The BBC and partners today unveiled the BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows children to get creative with technology. In the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative for 30 years, up to 1 million devices will be given to every 11 or 12 year old child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK, for free.
In the 1980s, the BBC Micro introduced many children to computing for the first time. Part of the BBC’s 2015 Make it Digital initiative, the BBC micro:bit builds on the legacy of the Micro for the digital age, and aims to inspire young people to get creative with digital; develop core skills in science, technology and engineering; and unleash a new generation of digital makers, inventors and pioneers.
The UK currently faces a critical skills shortage in the technology sector, and the BBC and our partners aim to help change that.
Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC says: “Channelling the spirit of the Micro for the digital age, the BBC micro:bit will inspire a new generation in a defining moment for digital creativity here in the UK. All you need is your curiosity, creativity and imagination – we’ll provide the tools. This has the power to be transformative for the UK. The BBC is one of the few organisations in the world that could convene something on this scale, with such an unprecedented partnership at its core.”
The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer that you can code, customise and control to bring your digital ideas, games and apps to life. It measures 4cm by 5cm, will be available in a range of colours, and is designed to be fun and easy to use. Something simple can be coded in seconds – like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern – with no prior knowledge of computing. All that’s needed is imagination and creativity.
The BBC micro:bit also connects to other devices, sensors, kits and objects, and is a great companion to Arduino, Galileo, Kano, littleBits and Raspberry Pi, acting as a spring-board to more complex learning.
Key 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.
Each element of the BBC micro:bit is completely programmable via easy-to-use software on a dedicated website (available later in the summer at microbit.co.uk) that can be accessed from a PC, tablet or mobile. Your personal area on the website will allow you to save and test your creations in a simulator before they are transferred to your micro:bit, and the available tools scale to be as complex as your ideas, imagination and skills require.
Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “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.”
The micro:bit was first conceived by BBC Learning in 2012, and initially developed together with the BBC’s award-winning R&D department. The scale and scope of this unique initiative has only been made possible by an unprecedented collaboration between 29 international organisations, pioneering start-ups and transformative education organisations.
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 UK.
Product partners include:
ARM – providing mbed hardware, software development kits and compiler services
Barclays – supporting overall product delivery and outreach activities
element14 – sourcing components and managing the manufacturing
Freescale – supplying the sensors and USB controllers
Lancaster University – creating and writing the micro:bit runtime
Microsoft – providing the TouchDevelop web-based programming tools and hosting service as well as teacher-training materials
Nordic Semiconductor – supplying the main processor and enabled Bluetooth Smart
Samsung – connecting the BBC micro:bit to phones and tablets, and developing the Android app
ScienceScope – distributing to schools and developing the iOS app
Technology Will Save Us – designing the shape, look and feel of the device
The Wellcome Trust – providing learning opportunities for teachers and schools
Fundamental to the success of the BBC micro:bit, the BBC and partners will be working closely with teachers, educators and schools over the summer to ensure that resources, information and support are available in advance of micro:bit distribution this autumn, supporting the curriculum. BBC Learning will also provide resources including Live Lessons, getting started videos, projects and tutorials.
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 this into lesson plans for the rest of the academic year.
The BBC micro:bit initiative aims to make a huge impact in 2015 with the BBC and its partners committed providing up to 1 million micro:bits before the end of the year. And it won’t stop there. The technical specifications for the device will be open-sourced, and the partnership plans to collectively develop a not-for-profit company to oversee and drive the micro:bit legacy. This will enable additional micro:bits to be made commercially available in the UK and internationally through various outlets in late 2015.