BBC unveils micro:bit

The BBC has revealed the final design of the micro:bit, a pocket-sized computer set to be given to one million UK-based children in October

Up to one million devices will be given to every 11 or 12 year old child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK, for free.

Just as the BBC Micro introduced millions to personal computers 30 years ago, the BBC micro:bit can help equip a new generation with the digital skills they need to find jobs and help grow the UK economy.

Part of the BBC’s 2015 Make it Digital initiative, the 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. 

“Just as the BBC Micro introduced millions to personal computers 30 years ago, the BBC micro:bit can help equip a new generation with the digital skills they need to find jobs and help grow the UK economy,” said BBC Director-General Tony Hall. 

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 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.

The BBC collaborated with 28 partners to help produce and roll-out the initiative, including Samsung, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us and the Wellcome Trust. Bethany Koby, CEO and Co-Founder of Technology Will Save Us, said: ‘Every day my team and I help young people find creative ways to solve problems with tech. It is thrilling to partner with the BBC on what feels like a shared mission – to help us all become active shapers of our world, rather than passive consumers. The BBC Micro propelled the UK to the forefront of the Digital Revolution. The new micro:bit is set to do the same by growing the community of digital makers – people who creatively use tech to express themselves and change the world around them.” 

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, 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 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.”

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