THE BBC HAS LAUNCHED the final build of the Micro:bit system board that aims to get UK school kids into coding.
The board will land in the palms of school kids for free this September, and is part of the BBC's Make It Digital initiative to inspire digital creativity in young people across the UK.
It has been launched in partnership with a bunch of influential companies, from ARM and Samsung to Barclays and Microsoft.
These companies have worked together to provide Micro:bit for free to over one million UK school kids, which is every child in year seven in the country.
The BBC and its partners hope to enable children to begin working on coding and computer maker projects at a young age and thus inspire them to become the software engineers and technology leaders of the future.
Micro:bit was unveiled as a prototype in March, but today's official launch showed off the board's final design and specifications.
These include a 4x5cm board with 25 red LEDs, two programmable buttons, an accelerometer, a built-in magnetometer to work as a compass and determine location, Bluetooth Smart connectivity, and five I/O rings to connect to devices or sensors using crocodile clips or 4mm banana plugs.
"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 in the UK," said Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, at an event in London on Tuesday.
"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."
Derrick McCourt, Microsoft's public sector general manager, added that the exciting aspect is that no-one knows what the kids will do with it and that "the next Bill Gates could come out of year seven".
The partnerships with the BBC are:
ARM providing mbed hardware, software development kits and compiler services
Barclays supporting overall product delivery and outreach activities
Element14 sourcing components and managing the manufacturing
Freescale supplying the sensors and USB controllers
Lancaster University creating and writing the Micro:bit runtime
Microsoft providing the TouchDevelop web-based programming tools and hosting service
Nordic Semiconductor supplying the main processor and enabled Bluetooth Smart
Samsung connecting the BBC Micro:bit to phones and tablets, and developing the Android app
ScienceScope distributing to schools and developing the iOS app
Technology Will Save Us designing the device
The Wellcome Trust providing learning opportunities for teachers and schools.
After the announcement, the BBC hosted a demonstration of the Micro:bit integrated into a variety of projects that use sensors and other components to solve problems.
Some of the highlights included a guitar built from cardboard around the Micro:bit that uses sensors and speakers and gets louder the harder you shake it, a sensor that detects when a plant's soil is dry and initiates watering, a Scalextric-style app-powered car racing game, and a football score board.
The Micro:bit project builds on the legacy of the seminal BBC Micro, which was put into the majority of schools in the 1980s and was paramount in the careers of many of today's technology pioneers.
The BBC said that the Micro:bit is 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro and 617 times lighter.
One of the great things about the Micro:bit is that it expands children's conception of what a computer can be by showing how it works and how the components fit together.
The BBC will tie the initiative in with programmes such as Children in Need and EastEnders. µ
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