The BBC has unveiled a coding device called Micro Bit as part of its Make it Digital initiative designed to create a generation of digitally-savvy youngsters. The Micro Bit will be provided for free to over one million UK school children.
The BBC said that the name of the device may change over time, and did not reveal the specifications as these too remain a work in progress.
The corporation hopes that the initiative will allow 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.
“We are hoping to create a generation of makers; the next generation of digital innovators. We want to channel the spirit of the Micro for the digital age,” said BBC director-general Tony Hall at an event in London today.
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.
We got a quick look at the Micro Bit at the BBC event today. It’s a tiny computer system board similar to the Raspberry Pi or MITS that is small enough to be an Internet of Things (IoT) device.
Some school children were allowed to play around with the prototype ahead of the launch to show what it can do. Some of the devices on show were using LEDs to flash lettering and make messages, and could be clipped onto a piece of clothing to act as a wearable.
Micro Bit is only a prototype at the moment, but the BBC has teamed with UK chip designer ARM, and tech firms including Google, Microsoft, Samsung and BT, to push the digital initiative and get the device in the hands of young people in time for the new academic year in September.
“The initiative is our big education project for 2015 to get people to talk about digital creativity, to code, to build games and shape our future,” said Hall.
“We need to make sure our country has the skills to succeed [and] the BBC has a great role to play.”
The broadcaster will also tie the initiative in with BBC programmes such as Children in Need and EastEnders.
“We are hoping this will be a defining moment for the country and the digital economy,” added Hall.
The device has similarities to the Raspberry Pi although the BBC said thst the Micro Bit complements, rather than competes with, the Pi.