The BBC is set to continue its history in educational computing with the Micro:bit. First displayed in March, the broadcaster just revealed the final design and programming environment of the tiny programmable board, which includes new sensors and abilities not previously displayed. The tiny device lacks the processing power of the Raspberry Pi and Arduino’s extensive ecosystem, but don’t discount the Micro:bit just yet; it’s shaping up to be a fantastic educational device.
The Micro:bit now has a motion sensor that will hopefully spur enterprising youngsters into thinking about programming for wearable or IoT devices. Sadly, though, the final design lacks a slot for a thin battery, forcing users to power the device with an external power pack.
Think of the Micro:bit as more of an Arduino than Raspberry Pi. Its primary function is to teach children basic programming by enabling clever creations. The back side of the device features a cluster of LED lights. There are two buttons on the device along with Bluetooth LE connectivity, a microUSB slot and five input and output (I/O) for use with crocodile clips and banana plugs, which can be used to connect the Micro:bit to a Raspberry Pi or Arduino.
The BBC revealed today the programming environment for the Micro:bit, created with help from Microsoft. This web-based tool allows users to program and simulate tasks before transferring the data to the device. And since it runs in the browser, users can program the Micro:bit on nearly any device.
The Micro:bit is the BBC’s latest attempt to allow British school children to explore the world of computing. The tiny Raspberry Pi-like device is the spiritual successor to the BBC Micro PC that the broadcaster released in the ’80s. And like its big brother, the Micro:bit was built with the help of other companies. This time around, the BBC enlisted the help of 29 partners, including manufacturers, software makers, retailers and educators. This list includes Microsoft, Samsung, ARM, Bluetooth SIG, Element 14, Lancaster University and more.
The BBC will give away 1 million Micro:bit devices to school children across Britain. The plan is to give one to every 11- and 12-year-old in the country’s schools. After this lot is exhausted, the non-profit created by the BBC will license the Micro:bit to companies to make additional Micro:bit devices.
The Micro:bit joins the Raspberry Pi and Arduino in attempting to inspire kids to embracing developing. Yet the Micro:bit’s hardware might not be the device’s main draw. Educators will probably embrace the device thanks to the unique developer’s environment that enables schools to use existing hardware. And since tasks can be tested within the environment, each pupil does not require their own Micro:bit.
Whatever schools use, let’s just get kids programming. After all programming is a real job and kids need to know that.