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The BBC is giving a tiny computer to every year 7 child in the UK - for free

30 years after the BBC Micro, meet the micro:bit.

The BBC has announced the final form of the micro:bit, a tiny computer it's giving to every year 7 child in the UK for free.

The Micro Bit can be powered via a USB cable, but will otherwise require a battery-pack accessory.

The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized, codeable computer - and one million have been earmarked for every 11 or 12-year-old child in year 7 or equivalent in the UK for free.

The name is a nod to the 1980s BBC Micro computer, and the device is a part of the BBC's 2015 Make it Digital initiative, which is designed to help inspire kids to get into science, technology and engineering.

The micro:bit is 4cm by 5cm and comes in a range of colours. It has red LEDs that light up and two programmable buttons, so it works as a basic game controller. It also works with other devices via Bluetooth, such as the equally little Raspberry Pi.

Here are the features:

  • 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.

You can program the micro:bit with software that will soon be on microbit.co.uk. You'll have a personal area on the website on which you can save and test your creations in a simulator before transferring them to your micro:bit.

The BBC worked with a raft of companies to help make the micro:bit a reality, including Microsoft, which provided the TouchDevelop web-based programming tools and hosting service as well as teacher-training materials.

The BBC micro:bit will arrive in schools late October, so teachers have a chance to build it into lesson plans for the rest of the academic year. There are plans to found a not-for-profit company to build more units and make them commercially available in the UK and internationally in late 2015.

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About the Author

Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editorial Director

Wesley is deputy editorial director of ReedPop. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.


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