The BBC has unveiled the microbit computer, a pocket-sized codeable computer (pictured above) with built-in motion detection, compass and Bluetooth technology, which is to be given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK from October. That’s approximately 1 million units.
A collaboration between 29 partners, including Lancaster University, Barclays, Samsung and The Wellcome Trust, the micro:bit is the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative since the 1980s when the BBC Micro introduced many children, including myself, to computing for the first time.
The technical specifications for the device will be open sourced, and the partnership plans to develop a not-for-profit company to oversee and drive the micro:bit legacy.
Says Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning said.“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 will start to arrive in schools in late October, giving children a chance to settle into new schools, and teachers the opportunity to build it in to lesson plans for the rest of the academic year.
Importantly, the BBC and partners will be working closely with teachers, educators and schools to ensure that resources, information and support are available in advance of distribution this autumn. BBC Learning will also provide resources that support the curriculum including Live Lessons, getting started videos, projects and tutorials.
The BBC micro:bit initiative aims to make a huge impact in 2015 with the BBC and its partners committed to providing up to one million micro:bits before the end of the year.
Says Tony Hall, BBC Director-General: “We all know there’s a critical and growing digital skills gap in this country, and that’s why it’s so important that we come together and do something about it,”
Measuring just 4cm by 5cm, the micro:bit is available in a range of colours, and designed to be fun and easy to use. It can be coded with something simple in seconds – like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern – with no prior knowledge of computing.
It also connects to other devices, sensors, kits and objects, and is a companion to Arduino, Galileo, Kano, littleBits and Raspberry Pi, acting as a spring board to more complex learning.
Each element is completely programmable via easy-to-use software on a dedicated website (available later in the summer at www.microbit.co.uk) that can be accessed from a PC, tablet or mobile. A personal area on the website allows users to save and test creations in a simulator before they are transferred to the micro:bit.
• 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.