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article imageBBC reveals the micro:bit computer — free for all UK children

By James Walker     Jul 7, 2015 in Technology
The BBC has revealed the details of its new pocket-sized computer that will be given away free of charge to all 11- and 12-year-olds in the UK as part of the organisation's initiative to get more children interested in computers and coding.
Called the micro:bit, the computer was developed by BBC Learning and takes the form of a palm-sized bare-bones circuit board, comparable to the popular Raspberry Pi. First announced earlier this year. The BBC today revealed the final design and hardware specifications of the computer.
Measuring in at just 4cm by 5cm, micro:bit will come in a variety of colours. Despite the tiny size, the board contains several sensors including a compass, Bluetooth, accelerometer and two programmable buttons. An array of 25 red-coloured LEDs can be used to flash messages or display output and the computer is powered by an external AAA battery pack.
The board has five input and output rings that can be connected to other devices and sensors, including other micro:bits, the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, using simple crocodile clips that school children are familiar with from a young age. The computer is part of the BBC's Make It Digital campaign to expose children to technology and "unleash a new generation of digital makers, inventors and pioneers."
As part of the project, every 11-12 year old in the UK (year 7 in school) will be receiving a micro:bit free of charge. One million boards will be produced to fulfill this target and the computers will be used in lessons in schools to teach problem solving and programming.
Tony Hall, the BBC's director-general, said: “Channelling the spirit of the [BBC] 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 micro:bit will be controlled by software developed by Microsoft and integrated into its TouchDevelop web-based programming interface. Samsung is developing an Android app so that children can use the micro:bit with phones and tablets while partner ScienceScope is working to make an iOS app.
The micro:bit will be arriving in schools from late October, a month after the start of the new school year. Teachers will be receiving training and advice on how best to incorporate the computer into their lessons.
Once the computer has arrived in UK schools, micro:bit will become commercially available internationally later this year. The specifications will then be open-sourced and a not-for-profit company created to drive the future of micro:bit development.
More about BBC, Computer, microbit, Micro, raspberry pi
 
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