BBC to give free micro:bit mini PC to every Year 7 child in UK

The BBC has collaborated with nearly 30 partners to give a free pocket-sized computer to every 11 or 12-year-old child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK.

Partners include ARM, Barclays, BBC, element14, Freescale, Lancaster University, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, Samsung, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us and the Wellcome Trust.

The BBC micro:bit is a mini PC that you can code, customise and control. 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, says the BBC.

Specs include:
– 25 red LEDs
– Two programmable buttons
– On-board motion detector
– Built-in compass
– Bluetooth Smart Technology
– Five Input and Output (I/O) rings

In the 1980s, the BBC Micro introduced many children to computing for the first time. In the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative for 30 years, up to 1 million micro:bit PCs will be given out for free.

“Channelling the spirit of the Micro for the digital age, the BBC micro:bit will inspire a new generation in a defining moment for digital creativity here in the UK,” said Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC.

“All you need is your curiosity, creativity and imagination – we’ll provide the tools. This has the power to be transformative for the UK. The BBC is one of the few organisations in the world that could convene something on this scale, with such an unprecedented partnership at its core.”

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, commented: “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.”

Since the introduction of the Raspberry Pi and the reecent change in the school curriculum to include more programming, coding and STEM topics, the IT skills gap has been a hot topic in the UK.

There have been a number of campaigns aimed at getting kids into coding, such as Hour of Code UK. And vendor Crucial has even gone as far to say ICT is ‘more important in schools than Maths and English’.

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