The BBC micro:bit – to be given free to every child in Year 7 in the UK

BBC microbit

There’s a new pocket-sized, codeable computer on the market, the BBC micro:bit.

Created in collaboration with 29 partners, the BBC micro:bit is a programmable mini computer which Bluetooth, motion detection and a built-in compass, and will be given free to every child in Year 7 (or equivalent) across the UK. Leading the project, the BBC has teamed up with product partners ARM, Barclays, element14, Lancaster University, Microsoft, Samsung, and ScienceScope, amongst others, to coordinate design, development and delivery, as well as on-air and online learning resources for teachers, schools and makers across the UK. The micro:bit has recently been given a launch date of 22nd March 2016 for delivery to students to begin, so keep any eye out if you have a Year 7 pupil who could be receiving one!

BBC microbitIn response to a serious skills shortage in the UK’s technology sector, the micro:bit aims to fuel creativity within the digital world and inspire a new generation of tech pioneers. Helping to develop students’ core skills in subjects such as Science, Technology and Engineering, the micro:bit opens up the digital world of programming, and brings computer coding to those who might not have taken an interest before.

Created in a range of colours, the micro:bit measures 4cm by 5cm and can be coded within a matter of seconds. Its easy to use design makes a fun gadget which can undertake simple tasks such as lighting LEDs or displaying patterns, with no need for extensive computer knowledge. In a similar way to the popular Raspberry Pi, the micro:bit can connect to other electronic devices and hardware, such as sensors and Arduino, meaning it can be extended and adapted to suit more complex learning. The elements of the micro:bit  are open-sourced and completely programmable, with simple software housed on – the dedicated website accessible via PC, tablet or smartphone. Here you can test and save creations in a simulator, before transferring them to your micro:bit.

Features include:

  • 25 red LEDs to light up, flash messages, create games and invent digital stories.
  • Two programmable buttons activated when pressed. Use the micro:bit as a games controller. Pause or skip songs on a playlist.
  • On-board motion detector or “accelerometer” that can detect movement and tell other devices you’re on the go. Featured actions include shake, tilt and freefall. Turn the micro:bit into a spirit level. Light it up when something is moved. Use it for motion-activated games.
  • A built-in compass or “magnetometer” to sense which direction you’re facing, your movement in degrees, and where you are. Includes an in-built magnet, and can sense certain types of metal.
  • Bluetooth Smart Technology to connect to the internet and interact with the world around you. Connect the micro:bit to other micro:bits, devices, kits, phones, tablets, cameras and everyday objects all around. Share creations or join forces to create multi-micro:bit masterpieces. Take a selfie. Pause a DVD or control your playlist.
  • Five Input and Output (I/O) rings to connect the micro:bit to devices or sensors using crocodile clips or 4mm banana plugs. Use the micro:bit to send commands to and from the rings, to power devices like robots and motors.

Stated as the BBC’s ‘most ambitious education initiative in 30 years’, the micro:bit is part of Make it Digital, an initiative which builds on the work of the BBC Micro project of the 1980s.

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning states:

“We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience – it should be exactly the same with technology.

The BBC micro:bit is all about young people learning to express themselves digitally, and it’s their device to own.

It’s our most ambitious education initiative for 30 years. And as the micro:bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis, this could be for the internet-of-things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry.”

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