Tag Archives: BBC

BBC to give out 1 million devices to kids as part of new initiative


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.”

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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.

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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.

This 13-year-old Maker teaches MIT alumni

The BBC recently filmed 13-year-old Quin Etnyre hosting an Atmel-based Arduino workshop for the MIT Club of Southern California.

“I’ve heard great things about the MIT Media Lab,” Quin told MIT’s online Slice. “I met some grad students from MIT at the Maker Faire Bay Area a few years ago and they thought it was a great program. I hope to visit MIT someday.”

According to the publication, Quin’s connection to the Southern California club was made via Joan Horvath, the VP of Business Development at Deezmaker 3D printers (Deezmaker’s president is a mentor of Quin’s).

“We had been hosting ‘learn 3D printing’ events for the club at Deezmaker. I was talking to Quin and his dad about this, and we decided it might be fun to have Quin do one of his ‘learn programming Arduino’ events for the club. It sold out about a month ahead of time and we will probably do it again,” said Horvath. “Meanwhile the BBC had asked to do a piece on Quin, and when they found out about the MIT class asked to film him doing that. So the BBC piece led to a lot MORE press around it.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Quin recently launched a company dubbed “Qtechknow” which manufactures ArduSensors – ultimately negotiating a deal with SparkFun to sell the Qtechknow kit en masse.

Jeff Branson, SparkFun’s educational outreach coordinator, says Quin is a “bellwether” for a whole generation of Maker kids, many who haven’t even been identified yet.

“We’re seeing more and more kids like Quin getting together and teaching each other,” Branson told PopSci earlier this year.

In addition to Quin’s Qtechknow kit, the Maker is also known for his FuzzBot which he built using the Pololu ZumoBot Chassis Kit, an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32u4), a pan/tilt small servo and a Parallax Ping Ultrasonic Distance Sensor. As Makezine’s Stett Holbrook notes, Quinn programmed most of the code himself using the Arduino IDE, ZumoBot and the Ping libraries for Arduino.

So what does Quin want to be when he grows up? An educator, user experience designer and electrical engineer. You can read more about Quin the Maker here, the FuzzBot on Instructables and the Qtechknow on Sparkfun.

Video: Oscar the WeddingBot

Oscar, an Atmel-based, Arduino-powered WeddingBot, is equipped with a text-to-speech module and high-definition video camera.

According to the BBC, the 2ft (61cm) ‘bot is perfectly comfortable attending wedding ceremonies as an officiant, pageboy, usher or speech giver.

“After I completed my first home-made robot in 2012, my friends Mark and Sarah joked about having him at their wedding,” Minneapolis-based inventor Jon Shmig told the BBC.

“I told them I’d make a custom robot and as the list of features expanded I realized that other people may be interested in his services.”

A prototype version of Oscar recently acted as a ring bearer at a ceremony in August, with Shmig saying he hopes a final, dancing-capable version of Oscar the WeddingBot will be available for hire in the US by early 2014.