Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

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

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 08, 2015 | Technology

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.”

Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

STEM in secondary education - answering the why and the how

Five trends for education in 2019

UK Construction Week reveals optimistic industry

Market place - view all

Nationwide

Award winning online banking: whether it's current accounts, credit...

Britcab

Need a portable cabin or modular building?

We sell and hire ...

Huck nets

For over 50 years, the HUCK-Label has signified: - high-quality ne...