming Yes Yes
Supports Microduino modules Yes Yes
Stage and actor enabled Yes No
Real time code testing Yes No
Code compiled and uploaded No Yes
Can run WITHOUT being connect to computer No Yes