Open Education

BBC unveils micro:bit pocket size computer

micro:bit

The BBC has announced a new pocket sized computer called “micro:bit” that will be distributed to 1 million UK students this Autumn.

The BBC enters the world of single-board computers with impetus, as its General Director Tony Hall unveiled today the micro:bit. It’s the fruit of a three year collaboration between 29 partners that include Samsung, ARM, Microsoft, University of Lancaster and the BBC of course.

The product is a pocket-sized (4cm x 5cm) computer that is perfectly codeable, aiming to raise the technological awareness of UK’s children, and to enhance their interest towards the joys of coding. This will hopefully be achieved through the distribution of the device to one million students at the age of 11 and 12.

This is not the first time the BBC has tried to inspire young people to develop core skills in technology, as the company had released a similarly purposed device named “BBC Micro”, back in the eighties.

Times have changed since then though, and the fact that two of the 29 partners are MyMiniFactory (3D printable objects database) and Kitronik (3D printing utilizer) showcase the rise of 3D printing technologies and the need for them to be included in the education field in the best possible way.

The micro:bit was made to be able to connect with a wide collection of different devices, kits, sensors and communication ports like the popular Arduino development board, the Raspberry Pi single-board computer and many Android-based tablets or mobile devices. Samsung took care of this part of the development and also created a free to download and use Android application that allows connectivity with the micro:bit.

The device features 25 programmable red LEDs, two programmable buttons, an on-board motion detector that also serves as an accelerometer, a built-in compass (magnetometer sensor), five input/output rings (4mm) to facilitate the connectivity needs of the users and a bluetooth adapter that allows the connection to other bluetooth devices like phones, cameras, tablets, tvs, other microbits and, of course, reprap 3D printers and other open source devices.

The internet remains the central platform that will serve the development requirements of the project, as students will be given the opportunity to access online web-development tools in a dedicated website (microbit.co.uk) from any internet-enabled device (PC, Android, iOS) and freely express themselves in a new digital way.

Oh, and of course there are already some custom made cases found at MyMiniFactory: