BBC Pocket Computer To Teach Programming to Kids

Is there a new generation of computer programmers in the offing? If so, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wants to encourage them. The BBC this week released the micro:bit, a mini-programmable computer aimed at teaching children how to code and develop hardware projects.

The device will be given away to every child in Year 7 (the equivalent of 6th grade in the U.S.) at schools throughout the United Kingdom. About one million students will get the devices beginning in October, and not long after that the micro:bit will be for sale to customers throughout the world. Availability in the U.S., however, hasnEUt yet been confirmed.

Unlike other popular boards such as the Raspberry Pi, the credit card-size micro:bit is not meant to be used as a standalone PC. It instead provides a basic board for embedded projects such as gaming devices or remote controls, and is compatible with more advanced micro PCs like the Pi and Arduino boards for projects that need a stronger processor. The micro:bit was developed in collaboration with tech companies including ARM, element14 (which makes the Raspberry Pi), Microsoft, and Samsung.

Start with the Basics

Under the hood the micro:bit sports a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 processor, 25 programmable LED lights arranged in a grid, two push buttons for user input, an accelerometer and compass, a micro-USB connector, and Bluetooth connectivity. A slot for a watch battery didnEUt make the finaly design, according to the BBC. The final version of the product has a battery pack add-on that takes two AA batteries.

The BBC is also developing a Web site to help students with their coding. The Web site will work on PCs or mobile devices. It will let students save and test their code, which can be written in standard languages including JavaScript, Python, C++, or as the visual...

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