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ARM-powered BBC micro:bit rolls out to year 7 students today

by Mark Tyson on 22 March 2016, 12:01

Tags: BBC, ARM

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaczkt

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ARM has emailed HEXUS to remind us that the BBC micro:bit starts to roll out to year 7 students today. This BBC initiative aims to inspire digital creativity in a new generation pursuing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related careers. Furthermore ARM thinks that the micro:bit could have the same impact that the BBC Micro had in the 1980s; instilling a passion for coding and giving birth to many digital entrepreneurs. We first learnt about the BBC micro:bit plans a year ago.

The BBC micro:bit is a pocket sized computer featuring an ARM-based NXP microprocessor and Nordic Bluetooth connectivity. As a million of these devices start to flood into UK schools, and into 11-12 year old children's hands from today, tech industry leaders are optimistic about the 'sowing' of these microcomputer 'seeds'.

"The BBC Micro started me on my journey towards a career in technology and the BBC micro:bit can have the same effect on children receiving their devices from today," said Simon Segars, CEO of ARM. "The ability to code is now as important as grammar and mathematics skills and it can unlock important new career options. I can easily imagine a new wave of design entrepreneurs looking back and citing today as the day their passion for technology began."

The micro:bit has been designed to harness children's desire for shiny new tech products and divert at least some of that feeling into the desire to design their own products. Rick Clemmer, CEO of NXP, the maker of the processor in the micro:bit observed, "Together, everyone involved in the BBC micro:bits initiative is truly stimulating innovation, motivating the next generation of technologists, scientists and entrepreneurs in their pursuit of a better future." Indeed if you look at the dedicated BBC micro:bit microsite there seems to be lots of interesting projects for children to get their teeth into.

If you are interested in the BBC micro:bit you can read more about the device and how to program it on the aforementioned BBC site, or in greater technical detail on ARM's site.

Further information about the BBC micro:bit:

  • Enabled by ARM mbed hardware and software development kits and compiler services.
  • Contains an ARM Cortex-M0 based Nordic nRF51822 MCU featuring Bluetooth 4.0 to provide connectivity to billions of connected devices and let children experiment with bringing their projects to the internet of things.
  • Features the Cortex-M0+ based Kinetis KL26Z microcontroller designed by NXP, which provides USB connectivity and allows the micro:bit to be programmed as simply as placing a file on a USB disk.
  • The device has a 25 LED matrix display, a micro USB connector, a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis magnetometer.


HEXUS Forums :: 10 Comments

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The ability to code is now as important as grammar and mathematics skills.

Really? Really?

Strikes me as a massive waste of money. The BBC microcomputer was a defining moment as it was the first time most kids had access to any sort of computer as they were beyond the financial reach of most families. Even then most of the ones I had access to were used for playing Granny's Garden. I certainly don't remember anyone ever talking about coding.

Giving kids greater awareness of the nuts and bolts that underly modern operating systems and/or computers is a great idea, but why didn't they just use Raspberry Pis? They already have a wealth of documentation and projects, and are cheap as chips.
b0redom
Really? Really?

Strikes me as a massive waste of money. The BBC microcomputer was a defining moment as it was the first time most kids had access to any sort of computer as they were beyond the financial reach of most families. Even then most of the ones I had access to were used for playing Granny's Garden. I certainly don't remember anyone ever talking about coding.

Giving kids greater awareness of the nuts and bolts that underly modern operating systems and/or computers is a great idea, but why didn't they just use Raspberry Pis? They already have a wealth of documentation and projects, and are cheap as chips.

Actually, now I have read the projects and played with the web based emulator for their block coding system, I have to say I think they got this right.

It could well be far more relevant than the BBC micro ever was. Only knew one family with one of those when I was a kid, no-one else could afford them, most people had something cheaper like a Spectrum or like me a Dragon.

This is a platform for rolling your sleeves up and doing something with it, and programming seems really easy when doing point & click but the Python setup looks quite powerful for more advanced stuff.

I hope replacements are readily available, I hope kids push the boundaries with these things which means a few are going to get burnt out. That means replacements have to be cheap and easy to not put kids off.

I think the power here is stripping away the nuts and bolts of a modern OS. None of that complication, just one app that you write interacting with the outside world.
b0redom
The ability to code is now as important as grammar and mathematics skills.

Really? Really?

Strikes me as a massive waste of money. The BBC microcomputer was a defining moment as it was the first time most kids had access to any sort of computer as they were beyond the financial reach of most families. Even then most of the ones I had access to were used for playing Granny's Garden. I certainly don't remember anyone ever talking about coding.

Giving kids greater awareness of the nuts and bolts that underly modern operating systems and/or computers is a great idea, but why didn't they just use Raspberry Pis? They already have a wealth of documentation and projects, and are cheap as chips.

Because a Raspberry pi needs a lot of work to get it to do things, and for some it's too complicated - drivers, compatabilties etc. Even if you want to use Scratch, for a Hardware HAT, you have quite a challenge for a 7 year old.

A Microbit can run the Scratch type environment straight of the bat, and therefore needs next to no support to get a 7 year old to run it, although its' aimed at a 11 year old.

As a STEM volunteer, the difference to kids being able to use crocodile clips something into the circuit is also very important - that instant “kick-off” point is brilliant.
b0redom
Really? Really?

Strikes me as a massive waste of money. The BBC microcomputer was a defining moment as it was the first time most kids had access to any sort of computer as they were beyond the financial reach of most families. Even then most of the ones I had access to were used for playing Granny's Garden. I certainly don't remember anyone ever talking about coding.

Giving kids greater awareness of the nuts and bolts that underly modern operating systems and/or computers is a great idea, but why didn't they just use Raspberry Pis? They already have a wealth of documentation and projects, and are cheap as chips.

The BBC micro was NOT the defining moment you describe. It was hideously expensive. An Atari 800 XL $439 (64k), an Atari 130 XE (128K) $659, a ZX Spectrum (48k) $650, Commodore 64 $595. Those were the New Zealand retail prices at the time. I remember drooling over a BBC micro during a shop demo. The price was even more memorable. $2000.
Axle_Grease
The BBC micro was NOT the defining moment you describe. It was hideously expensive. An Atari 800 XL $439 (64k), an Atari 130 XE (128K) $659, a ZX Spectrum (48k) $650, Commodore 64 $595. Those were the New Zealand retail prices at the time. I remember drooling over a BBC micro during a shop demo. The price was even more memorable. $2000.

I think the point was that it was the first computer most *schools* got and therefore most children in Britain experienced.