The BBC showed off the final design for its micro:bit computer this week. The pint-sized computer, which has a Raspberry Pi feel, will be given out to one million schoolchildren in the UK in October of this year, giving them the opportunity to learn how to code at an early age.
“We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience – it should be exactly the same with technology," Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning said. "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 final device is a little different than the prototype we saw in March. The pocket computer has a programmable array of 25 red LED lights in a 5 x 5 array, two buttons, and a built-in motion sensor. Rather than use a watch battery, like the previous version, the final model will require the use of an add-on power pack to work without a power outlet nearby. That power pack will take AA batteries, making the device simple to power, but also a bit too hefty now to be used as a wearable device.
Other features include a built-in compass (magnetometer) so the device can tell which direction its facing, five input and output rings to connect the micro:bit to other devices using cables, and Bluetooth connectivity to connect to other devices wirelessly.
Children who receive the device will be able to learn simple coding for the device from a special micro:bit website, which will give children the ability to virtually test drive their creations before transferring them over to the micro:bit. Sample projects include using the LEDs to create patterns and letters.
The micro:bit will be passed out free in October to children age 11 and 12 who are currently enrolled in Year 7 in school, courtesy of a number of partners for the project, including Microsoft and Samsung. After that initial run, the computers will go on sale in the UK and elsewhere by the end of the year. For more on the BBC's plans for the device, check out the video, below, from Microsoft UK.
The first video below is a brief hands-on with the computer, created by ARM, while the second video, created by Microsoft UK, details some of the potential of the device.
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