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Today the BBC announced their biggest technology education initiative in years, the BBC micro:bit. It's a pocket-sized, codeable computer designed to make programming accessible and exciting for children. Across the UK, up to 1 million devices will be given away to 11-12 year olds for free.
This isn't the first time the BBC has worked to engage children in technology. In the 1980s they made the BBC Micro as part of the Computer Literacy Project. Technology has progressed far since the Micro came out and the micro:bit is today's answer to a problem the UK is facing: the critical lack of skilled technology workers. They want to foster programming knowledge in children that, they hope, will build to an increased amount of engineers and programmers.
For this project the BBC partnered with Microsoft, Samsung and others to create the micro:bit and the partner website, where children can program their devices, that will be launched soon. The micro:bit is 4cm by 5cm, available in a range of colors and flat like a credit card. BBC says that children can code simple things quickly - like displaying a pattern - with no prior knowledge.
Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience - it should be exactly the same with technology."
Features include 25 red LEDs, two programmable buttons, a motion detector, a built in compass, Bluetooth, and five input and output rings to connect the micro:bit to devices (like the Raspberry Pi) using crocodile clips or 4mm banana plugs.
If you're not a 11 or 12-year-old, you might still be able to get a micro:bit. The BBC says it's working on launching a non-profit company that will create more of their pocket computers and make them commercially available in the UK.