Nearly a year ago, the BBC revealed a pocket-sized computer called the BBC Micro:bit that they planned to give to one million UK-based Year 7 school children as a part of their mission to “inform, educate and entertain” as more schools adopt more STEM-friendly curriculums. At 70 times smaller and 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro computers used in UK schools in the early 1980s, the Micro:bit is a handheld, fully programmable microcomputer for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control physical devices.
Now, the BBC has opened up the floodgates to allow anyone to tap into their platform to learn the basics of coding and computing by making the Micro:bit computer available to all for just £13 – or approximately $19.
Developed by the BBC with help from technology partners including Microsoft, the Python Software Foundation and Samsung, the 4 x 5 cm Micro:bit includes an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, accelerometer and magnetometer sensors, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a display consisting of 25 LEDs, two programmable buttons, and can be powered by either USB or an external battery pack.
According to BBC’s director general Tony Hall, many UK students are leaving school knowing how to use computers but not how to program them. “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,” he explained last year.
With polished companion apps for both iOS and Android – as well as a feature-packed online social platform filled with updated projects and resources, it’s no wonder why the Micro:bit has taken off in such a short amount of time. Might there be something that US schools could learn from this?
Currently, the BBC micro:bit is only available to the public in the UK with plans to further roll out around the world this summer.