BBC launches a UK-wide initiative to inspire the next generation of programmers and engineers.
It’s no secret that the Maker Movement has transcended well beyond the garages and workspaces of a few tinkerers. The phenomenon has proliferated the walls of schools, libraries, museums and retailers, among countless other establishments. Academic institutions and startups, particularly those seen on crowdfunding sites, have developed new projects in hopes of spurring the pursuit of STEM-related fields for the next generation. Maker Faire attendance is also on the rise as thousands of DIYers come together at one of 80 community events spanning across 10 countries. Looking to continue carrying that momentum, BBC has launched a new project — in partnership with over 50 organizations — which is looking to give a personal coding device to every child in year 7 across the country. That’s 1 million free devices in total to students, generally aged between 11 and 13, as part of the campaign they’re calling “Make it Digital.”
Back in the 1980s, the BBC launched a Computer Literacy Project which aimed to support the learning of computing — at the time a relatively new concept for a vast majority — in schools and the home. This included a commercial partnership with Acorn Computers to produce a microcomputer as the backbone of the initiative: the BBC Micro. While nine models were eventually made with the BBC brand, the phrase “Micro” is usually used colloquially to refer to the first six (Model A, B, B+64, B+128, Master 128, and Master Compact). Well now, the news giant is reimagining its popular 1980s campaign by introducing its successor, the BBC Micro Bit.
Based on a processor which would appear to be an ATmega32U4, the Micro Bit will give students a physical companion in their path to coding competence. While merely a prototype at this point, it will be a standalone, palm-sized device equipped with an LED display and compatible with the Touch Develop, Python and C++ languages.
Young Makers will then be able to create text via a series of lights as well as devise basic games. What’s nice is that the final version of Micro Bit will feature a Bluetooth link and will be able to sync up with other incredibly-popular boards like Arduino, Galileo, Kano and Raspberry Pi, in addition to other Micro Bits.
According to BBC, the Micro Bit will be distributed later this year, most likely the fall. The program was designed as a response to a shortage within the digital industry, given that nearly 1.4 million professionals will be needed over the next five years. BBC is hoping to aid in building the country’s talent pool and arming them with the requisite coding skills through a range of new partnerships and projects.
Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here.