BBC promises Micro Bit computers for 1 million school children

This is a computer that was originally shown off in its prototype form back in March, but it looks like the design has been finalized along with the intention that it will be given away to every single child in Year 7 in the United Kingdom for free.

The 4cm x 5cm board includes a matrix of 25 red LEDs, two programmable buttons, a motion detector, a magnetometer (or digital compass), as well as Bluetooth and five I/O rings for connecting to other devices and sensors.

The name is a nod to the 1980s BBC Micro computer, and the device is a part of the BBC’s 2015 Make it Digital initiative, which is designed to help inspire kids to get into science, technology and engineering. “The BBC Micro Bit is all about young people learning to express themselves digitally, and it’s their device to own”, said Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning.

“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”. Micro:bits were fixed to all manner of household items, including a frying pan that tells you when to flip a pancake or when your omelette might be burnt.

A total 29 partners were involved in the collaboration with the BBC, including ARM, element14, Freescale, Lancaster University, Nordic Semiconductor, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us and the Wellcome Trust.

It is 18 times faster, 70 times smaller and 617 times lighter than the original BBC Micro computer, which was launched as part of a similar initiative in the 1980s. This has the power to be transformative for the United Kingdom.

The micro:bit also has a tethered mode, with connection to another computer over USB or Bluetooth.

Two programmable buttons activated when pressed.

Hall said that device “shifted the conversation around computing” in a way that the Micro:bit hopes to do again for present-day children. That will allow hardware companies to alter and sell Micro:Bit devices “in the United Kingdom and internationally”.

“The reason we plumped for year seven is it had more impact with that age group … they were more interested in using it outside the classroom”, she said.

The BBC is the overall editorial and project lead for the micro:bit, coordinating the partnership, micro:bit development and delivery, learning resources and on-air and online inspiration for teachers, schools and makers across the United Kingdom. Samsung is developing an Android app, while iOS will also be supported. The BBC has formed a non-profit company to do so, which will also open-source the board’s specifications.

The devices will be arriving in schools from late October, allowing children to settle in, and teachers to incorporate the devices into the curriculum.

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p style=”text-align: center;”>Diagram showing micro:bit spec

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